A stunning annual report cover design can be the difference between whether people read or scroll past your “year in review” content.
Until recently, few people have been genuinely excited about reading annual reports, let alone creating them. We all know that annual reports are hugely important—providing reporting transparency, engaging stakeholders, and creating positive perceptions about your brand. Yet, too many organizations still treat them as a necessary evil; something that must be created, but will always be boring, stodgy, and clinical.
At Vev, we know that good design can solve this entire problem. Instead of static PDFs, annual reports can be full of rich visual media, interactivity, animations, and even audio. With modern web creation tools, there is so much potential for transforming your annual report into an immersive experience.
An annual report covers are arguably the most important element of all here—setting the tone, experience, and feel of your entire report. As the one design element you’ll share across all your marketing communications, they do a lot of heavy lifting. We’ve broken down a few tips, best practices, and ideas for making yours pop.
What is an Annual Report Cover?
Your annual report cover is the face of your report—the design element that sets the first impression for what is to follow and decides whether people even click through to read it. An annual report cover design is a chance to send your readers a message: about who you are, what you care about, and what story you are going to tell.
Interestingly, annual report covers have not only survived the shift from print to digital-first content, they thrived and diversified, with different annual report formats warranting different cover designs. For a single-page website report, for example, the cover design will be whatever appears above the fold across devices, as well as the cover photo that appears on social media. For a video-led annual report, in contrast, the cover design format will be the video thumbnail.
Today’s creatives can use a wealth of media within annual report cover designs—spanning photos, illustrations, videos, animations, data visualization, and beautiful typography. This provides a great opportunity to showcase the talent in your team, as well as present your report as a warm, welcoming story.
Annual report cover designs are integral to the success of your year in review content.
The Importance of Annual Report Cover Design
Your annual report cover design is basically an introduction to a year’s worth of documentation. It sets the tone for the content inside. It's the very first impression a reader will form of your year in review. It’s the first opportunity to connect with your readers, and to demonstrate your innovation and creativity. That means there’s tremendous pressure to make it meaningful and engaging.
Put simply, aesthetics are important. We know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover—but when it comes to digital content, everyone does it. No matter how innovative and interesting the body of your annual report is, unless you have a great-looking cover design that grabs attention, it’ll never get the attention it deserves.
There’s plenty of research to back up just how important visuals are. According to researchers at MIT, we process visual content in around 13 milliseconds—far faster than written content. At a basic level, our brains are just drawn to beautiful things, and an attractive annual report goes a long way in luring in your audience and piquing their interest.
Creating an attractive cover design is also key for making your annual report memorable. The human brain can remember more than 2000 pictures with around 90% accuracy, but when it comes to our capacity to remember words, our brains fall far shorter. What this means is that visual design isn’t only more arresting and striking than text, it’s also significantly more memorable.
Finally, there’s the shareability factor. Few people will get excited to share an annual report that looks like a wall of text—but if it contains striking, unique content that lures people in, your reach is likely to be much wider (particularly if you distribute it among “design review” forums). In short, your annual report cover can become a standalone piece of content in its own right.
Best Practices for your Annual Report Cover Designs
Before diving into designing your annual report cover design, it’s worth brushing up on a few best practices to ensure it visually stands out while also fitting in with the rest of your report and branding.
With so many digital platforms in use, it’s likely that you’ll be sharing your annual report across different mediums. For this reason, it’s important to design and optimize your cover design for various needs and uses, and ensure a consistent design is used across all possible platforms. For example, while a different format may be required when sharing your annual report in your newsletter as opposed to Instagram, you should try to ensure that the cover design remains consistent and recognisable.
Good cover design isn’t a mistake—it’s the result of thorough research and planning. So before you start the design process itself, ask yourself some key questions: who are you designing for? Who’s your target audience? What are you trying to communicate? What format will your annual report be in? Once you know the answers to these questions, it’ll be easier to make smart choices about what your annual report cover design will actually look like.
Do Your Research
If you’re planning on using images in your annual report cover design, take time to look at examples you find effective. If you want to use photos or videos, think about what type of imagery will suit your report. Are you planning to use graphical elements? Infographics or illustrative elements could be more suitable, depending on the nature of your report. Or you could avoid images altogether, and go for a clean, abstract look where the focus is on the title. Be imaginative, but also know what your audience responds well to.
