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Choosing an annual report cover image

old book covers

We do judge books by their cover…

As important as the content is, the cover of an annual report also needs time and consideration to ensure the report conveys the desired message.

Let’s face it – people see the cover before they read any content so it has the power to set the tone for how people approach reading the report.

A good cover will also attract attention, meet the company brand and complement other company materials.

Choosing an effective cover image and design

Although I let designers be creative with annual report covers, there are factors I consider in preparing a design brief and in choosing the final look.

Some questions I try answering are:

  1. what did last year’s report look like, and how similar should this year’s be?
  2. what central messages have been used during the year? For example, if a theme was used in a lot of marketing I will work that into the cover as well to reflect the year being reported on and maintaining consistency
  3. what are the core elements of the company brand? Can I work them into the cover through design and/or choice of images?
  4. are the images unique to this company? It’s a terrible feeling to prepare a lovely cover just to see the same image on a competitor website a week later…
  5. does the cover look fresh and different? A plain white cover with a logo is simple but can be boring and doesn’t stand out
  6. is the image working with or against the brand? For example, a smiling person can look professional or kitsch so the specific photo is just as important as the concept being used
  7. is there anything in the image that could offend or mislead? Many people have been caught out by some little detail in the background of an image – never assume no one will notice!
  8. could we adjust the image to better suit the brand or cover? Looks at things such as swapping which way people are facing or adjusting colours of people’s clothes
  9. will one image overpower or give the right message? Will multiple images be distracting and busy, or give a broader overview?
  10. if using a tagline on the cover, does it work with the image and design? Change the less important aspect if they aren’t working together

Using images

Being such a prominent position, it is crucial to ensure you have the appropriate rights to use any image on the cover of an annual report. If someone else provides the image for you, check the rights yourself as mistakes will be costly.

If you don’t own the copyright of the image(s), check carefully that usage rules allow you to put the image on the cover and make any changes you want to – don’t assume that royalty free images can all be used in the same way.

Have you ever chosen the image for an annual report cover? How did you choose which one was the best fit?

2 Responses to Choosing an annual report cover image

  • KennyK says:

    In my previous job, when I was part of a team of 3 staff members withing a child rights organization, the cover showed an image that was also the used in posters and other advertising materials of the international children’s rights course that we organized. The image was one of a young girl on a playground. Because the international course was the most important happening in that year, the image was chosen for the annual report as well.

    • tashword says:

      Thanks for sharing that Kenny. It sounds like a very appropriate image for you to use – not only was it relating to a major current issue in the organisation but the child image itself would be highly relevant.

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