Annual reports are the staple diet of design work the world over. They're seen by some as part of the dry, bread-and-butter grind that pays the bills and paves the way for more exciting, imaginative work. But annual reports don't have to be dull, as demonstrated by the stunning Digital Cinema Media annual report by Human After All, above, and the beautiful examples below.
From innovative print techniques to stop-motion animation, artful infographics, eye-catching use of colour and even savvy integration of classy free fonts, a brilliantly designed annual report can sit at the cutting-edge of graphic design – and take pride of place in your portfolio.
We've curated some of our favourite annual reports here to inspire your own daily work...
Guaranteed to catch the eye with its limited, on-trend palette, the 2017 annual report for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was conceived as a love letter to cinema and an ode to a respected cinematic organisations. Blok Design paired bold verbs with unexpected concepts – such as "Inspire time" and "Shift dreams/reality" – to capture TIFF's spirit, and to inform the rest of the report's cinematic design.
Taiwanese haircare brand O-right is committed to sustainability, which it illustrates in this sumptuous yet environmentally friendly report, produced in-house. Packaged in 100 per cent recycled plastic and bamboo covers, the award-winning report is comprised of three booklets focusing on the responsible use of soils, oceans and forests, with handmade bindings and hand-drawn habitat art on the back.
Known for its fun and imaginative designs, 2016's MailChimp annual report was no exception. Presented in a brilliant one-page responsive site that provides data through colourful infographics and featuring brilliant illustrations and easy-to-read facts, it's a brilliant and engaging way to look back at the past 12 months.
Kickstarter has a tradition of shunning printed annual reports, preferring instead to present its 2016 annual report on a fully interactive website. Showing off its highlights of the year through a combination of eye-catching headlines and figures, big visuals and simple hand-drawn animations, with links through for readers to explore more, it takes readers on a journey that puts the brand in a positive light.
As we've explored in articles such as 10 skills graphic designers need to get ahead, Virtual Reality (VR) is becoming more and more of a mainstream technology for designers. So it's no surprise, then, that information technology distributor ALSO harnessed VR for its 2016 annual report.
Designed by STRICHPUNKT DESIGN, shareholders received a box containing a VR headset and an illustrated poster, with the annual report app showing 360 degree videos of partners, customers and staff, as well as key performance indicators presented in augmented reality. Perfectly reflective of ALSO's business, it's no wonder that the project won a Red Dot Award for Communication Design.
One of the biggest travel agencies in Switzerland, Kuoni doesn't do dull when it comes to its annual reports. With so much fun to be had with travel themes, design agency Noord developed this beautifully illustrated book to highlight what happened in the company back in 2014. And it didn't go unnoticed – this particular annual report won the 2016 iF design award for Communication.
2015 was an epic year for the Wordpress hosting and management platform Flywheel, with one of the cofounders getting the company's logo permanently tattooed onto his forearm. To celebrate this cool act of commitment, Flywheel whipped up a free set of temporary tattoos that sum up what the company did that year.
Having set that precedent, it followed up in 2016 with a competition to win a free designers T-shirt on its 2016 annual report page, itself a beautiful parallax scrolling web page. We look forward to the creative 2017 offering. Data visualisation has never been so trendy!
08. Clear Media
Winner of the 2015 Red Dot Award for communication design, this beautifully laser cut annual report for Hong Kong-based advertising giant Clear Media guides readers through a vibrant tour of the company's visions and values.
Designed by Phoenix Communications, the report was themed "Our Space, Your Stage," with different panels depicting a stage for clients' marketing opportunities. Topped off with an acrylic film on the cover, readers could see how all the layers worked together and fused into one beautiful picture when the report was closed.
As one of the biggest retail groups in Portugal, Sonae places huge importance on its executive reports. With a high bar to meet, the designers at the Ivity Brand Corp focused on Sonae's corporate graphic mantras – circles – for the Sonae 2012 Management Report.
Deciding that the mechanics of emotion are what retail is all about, Ivity Brand Corp created a dynamic report that cleverly represented everything Sonae stands for with interlocking gears and cogs.
10. Adris Group
With a reputation of focusing on growth (and achieving it) it makes sense that one annual report wouldn't be enough for Adris. Having expanded throughout 2014, as well as purchasing shares in other companies such as Croatia osiguranje along the way, this was reflected in its tiered roundup of 2015, created by advertising agency Bruketa&Žinić OM.
Four books made up this annual report – one for Adris and one for each of the three successful businesses it developed (TDR, Maistra and Cromaris). These books were then linked by an insurance plate by Croatia osiguranje, which slots through the different volumes, creatively tying together all of the company's assets.
Giving boring data a real world punch, this 2012-2013 report for the foodbank network Banques alimentaires Québec presented its yearly roundup as a tin can – the recognised symbol of a food donation.
With a label that unrolled to reveal data printed in powerfully contrasting black and yellow, designer Albertini Romain used artistic creativity to make people aware of the association's message.
12. Seguros Pelayo
An innovative take on reporting facts, figures and other corporate information from Madrid-based studio Biografica, this 2012 report for Spanish insurance firm Seguros Pelayo featured everything from cutout figures to an impromptu papercraft football match, all delivered in stop-motion animation. A great example of how a slick delivery can make even the most straightforward information appear more engaging.
13. Austria Solar
Sometimes the client's core business can spark off an innovative idea so perfect it seems it was always meant to be. This was certainly the case with this report by German agency Jung von Matt for solar energy client Austria Solar.
Proudly heralded by the team as the first ever annual report powered by the sun, its pages remained blank until you took it outside, where they flooded with type and colour. Just remember, if you're looking to take inspiration from this example, that pee-responsive paper designs might not be to everyone's tastes.
Another example of stunning report design by German agency Jung von Matt, the 2011 L-Bank annual report this time was notable for its compelling art direction rather than its innovative print techniques.
Produced for L-Bank, the State Bank of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, the report visualised data as a series of gallery-style installations. Artistically arranged clusters of phones, lamps and other items, combined with stylish photography and minimal copy, told the story.
Set up by Frank Philippin and Billy Kiosoglou, Brighten The Corners maintains studios in both London and Odenwald, near Frankfurt. Its bold, conceptual annual report for Austrian lighting company Zumtobel comes in two volumes: one containing only the simple hard data; the other visualising a conceptual 1998 motion piece by artist Anish Kapoor, bursting with a rainbow of vibrant hues and printed using 10 neon spot colours.
16. Craft Victoria
Born and raised in Oslo, Norway and now based in Luzern, Switzerland, Anders Bakken completed his BA in communication design at RMIT, Melbourne. This impressive 2012 annual report design for Australian arts organisation Craft Victoria shows off his love of tactile print materials, including textured paper stock and translucent section break dividers for maximum effect.