An annual report is a valuable document to show your stakeholders, customers, donors and team your company or organization’s growth and impact on the community.
Typically, annual reports include information like:
- Your company or organization’s mission statement
- Your company or organization’s growth (financially, product-wise, culture-wise)
- Your statement of income and cash flow for your company
- Your various business segments
- Information about the company or organization’s directors and executive officers
- Information about your company’s stock and dividends
- Your company or organization’s impact on specific communities
- If you’re a nonprofit, how your spending is allotted
- Milestones and success stories
A lot of that may sound like dry information…but it doesn’t have to be.
Think of it this way: an annual report is a perfect opportunity to tell your business’s story. Your annual report design can help you tell that story.
If your annual report is visually-engaging, it will grab the attention of readers and hold it. You can visualize data, include your branding, and incorporate your team’s personality into the design.
But what if you’re a small business or organization with a limited budget for design?
Start with an annual report design template. You don’t need to be a trained graphic designer to create a memorable report! Use a template as the framework and incorporate your own information, visuals, color schemes, fonts and more.
Here are over 55 annual report design templates you can use now to create an engaging report.
1. Use an eye-catching background color to make your annual report design engaging
Often enough, what an annual report design is missing most is some color.
Pick a bright color–it could be your brand colors, or a color that reflects the theme or “mood” of your annual report–and use that as the page background. You can use white boxes on top to ensure that your text stands out.
Take this annual report template with a green background:
2. Use accent colors to highlight important information
For a more minimalist annual report design, use a neutral background and use bright accent colors to highlight important information. For example, you could use color to highlight keywords, key data points, and header text.
Take a look at how blue and magenta is used in this annual report design template:
3. Size your budget report template to fit in a PowerPoint slide
Many companies hold a year-end meeting to go over key metrics, achievements and goals. Create a slick presentation that will hold your team’s attention.
Bright colors, bold fonts, charts, and images are all elements of a successful presentation design:
4. Balance your report by “dividing” the page in half
Part of creating an effective slide for your annual report presentation is finding the right balance between text and imagery. Drawing an invisible “line” down the middle of your slide is an easy way to guide your design.
Put your chart or photo on one side of the slide and text on the other, and voila:
5. Include real photos of your team at work
One of the worst things you can add to your annual report design is a boring stock photo. Similar to how you wouldn’t want to use stock photos in your social media visuals, using them in an annual report also probably won’t go over well with your audience.
This is a professional document that you are going to send to stakeholders, investors and your customers. You should take this opportunity to show them photos of your team at work, of the people you’ve impacted, and the places you’ve expanded to.
Take this annual report from REEEP as inspiration and invest in some professional photos. Not only do they look visually stunning, the images come from their community which gives all of those readers a deeper look into their brand.
6. Give icons shapes and borders to help them stand out
A simple hack to customize icons by using a background shape or border. Just like in the example above. Almost every icon in their annual report uses a circular background shape which makes them extra eye-catching.
Not only does it make the icons pop a little more, they also look relatively uniform in size and shape. And when you are working on a rather larger annual report, consistency is key!
7. Color code your data to make it easier for people to scan
Typically, you’re trying to pack a lot of information into your annual report. The readability of your annual report will have a lot to do with the design.
Color coding your information is a simple way to offer visual cues for readers to follow. Pick colors that have a logical association with the information.
For example, this annual report template uses colors to represent each social media channel. The colors reflect the brand colors of each social media channel, making the meaning easily recognizable for readers:
8. Incorporate unique page sizes
If you want to show how unique your company or organization is, consider using unconventional page layouts and sizes.
In this annual report template for a fictional company called Nordsjøen, the designer took an interesting approach to break up the content. They use smaller pages to divide the different sections of the report.
Small pages could also be used to add some extra context or information.
9. Emphasize key statistics and metrics using big fonts
Not everyone is going to read every word in your annual report, and even if they do they probably won’t remember most of it. That said, you should be doing your darndest to bring their attention to the points you don’t want them to miss.
Take this annual report by design wiz Nicholas Felton. On each page, there is a ton of secondary information, but the main stats stand out.
