How far can you stretch an annual report? (Part One)

Every year, a sea of annual reports is churned out. Produced in their thousands across the world, they are often a source of information that’s momentarily appreciated and eventually forgotten. However, there have been instances when annual reports proved to be much more than a piece of statutory disclosure. These annual reports have helped expand the horizons of the industry, redeeming them of their short lifespans.

When we surfed through a few of these annual reports produced over the past decade, we found that in most, all elements came together to narrate a cohesive and memorable story. In a few chosen to be featured in this post, the conditions under which the annual reports were produced called for extraordinary action, and in others design played a central role in giving fresh vigour to a familiar corporate narrative. As you will soon find out, an annual report can certainly widen its scope to create a horizon of possibilities.

Beyond the blue hour…
Similar to the witching hour, the blue hour is that time of day when the sun has set and darkness is fast approaching. The sky during this period – which lasts approximately an hour – takes on a mysterious shade of blue. It’s during this singular period that all the photographs incorporated in Austria-based Zumtobel Group’s annual report 2015/16 have been captured.

Zumtobel Group is an international lighting group and supplier of innovative lighting solutions. Hence, the theme of the annual report is appropriate. By capturing moments of this hour within a single room, the transformative power of natural light and the eventual need for artificial light is indicated. This creative venture was led by architect Elizabeth Diller of New York design agency Diller Scofidio + Renfro.The report artistically establishes Zumtobel Group’s position within the industry – one that lasts well past the blue hour.

Images courtesy of Crunite

Beyond fable…
The Aesop’s fables have always been a colourful and fictional method of instilling valued principles within children. In a handy book that defies all indication of being an annual report, the CWS Capital Partners annual report 2016 does the same. It re-visits and thoughtfully adapts five Aesop’s fables to communicate the timeless principles of the real estate investment management company that is based in the USA.

The annual report is structured in a compellingly colourful manner as the fables are brought to life through striking illustrations which communicate much more than the financial standing of the Company. The surreal illustrations are the artistic renderings of German-born illustrator, Olaf Hajeck while the report was designed by prominent designer, Michael Stinson. Their contributions are instrumental in making it a publication that is appreciated by those rare annual report collectors.

Images courtesy of Crunite

Beyond reconciliation…
At the end of a thirty-year-long internal conflict, Sri Lanka seemed to be at the threshold of long-awaited national development. It is at this crucial juncture that the Bank of Ceylon’s annual report 2009 asks the pertinent question, ‘what matters?’ It encourages introspective thinking during a period when people were told to move beyond the horrors of conflict.

The state bank also introspectively engages with its performance and strategies for the future. The annual report also challenges the mental landscape of anyone reading it with its abstract, soul searching design aesthetic.

Could you contribute to this list? We have room in our library for many more extraordinary annual reports.

Refer to part two.

Ananda Jagoda
Chief Creative Officer at Smart Media The Annual Report Company

© Copyright March 2019
The ideas discussed here may be used, adapted or built upon for academic or commercial purposes provided due credit is given to Smart Media The Annual Report Company as the originator of this work.