Annual reports may sound like drab, boring documents, but they don’t have to be. In fact, with an appealing design, annual reports can serve as a powerful promotional tool by strumming up enthusiasm for your company or organization.
But how are you supposed to impress your investors, clients, donors or stakeholders with a compelling annual report design if you’re not a graphic designer? Fortunately, with the right tools, anyone can create an eye-catching annual report.
In this roundup, we’ll be spilling our annual report design secrets to help you create an engaging report.
Jump to a section:
- What is an annual report?
- What is included in an annual report?
- How do you create an annual report?
- Non profit annual report template examples and tips
- HR annual report template examples and tips
- Marketing annual report template examples and tips
- Corporate annual report template examples and tips
- Small business annual report template examples and tips
- Government annual report template examples and tips
What is an annual report?
An annual report is an in-depth, comprehensive report that provides an overview of a business’s achievements and key metrics from the preceding year.
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.
What is included in an annual report?
Annual reports typically contain information like:
- A company or organization’s mission statement
- A company or organization’s growth (financially, product-wise, culture-wise)
- Various business segments
- Information about the company or organization’s directors and executive officers
- A company or organization’s impact on specific communities
- Milestones and success stories
(For a more detailed guide on what to include in an annual report, check out our annual report guide.)
A lot of that may sound like dry information…but it doesn’t have to be.
If your annual report is visually engaging, it will grab the attention of your readers. You can visualize data, incorporate your branding, and express your team’s personality throughout the design.
How do you create an annual report?
The best way to get started is to use an annual report template. This will serve as a handy framework and drastically reduce the amount of time you’ll need to spend creating your annual report.
If you’re concerned that a template will make your annual report design look like all the others, don’t be! Once you incorporate your own information, visuals, color schemes and fonts, your annual report will look like a custom design.
Here are over 55 annual report templates you can use, plus a whole bunch of annual report design tips. Click on any of our templates to enter our online report maker tool to customize it. No design know-how required.
Non profit annual report template examples and tips
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.
Let the text influence your design choices
Your organization has a compelling story to tell, but overloading your annual report with images can sometimes cause it to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, consider adopting a more minimalistic design approach and letting your text shine.
This nonprofit annual report template below, for example, puts the text front and center with bold, modern typography. A vibrant gradient colored background helps prevent the design from looking stale, especially when paired with a small number of black and white images on the following pages. The overall effect is fresh and modern.
If you’re struggling to create your own annual report template, try looking at some of the themes that run throughout your company’s mission, product and culture.
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.
Highlight the people and places your organization has impacted
One of the most essential inclusions in your nonprofit annual report is the impact of your work. Whether your organization is dedicated to helping people, animals or ecosystems, look for opportunities to showcase the difference you’ve made over the past year.
You can always use charts and infographics to visualize your data, but your annual report will have a bigger emotional impact by featuring real people or communities behind the statistics.
The nonprofit annual report template below, for example, puts a face to the organization by featuring one of the individuals they’ve supported right on the cover page.
In another example, a handful of families supported by the St. Louis Children’s Hospital were featured in their annual report. This helps put faces to the names and show that their donors and stakeholders are helping real people with real struggles.
39. 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.
This nonprofit annual report template combines the image of a woman holding a child with actual statistics behind their work. A white semi-transparent overlay ensures that both the image and text are visible, while the icons provide visual interest.
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.
33. 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. 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!
46. 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.
Education annual report template examples and tips
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.
HR annual report template examples and tips
Create a standardized employee review template
In order for your employee reviews to be consistent and fair across the board, you need to follow a structure. That’s why it’s a good idea to use an employee review template (check out our blog post with 12 performance review examples for ideas).
A simple table layout works well for this. This annual performance review template below, for example, has a clean and clutter-free design, with clearly labeled spaces to provide feedback to employees.
You can even color code the sections to make it easier to read and understand. For example, look at this simple employee review template:
This annual review template similarly uses different colors to distinguish multiple categories for employee evaluation. It also uses handy pie charts to visualize key performance metrics.
Marketing annual report template examples and tips
Use a variety of different charts to show your data
This annual review design template uses different style charts. Because the colors are repeated, however, the charts look consistent and professional.
