STRATEGY : The structure of a report

Online or in print, the structure of an Annual Report is critical.

Some organisations follow the same structure each year, and while it is easy to take the attitude of 'if it ain't broke then don't fix it', in a changing market place, the structure should be questioned each year to ensure the readers can easily access the information they want.

Successful ways to structure a report:
  • to reflect the organisational structure. The report could be ordered along product lines, business units or by geographical location — all are good ways to reiterate how the organisation functions.
  • put the important stuff up front. This is where you can highlight critical messages that must be communicated. 'Up front' means the inside spread – the very first part of the report. It could take the form of a list of bullet points, or one sweeping statement, or a key photograph that summarises your year.
  • address important issues in the first 8 pages — in fact, assume many readers are not going to read the rest of the report. Some call this the ‘helicopter view’ or ‘elevator read’ – it just means that you need to get the big picture across quickly. Imagine that someone waiting at reception picks up your report and flicks through the first few pages whilst waiting for a meeting. The aim is that this person able to understand your message within these few minutes.
  • ensure the information flows logically. Start with big picture and continue through to the detail (even further detail could be delivered online). Design can help tie seemingly disparate pieces of information together.
You can explore different options by writing each of the content items onto post-it notes. The notes can be easily grouped/clumped under different headings. Best practice dictates that the first few pages should document the year in a 'snapshot/highlights' section, but after that, the options are endless. Download a few ideas to start your thought processes.

The structure of your report can be documented in a flat plan and distributed to all key decision makers so everyone is clear on the contents and the amount of space allocated to each section. Download a sample flat plan.

The facts

The print specifications are a vital part of a briefing because the production cost is often a major component of the budget.
We’ve prepared a glossary to de-mystify the print language.

Download the glossary...


Design Business Council (dbc) workshops

Preparing a design brief

Evaluating a design presentation

The dbc is a professional development body that helps organisations work with designers. dbc workshops will assist you prepare a brief and then evaluate a presentation.

More detail on the workshops...