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Annual Report Review

By The Drum, Administrator

December 2, 2004 | 6 min read

The words “annual report” and “interesting” don’t fall into the same sentence too often. If you were looking for an illustration of an oxymoron, these three words could be chosen to make a useful sentence. It probably therefore goes without saying that the reading of an annual report can be somewhat dry. But once some of Scotland’s top designers get their hands on the raw information, well, let’s just say that miracles can, and clearly do, happen.

The Drum Annual Report Prize is now in its sixth year and, once more, standards have been raised and the bar of excellence is rising further this year. The once staid, dull annual reports of old are no more, with good use of paper, illustration and graphic design being employed to make even the driest annual reports into something of a masterpiece.

As in previous years, The Drum headed south of the border to ask some of Northern England’s leading creative directors to cast a critical eye on some of the best annual reports that have been produced over the past twelve months by Scottish design consultancies.

The judges this year were David Coates of Newcastle’s NE6 Design, Rob Taylor of Manchester’s Like A River, Tom Shaughnessy of Manchester-based MAT Designers and Alan Herron of The Chase in Manchester.

As in previous years, the judges were asked to consider six areas when examining the reports – graphic design, layout, use of pictures/images/tables, use of paper stock, clarity of text and the overall impression of the text. From these scores we were able to assess not only each individual category but also take a mean average of scores to find out the winner.

From the outset it was clear that there was one overall winner running away with the majority of categories –Young Scot produced by Stand.

The report was a firm favourite with all judges and produced comments such as “A visual treat – this styling has often been attempted before. But rarely pulled off as beautifully as this one”, and “I loved the use of images and will be nicking some of these ideas.” The Young Scot Annual Report was so successful that it managed to almost do a clean sweep of the board, winning in the clarity of text, graphic design, illustration and layout and use of pictures/images/tables categories. However, the report did not dominate every table.

Close behind was Wolffe and Co’s Inveresk Annual Report. This was another clear favourite with the judges, winning in the Use of Paper Stock Category and being placed in third place overall. Comments on this work included “Fabulous – a visual treat which works on all levels”.

Meanwhile, Elmwood’s Scottish Ambulance Service Report, which only two months ago picked up a Gold Award at the Roses Design Awards, also came out ahead in this year’s report – being placed in overall second position and coming first in the overall impression category.

The results were not entirely clean-cut, with the judges selecting their favourite and writing some chosen words on why that report was the best in the field for them.

Here, they share their thoughts on their favourite reports of the past year:

Judge’s personal favourites

Alan Herron, The Chase

“The Young Scot annual report was a very fresh feeling and good-looking piece of work.

“I liked the approach to the case studies and the individuality and the layout to the annual report was exciting and vibrant while being both relevant and fun.

“This one was definitely the best one in the pile – a clear winner that stood out from the rest. I loved the use of images and will be nicking some of these ideas. This report really was my favourite by miles.”

Rob Taylor, Like A River

“What a hard category to judge! Once you’ve set aside all the tangible criteria such as layout/type/images/subject etc and then considered the differences between delivering “not so good” news to a shareholder against “this is how we wasted your money” to a tax payer and scored them off against each other then it just comes down to whose work shows the greatest enthusiasm for its subject.

“The Young Scot report was that piece of work. It’s the report that best tapped into the vocabulary of the subject and was executed in a convincing manner.

“I want to be a young Scot now. Oh! And I’ve nicked the enclosed stickers.”

David Coates NE6

“In the end, Inveresk was the outright winner for me, but it was a close-fought thing between Young Scot and SMG.

“Inveresk is truly greater than the sum of its parts, but is it the parts – paper, design illustration, text, copy, photography and print – that give it that indefinable quality of a seamless, integrated and beautiful annual report?

“In a climate of restricted budgets, cautious financial directors and nervous communications directors, the Inveresk annual report is a triumph and demonstrates that design is the route to clarity, excellence and success.”

Tom Shaughnessy, MAT Designers

“My initial observation was that, out of the 29 entries to this year’s annual report competition, I think only ten or so reports merited entry, the overall standard being quite low.

“That said, on my first review of all submissions, the Scottish Ambulance Report was the one that grabbed my attention. After a closer look, and taking into account the various categories, it was the Glenmorangie report that came out the winner.

“This was a well-executed piece of work. I felt much consideration and planning had gone into the various sections, the format was interesting and the elements of photography, typography and materials (with probably a nice budget too) came together well.”

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