Feisty Thoughts

Annual reports can (and should) be a thing of beauty.

We love annual reports.

That’s right, annual reports. Some might consider them little more than a legal necessity, but we find them an exciting mix of data and design. And for those who equate a report’s intentional purpose with obligatory boredom, well, we’re here to tell you that you’re missing a huge opportunity. 

With our roots in corporate design, the annual report has always been part of the Feisty Brown lexicon.

As a discovery tool, it’s an invaluable asset that allows us to better understand—and appreciate—the form and function of our clients. Informative and intimate, we are often astounded at the depth and breadth of their work. 

Perhaps more than any communication, annual reports require us to be true stewards of the client brand.

A piece that has the ability to engage, inform, persuade, and unite, it demands honesty and yearns for creativity. Without giving away too many trade secrets, our approach to annual reports can be pared down to three key tenets: 

  1. Ensure readability 
  2. Make data engaging
  3. Lead the reader to a deeper message
Easy peasy? Not always. But always possible.

First, you need to think of an annual report as much, much more than a legal requirement. Rather, it is the foremost opportunity to bring the year into perspective; a chance to explain why the data matters and reemphasize the company’s value through visual language. In short, is an often underused opportunity to forge a deeper connection between the organization and the reader.

To meet our objective of strategic and supportive design, we first embrace the journey.

An annual report is often an involved process with many revisions and approvals, making the schedule a critical component of its success. Understanding that there are always variables that affect its outcome, the schedule needs to be comprehensive, as well as flexible and responsive. And within it, a clear approval process must be established to ensure the project is completed on time. 

When it comes to an annual report, content is king.

To maximize its impact and best deliver the data, we design around the content. Starting with a content outline, we explore different visual opportunities to highlight key areas and tell a deeper story. Knowing there will be rewrites as stakeholders review and adjust the content, we are careful not to jump the gun on a theme. Instead, we absorb the changes, observe how the content changes shape, and ultimately reveals a narrative. 

Our approach to print and digital annual reports is similar.

While each format presents its own unique opportunities and challenges, our objective is always the same—to make the publication more robust. How we support that goal with elements of celebration and engagement is as unique as our clients themselves, making each annual report a thing of beauty.

Before tackling your next annual report, here are a few questions you’ll want to consider:
  • Are you giving it enough time? The schedule should allow enough time for all the elements—concept, writing, design, production—to come into focus and be developed.
  • How do the key elements of the report tie into your organization’s bigger vision? Ask yourself how this can become a forward-thinking publication.
  • Do you have the right team? Annual reports require strategic and creative thinking to become functional, digestible, and memorable pieces. You want to be sure that your entire team is committed to its shared outcome.
  • Do you love your annual reports? If you answered no, it’s time to talk to someone who can make you see its potential. Great annual reports take vision and passion—Feisty Brown has both. 

What questions do you ask before diving into your annual report? We’d love to hear from you


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Our studio partners are an integral part of each project we take on, every step of the way. We are small and nimble, and we adhere to the belief that doing excellent work for a few is more valuable than doing satisfactory work for many. We develop genuine collaborations and relationships with our clients and are shoulder to shoulder with you as you take the next step closer to your audience