For example, on the first page, you can see that he traveled to 597 locations or listened to 46.9 days of music last year. There’s no missing it.
10. Break down graphs, charts & figures with complementary colors
You can use contrasting colors to highlight specific parts of a chart or graph. If you aren’t familiar, contrasting colors are colors that appear across from each other on the color wheel (for more information, check out our guide to color selection).
For example, this annual report from NAACP uses blue and yellow to make certain statistics jump out from the page. You can easily see that the groups that they are visualizing are starkly different from the beginning.
11. Play around with unusual page layouts
If one of the pillars of your business is creativity, reflect that in your annual report design. Play around with unusual page layouts and surprising design elements.
Take this annual report template that follows a zig-zag path and uses circles to present data in a quirky way.
12. Use greyscale photos to help your color motif pop
A hack for designing a professional annual report is to make your images greyscale and use one bold color accent color.
For example, the greyscale images in this annual report template go well with the bright blue used for visuals and key information. The result is a sleek, cohesive report design:
13. Create a unique table of contents to draw readers in
If you want to tell a visual story, timeline infographics work very well. People are already very familiar with the format of a timeline, so they’re easy to follow.
You can use that familiarity to include timelines in your annual reports. In this case, the George M. Pullman Educational Foundation featured a table of contents formatted like a timeline in their report.
This can put the reader in the mindset of taking a journey through your company or organization’s last year.
14. Use icons to emphasize key data points
Icons are the perfect way to visualize ideas and highlight points. You can use icons to emphasize specific points on a chart, or to draw attention to important text.
Take a look at how icons are used in this annual report slide:
15. Make unexpected design choices, like dark backgrounds
Using a black background on any design project is always a little risky. So many reports use white background these days, which means people will expect it.
But if you are looking to break those norms and make a splash with your annual report design, try using a dark colored background. If you haven’t heard, 2018 is all about taking risks in your designs!
In this annual report example for the Croatian Post they embrace that idea in a big way. Almost all of the pages use a black background and it’s an amazing choice.
Just remember to use a highly contrasting color, like they did by using yellow and white throughout. If not, your content will be extra hard to read or could just fade into the background.
16. Include full-page data visualizations
Using the same annual report example from the Croatian Post, you can see how big data visualizations can make your annual report just that much more engaging.
If you have a particularly important set of data, like your company’s financial growth over the past year, you can feature that in a creative data visualization. This is an opportunity to incorporate engaging design elements like icons, pictograms, image frames, and bold color schemes.
17. Pick a bright color scheme to attract readers’ attention
You don’t have to use neutral colors or corporate blue just because everyone else is. Show how unique your business is by using a bright, bold color scheme in your annual report.
Take this annual report template that makes no apologies with its bright yellow color scheme:
18. Use a thematic background image to make your report design engaging
Was your team’s main goal this year to reach for the stars? Did you turn your small team into a village? You can use images in your design to symbolically reflect those themes.
For example, this report template uses an engaging cloud background:
19. Use simple charts to summarize data
A well-designed chart can communicate information in five seconds or less. If you have a lot of data to report for this year, let that data drive your design by incorporating plenty of simple but effective charts.
For example, this annual report template uses three kind of charts in one page:
20. Put what really matters to your brand front & center
OzHarvest is a non-profit that redistributes food to charities from restaurants and the like. They wanted to make sure their shareholders saw key numbers like how many meals saved, their core message and their mission.
By using big fonts and creative visuals like word clouds and charts, they are able to bring that key information forward. This is a good lesson in not being afraid to take up lots of space on a page.
21. Pick a written theme to help influence your design choices
If you are struggling to start creating your own annual report template, try looking at some of the themes that run throughout your company’s mission, product and culture.
The designers at the Hall Family Foundation used their volunteers as inspiration. Most of these people are the lifeblood of any non-profit so it made a lot of sense to start there!
They focused on a handful of action words that helped describe what these volunteers actually do. As you can see, a visual theme was created from those words that are featured on nearly every page.
