The Future of Annual Reports

At Brands&People, we constantly weigh in on whatever is happening across our culture, to understand how its shaping the way we design and communicate.

Now, we decided to open up digital conversations about these ever-evolving topics with the people who have firsthand experience and something to say about them.

Our first conversation is sparked by one of our latests projects “Universidad de Monterrey 2015 Annual Report”, in which Brands&People, La Tortillería, Underdog and Universidad de Monterrey’s Marketing team worked together.

Esperanza Garza is Marketing Director at University of Monterrey
Adriana Martínez is Digital MKT Manager at University of Monterrey
Zita Arcq is Co-Founder at La Tortillería

Brands&People: Hey guys!
Adriana Martínez: Hola!
Zita Arcq: What’s up!
Esperanza Garza: Hi!

Annual Reports = Gray Literature
Our first thought when we were briefed on this project was something like “Really? The annual report, how exciting…” I mean, we’ve all seen annual reports. A hefty daze of tedious statistics, insipid charts and cluttered information not worth the trouble reading for most of us. We also know where they will end up: stashed forever in the darkest corner of our desks.

UDEM’s format had remained almost unchanged since their first-ever annual report came out. As it happens with most organizations. We all couldn’t wait to make something vastly different. Something to knock the college community and investor’s socks off and keep them coming back for more.

Since we believe there might be no rule of the thumb on how to report results, we took a bigger approach:

–Don’t report results, celebrate successes–.

Our favorite Annual Reports
We took a cue from brands around the world exploring new, entertaining, quirky and unexpected routes in designing annual reports that emerge beyond the printed page and engage audiences like never before.

Countup Mailchimp 2015

Take companies like Mailchimp, with its interactive 2015 COUNT UP, taking readers on a journey through their HQ in Atlanta, where the staff talks about Beyoncé, Softball and Datacenters, putting together an ascending listicle of achievements called “Mailchimp by the Numbers”.

Flywheel 2015 Year in Review

Flywheel created temporary tattoos inspired by the cool things they did in 2015, including the number of sites they migrated from Wordpress and the huge amount of Diet Mountain Dew they drank. One of their co-founders, took it to the next level getting a Flywheel logo permanently tattooed on his forearm. Hence, the idea of whipping up a limited edition of temporary tattoo sets included in their full report.

Banques Alimentaires Québec 2013 Annual Report

For two years, Banques Alimentaires has presented their Annual Report as a can of food, the symbol of a food donation. The mandate for their 2013 Annual Report was to keep the can as a vehicle, but re-examine how else it could be used.

Our Pop-up Report
For Universidad de Monterrey, all we wanted was to tell an awesome story about their last 12 months. So we explored the eye-catching and fun possibilities that new media brings, hoping we could turn those dull numbers into energizing proud moments.

Brands&People: What was your motivation behind UDEM’s 2015 Annual Report?

Esperanza Garza: We are facing a reality in which everyday we are not only surrounded, but saturated with information. We needed to explore new ways of getting our message out there and at the same time, avoid losing our audience in complex statistics and numbers that lead nowhere. We asked for a new platform that allowed anyone to access UDEM’s results in a way that was easy to assimilate and that echoed our institution’s human and innovative spirit.

Brands&People: You’ve designed UDEM’s print Annual Report for the past few years. How was this year different?

Zita Arcq: We got rid of the printed version. Instead, we designed a pop-up book inspired by the 3 lessons learned this past year. Each lesson was one of the pop-ups and so we included facts and achievements in an interactive way. Yes, we designed a PDF file with all of the information just for the University’s documentation, but what advisors and contributors received after the Annual Report Event, was a fun and beautifully printed pop-up book.

Pop Up book design by La Tortillería
Pop Up book design by La Tortillería

Brands&People: We took 100 pages of information and transformed it into a sleek designed pop-up book filled with short fact/treasures that the audience can uncover while going over the story of the University’s poignant victories of 2015.

To make the book shareable in digital and social platforms, we teamed up with our content production company, Underdog, creating a short film report that showcases its useful infographics, images and creatively executed elements, that’s as stunning on a tablet or desktop.

Turning 106 pages of gray literature:

Into this:

UDEM 2015 Annual Report
Making of Annual Report UDEM 2015

For our investors and counsel members, we made a special more detailed PDF version.

Brands&People: What was your audience’s reaction?

Esperanza Garza: We got excellent reviews from our staff and UDEM’s community regarding the whole experience, where the pop-up video presentation was accompanied by a physical pop-up book people could take home as gift.

Adriana Martínez: We also got the chance to make our content viral in social media by posting our video on our Facebook and website.

Brands&People: Where do you see Annual Reports going in the future?

Adriana Martínez: The way we consume information today is forcing us to look for new and more relevant ways to present content and transmit our messages effectively, and our Annual Report isn’t the exception. We have to reflect in our reports a new way to consume information based on how content is consumed in the digital era.

Esperanza Garza: We need to keep exploring new ways to tell our story year after year, finding new outlets for our information and letting people know our milestones in an engaging way.

Adriana Martínez: We need to understand the context we are living in to know exactly how we should communicate our information. These insights allow us to consider new formats of presenting our achievements and create a sense of belonging and pride within our community.

Brands&People: Annual reports are no longer for investors’ viewing only. Today’s main stakeholder is the whole community.

We used the information as a tool not only to tell the company’s yearly story in a more visual way, but also to engage the audience, generate awareness and sense of belonging and especially to infuse UDEM’s human spirit on all its official publications.

In conclusion, nowadays we don’t have the time or attention span to scan a page full of numbers or read a full paragraph and we are excited to explore new ways of telling stories with video and new media.

Here’s a list of our favorite Annual Reports this year:

Thanks for sticking with us on this edition of Open Conversations, we’ll keep you posted on our next topics, interviews and the trends that are shaping the way we design and communicate.