Use color blocks to break up your page layout
If you want to emphasize certain pieces of information or break up an expanse of text on your page, color blocks are an easy fix. Pick a neutral color that will allow text to stand out, like grey or a light shade.
This annual report template uses red and grey color blocks to create various page layouts:
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 annual report template uses an engaging cloud background:
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:
Corporate annual report template examples and tips
Design an annual report cover that introduces your business’ story
What overarching theme would you use to describe the past year?
Create an annual report cover that reflects that theme. Right off the bat, readers will get a sense of the story you’re about to tell. The cover design will prime them for the rest of the information to come.
For example, this annual report template uses a shoreline theme in the cover. The imagery of the horizon creates a sense of opportunity and goal-setting.
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:
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:
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.
Our flowchart maker can help get you started with creating handy flowcharts.
Take this report template that uses icons to make the points in the flow chart more memorable:
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:
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.
Use contrasting colors to deliver impact and highlight information
Pair dark colors with bright colors for a bold design. Not only do contrasting colors look good, they can also help you highlight important information.
For example, showing an important statistic in a bolder font than the other text on the page will help it to immediately jump out at readers.
Take a look at how contrasting dark shades and light shades are used in this annual report template:
Size your project status 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.
Pro-Tip: Venngage makes it easy to export your presentations to PowerPoint!
Balance your report layout by using columns
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pro-Tip: Venngage’s Brand Kit feature makes it easy to import your logo, brand colors and fonts with a single click!
This green annual report template with a green background similarly uses white boxes to help the text stand out from the background:
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.
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.
Give your annual report 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:
Bring gradients back into your annual report
In case you haven’t heard this recent graphic design trend, gradients are making a comeback. 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.
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.
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.
This annual report for a coffee company suitably features a background image of a cup of coffee on the cover page. The pages that follow, meanwhile, include coffee beans as a background image. This ties in the coffee theme throughout the entire report.
You don’t need to exclusively rely on images to set a visual tone, however. You can also use color!
In this annual report example below, a vibrant color scheme is introduced on the cover page. Each of the following pages then features a single color from the original palette, maintaining a cohesive look in an unexpected way. This fresh and creative approach to annual report design stands out from more traditional alternatives.
Let your company’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.
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.
This annual report design, meanwhile, uses simple icons to differentiate between different types of shareholder returns:
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.
Our post on icon stories will show you exactly when and how to create them.
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.
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.
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 bold blue headers:
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
This report template gives you plenty of wiggle room:
Small business annual report template examples and tips
Use a design that reflects your brand’s personality
Since your annual report tells the story of your company, make sure that the design reflects your brand’s personality. That can mean more than just incorporating your brand colors. Use font styles and images that reflect your brand’s personality.
For example, this annual report design has a light and playful look. The style is appropriate for a family-friendly burger joint, with rounded fonts and plenty of icons:
Use a variety of different charts to show your data
When it comes to keeping readers engaged with longer documents like an annual report, variety is key. Use many different kinds of charts, infographics, and illustrations to show your data.
For example, this financial projection report three different types of charts in one page alone:
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:
Try using 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. Our post on presentation layout ideas should help spark your creativity.
Take this annual report template that follows a zig-zag path and uses circles to present data in a quirky way.
Design decorative section headers
In each section of your annual report, you’re introducing a new topic. To help introduce the new section, use a decorative section header that illustrates the topic of the section.
For example, this annual report template for a retail business uses images in the headers that reflect key pieces of information from each given section:
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:
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 year end report template:
Government annual report template examples and tips
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.
This annual report template uses a building background with a semi-transparent overlay in eye-catching orange.
You can layer white boxes on top to ensure that your text stands out from the background, like in this purple annual report design template below:
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”:
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.
Annual report design takeaways
Annual report design isn’t going anywhere. Even if you don’t have any design experience, you can create an appealing annual report by starting with an annual report template and applying some of the following design elements:
- Cover images which tell your company’s story
- Eye-catching background color to make your annual report template pop
- Decorative section headers
- Color blocks
- Color coded data
- Different style charts
- Interesting page layouts
- Full-page data visualizations
Ready to get started?