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Annual Report Best Practices2009 Vision Awards Annual Report Competition Results

Best Practices in Annual Report Design & Communications
As Updated & Compiled from Award-Winning Annual Reports of LACP's 2009 Vision Awards Competition



Hot trends from this year's annual report competition:

  • Gatefolds and Fold-Out Report Narratives.  Gatefolds and fold-out report narratives have risen considerably in prominence over the past two years.   We estimate that 20% of all books offered gatefolds or fold-outs to some degree.  A select group of annual reports made heavy use of this feature—up to 12 times in one publication.   Some of the advantages to gatefolds include increase the amount of time readers spend perusing the book; gaining more space for expanded visual presentations; and differentiation from more common reports.  

  • Tables of Contents (TOC).  This is a very inexpensive feature that offers a terrific bang-for-the-buck.  Coupling a TOC with color-coded edges or tabs provides an immense boost to the usability factor of an annual report.  Many subsections even offer their own 'mini-TOC' so that readers can jump right to the content they are seeking.

  • Back-End Content: Glossaries and Indexes.  Particularly popular in Europe, many annual reports are striving to become retained reference resources for readers.  This means that the reading experience is becoming almost encyclopedic in nature.  Many readers are now able to look up industry-specific terminologies and also find specific references to topics of interest through the provided glossaries and indexes.

Cooling trends from this year's annual report competition:

  • Cartoons.  As with the aforementioned fall in popularity for game-oriented annual reports, the use of this child-like communications format has dropped to zero over the past year. 

    Before then, we remember MetLife’s ubiquitous Snoopy and enjoyed the way he “warms” and strengthens the brand.  Big insurers weren’t the only ones to make this model work: we had reviewed several books where cartoons have been drawn by the same artists found in your local newspaper.  Impressively, the messages were highly relevant and complementary to the overall narrative points being communicated.  It was a safe bet readers wouldn't be flipping past the “funnies.”  

  • Half Sheets.  This feature has dropped in popularity over the past two years.  Many annual reports had been featuring what we’re terming “half-sheets”: sections of the report narrative that are segmented by pages measuring only half the usual width or length.     These sheets are used either as pull-outs or to highlight a particular point that is being communicated.  Sometimes, half-sheet elements were several pages long in order to expand on a particular point.  Field color tended to be significantly diverse from the rest of the report in order to distinguish the piece.  

  • Outer Folders in Lieu of Fold-Out Covers.  Use of outer folders is down to about 3% of all annual reports reviewed this year.  Cost is perhaps one reason, but given that fold-out cover usage jumped another 20% this past year, it’s most likely indicative of a transition from one feature type to another.  We think it’s a smart idea: while the first impression “pops” a bit more with an outer folder, fold out covers tend to be more versatile in application.   Most common uses of fold-out covers include mapping an organization’s locales worldwide and expanded financial results.  


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Updated August 23, 2010