Valerie Leatt

12 tips for desiging an engaging report

What are the most important things to remember when designing your next report? We share our top tips.

Every business generates reports of some kind, be they HR reports, CSR documents or even an annual report. They often contain large amounts of important information that needs to be displayed in the most effective and engaging way possible.

This is a challenge that we relish, having designed CSR reports and Annual Report and Accounts documents for the Manchester Airports Group for many years. Based on our experience, these are our top tips for perfecting your report design.

1. Have a clear purpose

Before you begin designing, make sure you are clear on the report’s purpose and intended audience. This will focus your creativity and ensure that design decisions are made for the right reasons.

2. Make sure the arrangement is logical

Arrange the content in a logical order so that it flows. Consider the pagination of the report and how the different sections break. It is important to understand how left and right hand pages work so that there are no unnecessary blank pages.

3. Create an eye-catching design

A well-designed front and back cover encourages the reader to look inside the report. Again put yourself in your readers’ shoes; what kind of thing would they be attracted to reading?

For example, take a look at the CSR reports and the Annual Report and Accounts documents we designed for MAG. On each report the front page has been designed with the target audience in mind.

Whilst the Annual Report document uses relevant airport imagery to give it a more professional feel, illustrations have been created to catch the attention of the readers of the CSR reports.

4. Use colour coded sections

Choosing different colours for each section, even if they are subtle, helps to segment the report and make it easier and more appealing to read.

For example, you might have your sustainability section in green, but the community engagement section in pink.

5. Make informed design choices

Make sure that you can explain every design choice. If you have used a particular colour because you like it, it’s not an informed design decision.

What would your readers want to see? What are the brand’s colours? Are there guidelines in place that you should follow so that your collateral appears consistent with other items?

6. Consider the typography

If the project requires the use of a specific typeface, make sure that you use it throughout the report. If nothing is specified, stick to a minimal number of typefaces and make sure these are clear, legible, readable, and appropriate.

While technical or corporate reports require traditional typefaces, more creative scenarios might require something a bit more daring. Consider your context and the meaning you want to convey with your typography – your font selection should reflect and support that.

7. Use a grid

The use of a grid is fundamental in making the content appear structured and orderly. Ideally the grid should be consistent throughout, however it is common for more than one grid to be utilised in reports.

8. Ensure the header and footer are consistent

The same principle applies to your header and footer. Make it consistent throughout the report. When people read the report, consistent placement of key elements will allow them to know where certain information is, without actively consuming it.

9. Display information in interesting ways

Reports are full of stats, data and information, so try to display it in creative ways. People are inherently visual, so think about using infographics, charts, colour and other tools to display data. This will help to engage the reader, demonstrate or emphasise your points and attract attention.

10. Use high quality pictures

It is important that any images you include in your report are relevant, high quality, in focus and high resolution. Pixelated images will make your report and your company appear unprofessional.

11. Consider your copy and tone of voice

Your copy is important. The tone and pace of a body of text is dependent on how it is written. Consider your audience and whether they will understand the technical language associated with your industry. Also keep your sentences and paragraphs short and easy to read – this will encourage readers to read on and help them understand the content.

Again the purpose of the document will determine what style of writing you might want to use. However, more often than not with a report, a more professional tone of voice is more appropriate. If necessary consult a professional copywriter to ensure that you get the best copy possible for your target audience.

12. Any finishing touches?

With so many printing techniques available, you should also consider how you can use them effectively. Could a UV varnish improve your report? Would that title benefit from being embossed? What paper or stock should you use? Alternatively, should you produce a digital file? or both?

We are more than happy to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to ensure peace of mind for both parties when dealing with data and information that has not yet been released into the public domain.

If you need advice about creating a report for your business, then please contact us, as we are happy to help.