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Ahhh, the annual report – one of my favorite pieces to design.

My roots are in publication design, and I am extremely comfortable with multi-page publications. I actually enjoy the formulaic process of setting up style sheets and creating a cohesive unit of type, photos, sidebars, etc.

A main reason I enjoy annual report design is because it is one of the more elegant pieces an organization will produce. I work with many non-profits, and this is their chance to communicate and show off to their supporters.

Thus, annual reports have developed into much more than financial figures. Annual reports contain a recap of all the things accomplished throughout the year by an organization. They are often filled with great stories accompanied by great images.

One of my recent annual reports was for Alpha Resource Center. This was the first year they outsourced a graphic designer. We used some stock photography and set up a photo shoot to get images of the people they were highlighting. The result was quite a bit of positive feedback.

I’ve also worked on many Santa Barbara Zoo annual reports. In 2010, the Zoo did a mini 2009 annual report to trim down what seemed like a superfluous expense. They cut articles, pages and photos. They learned that a fully-decked out report was actually a necessity. The Zoo returned to full 36-page 2010 report this year. The large beautiful images highlight the variety of animals and the year’s milestones. A design challenge is that the report must contain the large list of donors. I’ve included this list as a special insert section on a different paper stock. The donors stand out, and the integrity of the general layout is not compromised.

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