Additionally, the annual report has these words printed on the cover, so the reader notices the theme from the beginning. This is a great way to introduce readers to your company or organization’s values.
22. Use secondary colors that support your main brand colors
Consistent branding across all of your communications is important.
One way that you can ensure this is by using not only your company colors but also colors that communicate the “feel” of your company or organization. For example, this annual report example from Maine Tourism uses a ton of colors you would see in nature. If you haven’t been to Maine, the outdoors is a pretty big part of their identity.
All over this annual report, you can see natural colors in the greens and browns, but also the orange in lifejackets and fires, or the blues in lakes and the Maine sky.
23. Create a one-pager to summarize a key metric
While your full annual report may be pages and pages long, a one-pager than summarizes key information is a great accompaniment to create. Pull the most important or noteworthy information and make that the focus of your one-pager.
You could, for example, choose to hone in on our key metric and visualize it in a chart, like in this annual report design template:
24. Create a flow chart to visualize processes
Flow charts are perfect for visualizing processes, timelines, and connections between information. Simple flow charts can be used in a presentation slide, while more complex ones can take up one (or even several!) pages.
Take this report template that uses icons to make the points in the flow chart more memorable:
25. Include brief descriptions for charts if necessary
If your charts require some added context, be sure to include a brief description. For example, take this report presentation slide that uses a description box with the same blue as the bars on the chart to indicate that the audience should read the paragraph to fully understand the chart:
26. Seamlessly incorporate photos into your design by making them grayscale
While photos certainly add to your annual report’s story, they can also distract from the text on the page. But if you use grayscale images or images with a color overlay, they can integrate much more seamlessly into the design of the page.
Take a look at how the Associated British Foods’ annual report integrates images into their pages.
27. Use pictograms to present data in a creative way
Pictograms use icons to represent units of data. They’re a fun, creative and different from your standard chart. Pick icons that reflect the theme of the data you’re visualizing.
For example, this annual report design template uses umbrella icons in a pictogram measuring rain in a year:
28. Separate your annual report design into sections using block headers
If you want to separate your page into sections, using colored headers is an easy way to do this. Just draw a block line across the page to help your header pop. You could even color code your headers to make your annual report page more readable.
This annual report design template uses a simple white background with bright pink headers:
29. Label your graphs, charts and other data visualizations
Forgetting to label your charts is a common mistake that many writers make. But forgetting to label your charts can make your information confusing or misleading.
The designers at Capaccio Paestum avoided this trap by labeling all of their bubble charts and bar graphs. Additionally, when you use labels like they did, it helps even the newest stakeholder understand them in seconds.
30. Get people to change their perspective…literally
If you want to create a memorable annual report you may need to change the way people look at things. Or in this case, they did it by physically changing the way the annual report was laid out.
As you can see in the example from Environment Waikato, they start this by creating a landscape oriented report. Then, they take it to the next level by switching the way the text is printed on multiple pages. This causes the reader to actually change their perspective on the content.
31. Create custom illustrations using icons
When you’re working within a tight budget, commissioning custom illustrations can be pricey. But you can actually use icons to create custom illustrations.
Pick icons to make up the pieces of your illustration, then arrange them into a little scene. You can use this same tactic when it comes to creating an effective annual report template. Keolis has done this in their annual report design to illustrate statistics.
33. Create a quirkily illustrated header for your annual report design using icons
Images and icons are perfect for helping to tell the story of your business’ past year. You can actually use icons to create a quirky graphic illustration!
For example, this report design template uses icons to create a little city scene in the page header:
34. Bring gradients back into your annual report
If you haven’t heard, gradients are making a comeback. And no this isn’t something only hipsters are using–massive companies like Skype and Instagram are embracing the trend too.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand was ahead of the trend when they created their annual report back in 2014. Now it looks right at home in 2018.
Including a gradient is a unique way to add some bold colors to your annual report template. The color combinations are almost limitless, so your company or organization will definitely be able to find one that works for them.
35. Integrate an interactive or tactile component to your annual report design
Creating an annual report that your stakeholders or investors will never forget might seem like a lofty goal. But if you make your report interactive, it will certainly stand out.
