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Scottish Annual Report Prize

By The Drum | Administrator

September 11, 2003 | 7 min read

The winner: Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Annual Report by newton.eh6

In The Drum’s review of the annual reports created in Scotland, NewtonEH6 has scooped top prize for its CRown Office report. Gordon Laing and our judging panel look at all of the results and reflect on the best of the rest.

Annual reports – the art of making the dull interesting – a difficult, yet very profitable and rewarding art. Crafting numbers and figures into unique, eye-catching formats, designed to prevent financial directors from nodding off whilst in the throes of monetary investigation, to help guide their gaze to the relevant areas, or perhaps an art utilised to make what was, financially, a crap year look rather more appealing to the eye – on first impressions at least.

Whatever the reasons for the design of an annual report, decisions have to be made. Glossy or matt? A4 or A5 fold-out? Robert Horne or Howard Smith? And every year decisions are made as annual reports hit the floors of investors and directors around the country.

As part of The Drum’s yearly, annual report review, design agencies were invited to submit their prized reports for the scrutiny of the judges.

This year the panel of judges consisted of Ian Thompson and Phil Dean from Leeds-based Thompson Design, David Wood of Iris in Sheffield, Andy O’Dwyer from Manchester’s Love Creative and Martin Carr from True North, also in Manchester.

During the judging process The Drum asked each of the judges what the most important aspect of a well-designed annual report was. The answers, as the results often reflected, were varied.

Is it the ability to make the subject matter interesting, as one judge lamented? Or is it to provide information that is both accessible and easy to digest, as was suggested by another? Perhaps the aim of a good annual report is its ability to communicate? Or maybe it is to engage the audience with a good idea?

Most likely, however, it is a bit of everything, so the judging was set into six different categories to reflect this, looking at Graphic Design, Use of Paper Stock, Illustration and Photography, Page Layout, Clarity of Text and Overall Impression created by the report.

Quickly it was apparent that one report had made all the right impressions as the judges paid tribute to Newton eh6’s Crown Office annual report: “It made a potentially tiresome subject work well – they haven’t missed a trick.”

“One of the best annual reports we have ever seen.”

“Well written and designed, and I really like the idea of the poly-bag presenting the report as a piece of evidence.”

“A solid, well executed document.” These were just some of the praises lauded on this year’s outright winner, taking over from annual stalwart, and last year’s winner, Glenmorangie as the most fancied report.

There were also strong showings this year from Pure (Glenmorangie and Lloyds TSB), Navyblue (Dawson Cashmere and VisitScotland), Elmwood (Curtis Fine Papers and Scottish Ambulance Service) and Third Eye Design (Aberlour Child Care) all of which were judged to be worthy of merit in the top ten positions.

However, it was the Crown Office report that arrested the judges’ attention, sentencing the other contenders to runner-up slots in five of the six categories, while Curtis Fine Papers, rather unsurprisingly, came top in the Best Use of Paper arena for its fine use of paper stocks.

With this year having one of the largest numbers of entrants, it was always going to be a closely fought battle. However, it proved too difficult to escape the long arm of the law in the end.

Robert Wiseman Dairies; Pure

David Wood – Iris

The Robert Wiseman Dairies report was my favourite this year. It’s clear and straight-forward, doing a good job for a commercial organisation – meeting the needs of the shareholders and management alike, and there is a nice tie in between the copy and the images – especially in the headlines.

It is too easy to be negative when you are judging, and there were some very nice pieces of work that many agencies would be proud to have in their portfolios and a great deal of professionalism and skill on display. However, over all it was hard to pick a winner. Whilst there was a high standard of professionalism, there was a lack of stand-out, in my opinion. There was no one “killer piece.”

At the end of the day, it was the former that did it most for me. It is the sort of work that you wish you could be given the brief for, and the client seems very open to good ideas.

Employers in Voluntary Housing; Third Eye Design

Andy O’Dwyer, LOVE

Having worked for a Scottish design consultancy earlier in my career I was not surprised by the excellent production values on offer.

And it was the Employers in Voluntary Housing that got my vote. Celebrating 25 years since their establishment, all photography, justified type and layout were reminiscent of the 1970s.

The A4 to A1 ‘fold-out’ format was really effective. Not entirely original I know; but combined with the simple use of type, layout and photography the report proved to be a great success with me.

The main A1 spread contained simple yet innovative treatments of graphs (piles of paper) and staff details (identity badges). Olive green flowered 1970s wallpaper was also used as a backdrop for success stories, which were mounted in picture frames.

A good ‘less is more’ approach seemed to turn what could have been a very mundane report into a shining example of how a little imagination can dramatically improve any job.

Dawson International; navyblue

Martin Carr, True North

According to Dawson International PLC, 2002 was a year during which the ‘foundations of transformation have been laid’ for the long-term success of their Ballantyne cashmere brand. It was a year that saw an increased operating loss. So I assume that their objective for the annual report was to instil confidence by demonstrating their mastery of long-term brand management and to reflect those brand values that will support Ballantyne’s ‘transformation’, as well as to provide the financial detail behind their performance.

They have succeeded extremely well. The report exudes quality and sophistication, but is understated and crisp. It is both conservative enough yet modern-looking at the same time (like their cashmere product) and gives a professional, considered yet dynamic feel.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service; newton eh6

Ian Thompson, Thompson Design

It’s hard to imagine a more dry and difficult subject to work on, especially on an Annual Report, one of the most notoriously tedious pieces of corporate print. And though all aspects conspire to make this piece, dull, it was far and away the most interesting and well executed report of the bunch.

What’s most impressive is that someone obviously said, ‘this is an opportunity to get to grips with the subject and produce something people will actually want to read’. And I did – the use of case studies at the foot of the pages keeps the reader engaged and provide the much needed reason to present illustrations. These are executed superbly and with real sensitivity, especially in the Lockerbie section.

In the face of umpteen subjects which should have manifested a wealth of visual and editorial stimulus, this report was a rare example of subject and creative treatment perfectly married.

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