6 Annual Report Cover Designs to Inspire You
Now that you know everything you need to create your own annual report cover designs, let's take a look at some inspiring examples and the design techniques they use.
Pine Cove 2021 Recap
Using creative content formats like videos as part of your annual report cover design isn’t only a great way to communicate with your audience, it’s also a way to get people feeling engaged from the get-go, and bring your message to life. And that’s exactly what Christian summer camp Pine Cove achieved in their Vev-created 2021 annual report, which shows a real understanding of the importance of human communication and connection.
As soon as you land on the page, you’re greeted with a selection of short, inspiring videos that celebrate what the camp offers: videos of children leaping off diving boards, laughing and talking with friends, and enjoying fun activities – all of which sends a message of freedom and possibility. The only text above the fold is “We Are Grateful: Looking Back at 2021”, which instantly shows the reader that Pine Cove are proud of what they’ve achieved, and excited to share their news.
Vev Annual Report Template
We put together this simple annual report template to show how simple, effective report covers can be. Rather than using video, the template draws the reader in with interactive illustrations of two women: one appears to be celebrating, indicating that the year has been a good one, and the other appears to be building with blocks, suggesting creativity, innovation, and progress.
The importance of interactive websites and content can’t be minimized. These days, people don’t just want interactivity, they expect it, and from the moment they land on a web page, they scan the content looking for things that jump out at them—things like Lottie animations and other dynamic visual media.
Eidsiva Energi is a Norwegian energy company that also used Vev to create the cover design of their annual report. Landing on the cover page treats the audience to an unusually artistic experience which combines dramatic, dark-hued landscape videos with vibrant and colorful animations. The sole, stark text reads “Driving force for new opportunities”, a message which is in tune with Eidsiva’s vision for renewable energy.
The videos themselves are varied: one shows a beautiful lakeside home, another, an urban harborside; others show dark sports pitches, and moody waters. Yet these images are all illuminated by bright animations, which depict glowing, colorful orbs that become connected by lines. Through this animated imagery alone, Eidsiva is able to convey a sense of opportunity, innovation and sustainability—which are some of the main points they go on to highlight in the rest of the report. Summarizing the themes and key messaging contained within the main body of your Year in Review is of the utmost importance for good annual report cover designs.
Vev Year in Review 2022
For our 2022 annual report cover design, we opted for simplicity over fussiness—yet the end result is striking and creative. The focus is on the animated numbers which make up the year "2022". We’re on a mission to give creatives the freedom to design without limits, so we really wanted to use this cover to show how easy it can be to create a wow factor—especially when you’re using the right tools!
Over these animated numbers is the annual report's title, "Vev Year in Review", making it clear what piece of content this is to anyone who lands on it.
Human Rights House Foundation
The 2021 annual report of Human Rights House is another excellent example of how powerful cover designs can be—even from the very first moment you land on the page. As a nonprofit that supports human rights around the world, the message and tone of this report was always going to be emotional and impactful, and the human element had to be at the forefront. Thanks to their Vev-made cover design, they achieved both these things.
The annual report cover design is very simple: other than the words “Annual Report 2021”, the only other design element is a video. But importantly, it’s a video of people, which instantly helps to humanize the issues within the report, and give the stats and facts that follow a more personal, intimate touch. The video also highlights the global work Human Rights House do, and also gives the content a compelling photojournalistic feel.
If you’re looking for a seriously impressive example of an interactive annual report cover design, look no further than Mailchimp’s 2020 report. While the report in itself is a great example of horizontal scrolling, the cover design is just as impressive. It looks like a video game or comic book, and does an excellent job of instantly engaging readers with animated number counters, colorful cartoons, and interesting stats.
The bright, vibrant design and fun illustrations show that Mailchimp wants to be seen as a laid back, lively company where it’s a pleasure to work. Mailchimp already has a reputation for innovative communication solutions, so it’s important for their annual report cover design to reflect that—which it does, perfectly.
Create Your Own Annual Report Cover Design
With Vev’s drag-and-drop canvas and extensive library of pre-coded design elements, it’s never been easier to create a striking annual report cover design. To make things even easier, you can use our Vev annual report template as your base, and customize it to suit your company’s unique personality and values. When you’re done, publish your annual report anywhere on the web and get sharing.