In this annual report example from Craft Victoria, they use their cover to add an extra little surprise for the readers…the cover can be transformed into a tactile experience with small triangular tabs.
The triangle motif also carries throughout the rest of their report, making for a cohesive design.
36. Use bold header fonts to attract the eyes of your readers
Grab readers’ attention with a big, bold header font. While you will probably want to keep the rest of the text in your report relatively simple, your headers are places where you can get more creative.
Take this annual report template that uses a slightly funkier font in its title:
37. Highlight the people your company or organization has impacted
One of the best things you can feature in your annual report template is the people you are impacting. Show your readers how your company or organization has made a difference in the lives of real people.
For example, a handful of families that the St. Louis Children’s Hospital supported were featured in this annual report example. Not only does this show that their donors and stakeholders are helping real people with real struggles. They use photos of the families to put faces to the names.
38. Don’t feel pressured to create complex data visualizations
You don’t have to use super complex data visualizations to make information engaging–in fact, if you’re not a data visualization expert, you run the risk of confusing your readers.
But a simple data visualization can be engaging, and helpful in communicating more clearly.
Take a look this annual report from Orgalime, which uses very straightforward but beautiful pie charts and bar graphs. Each example tells you what you need to know and make it easy to compare between data sets. Simple but effective!
39. Organize your information into sections using borders
If you have multiple topics or components that you want to fit together on one page, using borders or block backgrounds can help keep your design organized.
For example, take a look at how RLI Corp uses blocks of bold colors to help each section stand out on the page. This makes it easier for readers to scan the page for different topics.
40. Pick a design motif and use it throughout your entire annual report
This annual report example from Brunel shows how much impact a confident design motif can have on your design. In this case, they used big, red fonts for all of the headers, with the header text overlapping onto the body text.
It’s an unconventional design choice but it works because it’s consistent. If you’re going to use an unusual design motif, commit to it and use it throughout your entire report.
41. Use photos that will elicit an emotional response from readers
At the heart of every business and organization is the people who built it. Help tell the story of these people by using emotionally evocative photos.
For example, this nonprofit annual report design template uses a photo as the background:
42. Infuse your company or organization’s culture into your annual report design
Everyone probably knows what U-Haul is (if you don’t, they’re a moving company). The designer creatively incorporated their business’s service into the annual report design.
First, it’s delivered like a package to the reader and it looks exactly like a moving box you would find at one of their stores. Plus, there’s bubble wrap! Then the table of contents is modeled after a packing sheet, using the same icons and visuals throughout.
Each and every page uses images and visuals that remind people that at the heart of everything, they are a moving company.
43. Use directional cues to guide your readers’ gazes
Visual cues like lines and arrows can improve the flow of your page design immensely. They’re useful for any design project you are working on. Whether it be an infographic or an annual report template, these subtle lines are a must have.
For example, on many pages of this annual report example from Grupo Bimbo they use think lines to direct your eye. These direct readers from point to point on the page–another way to tell stories visually.
44. Make each page stand on it own with unique designs
I know I just said that you should pick a singular theme and stick to it like a few points ago. But for every rule, there are a few exceptions.
In this annual report example from the STW Group, the theme changed from one page to the next.
This can work in an annual report because you’re covering multiple different topics in one document. That being said, you should still maintain some consistency throughout your annual report design–like the same color scheme or basic page layouts.
45. Highlight both business and work culture achievements in your annual report
Sure, this year may have been a lot of work, but there was some fun had too, right? An annual report is the perfect place to highlight how your business has grown, financially and culturally.
This simple one-page annual report template highlights both work and the “fun stuff”:
46. Give your annual report design template a thematic motif
Was the year marked by a lot of forward progress? Did you overcome some major obstacles? Design an annual report that reflects the year’s overarching theme.
For example, you could do this by using mountain imagery to reflect overcoming obstacles. Or you could use road imagery to reflect forward movement, like in this annual report template:
47. Set a visual tone from cover to cover
In this annual report from Target, they set the tone the first time you look at it. On the front cover they show exactly what the report is going to be all about–freshness.
The designers use pictures of fresh fruit and veggies throughout the report to give it a feeling of abundance.
This puts the reader in that frame of mind from the beginning, showing them what to expect from the business.
48. Give your values the attention they deserve
Some annual reports take one of their most important values or mission statement and hide it at the bottom of the page. That means most people will skip over it without even noticing!
That isn’t the case with this annual report example from PEN Canada. They make sure you can’t miss what they stand for.
Each of these pages celebrates a different part of their vision. By using a large bold font they are able to illustrate that they aren’t messing around at all. The contrasting colors make it jump off the page as well.
49. Let your company or organization’s history influence your design
Everything about this annual report from Kennedy Space Center looks like it would be at home in the 1970s.
The annual report was published in 2010, but the design calls back to the center’s history–from the color scheme to the retro photos.
It all comes together to create a fantastic annual report example that NASA enthusiasts will love.
50. Decorate your annual report design with icons and images to make it fun to read
Use icons and illustrations to draw the readers’ eyes to certain parts of the page. That could mean including an icon in the page header, using a row of icons to divide off a section of the page, or using illustrations to make concepts easier to understand.
This report template incorporates the peach theme into both the visuals and color scheme:
51. Go big or go home with your annual report
This year is all about taking big risks with your design projects. But I wasn’t thinking that would lead to something like ablynx created for their annual report!
They decided to go big with their data visualizations, literally. Instead of designing them in a design tool like Venngage, they created them in the real world.
Using sticks, yarn, and earth they build the graphs and charts that will adorn their annual report. This is one of those things that their readers won’t forget anytime soon.
52. Mix up your font sizes and weights
Consistency is a basic tenet of good design. But you can find ways to give your designs variety while still maintaining consistency.
The people at Austria Solar mix up their font sizes and weights in this annual report example. But they still maintain consistency by using the same color scheme throughout the report.
Check this guide out if you want to learn more about selecting and using fonts.
53. Optimize your annual report for digital viewing
While tangible reports are nice, more and more people are opting to publish them and read them online.
The people over at Mailchimp have been doing this for a few years. Seeing as they’re a SaaS company, it fits their brand well and allows their report to reach a wider audience.
Plus, when you create a virtual annual report you can include things like GIFs, videos and other moving parts!
54. Take an extra page to introduce the reader to a section
Annual reports have a bunch of different topics to cover. A small thing that you can do to help the reader navigate through the labyrinth of info is to use an intro page.
Take a look at what The Warehouse did on a few pages of their annual report. They use an introductory page to lead readers into each new section.
A bit of context will give readers a clearer understanding of what the section covers. It could be as simple as a single sentence, or a short paragraph.
55. Leave enough whitespace to make your annual report readable
Whitespace is the empty space around elements on the page. When text and images are crammed too close together, your design can look cluttered and bed hard to read. But when there’s enough white space, your text and images can breathe.
This report template gives you plenty of wiggle room:
56. Use bold accent colors
A common misconception when it comes to minimalist design is that you must only use black, white or neutral colors. But minimalism is all about using the bare essentials when it comes to creating something.
There is no rule out there that says you can’t use color–as we can clearly see in this annual report example for a real estate company.
The designers used a bold red to bring attention to important charts or trends.
57. Overlay different sized paper for a layered look
Another way to organize your annual report is to differentiate the sections by using different sized paper. In this annual report example from GIA they do just that.
When a reader moves from one section to the next they physically have to change the size of paper they are reading. It’s an unexpected and engaging way to frame your different sections.
58. Incorporate infographics into your annual report design
Infographics are great for turning data into engaging visuals that anyone can understand. Plus, there are a ton of ways that you can integrate them into your reports, especially if you mix them with well-designed icons.
59. Use icons to give your annual report a web design look
In this annual report example, the designers from BHA took some of their important stats and combined them with icons. Combined with the primary color backgrounds, the design looks modern and in line with current design trends.
Additionally, because of the icons they selected, they can prep the reader for what the info is going to be about. For example, using the microphone icon to show that there were 2.7 million voices behind this annual report.