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My experience in designing an integrated annual report

Most companies hire design agencies to work on their Integrated Annual Report and Financial Statements. In case you don’t know, an Annual Report Book is a concise communication about how an organization’s strategy, governance, performance, and prospects lead to the creation of value over the short, medium, and long term. The head of the finance and strategy department tends to be in charge of the whole project. I think of them as the architects of the report. All we do as designers is to bring the “content of the book” to life.

In 2017, I was hired by a publicly listed company to design theirs. I knew I didn’t have the experience, the closest I got to designing a book was a 25-page magazine.

I have been in the design industry for the last 9 years, never turned down a project. If I couldn’t do it, I would teach myself or find someone who would. This time around, I went in blind believing in my ability. I managed to design using Photoshop and Illustrator, but little did I know that most printing companies prefer InDesign. For 2 weeks I had to modify each page, from adjusting the CMYK to laying out the Spot UV.

Printing Dilemma

The printing company said, “If only you had designed using InDesign, we would easily customize the design for you.” It was embarrassing, to say the least, it got to a point where I had to spend time at the printing company making changes. 

Lucky for me, the printing lady was so kind, she explained in detail the benefits of each design application and what works best with printers. Most freelance graphic designers just focus on the design part leaving the clients to struggle with the printing company. I learned a lot and due to the lack of time, I was not able to redesign using InDesign.

After the book was successfully printed, I spent sleepless nights wondering how it would be received by the client or the public.

My Lowest Point

A design agency sent an email to my client saying that the book I had designed did not do justice to the well-crafted content. He told the managing director that their client won several awards and the overall trophy at the FiRe Awards the previous year.

If you don’t know what FiRe Awards is about, well, they acknowledge companies that have innovative initiatives in Africa, that have made concrete contributions through the use of information and communications technologies, and have had a proven impact on the region’s social and economic development.

“Do you feel your book will perform well?”, “Did you give your very best when designing the book?” Some of the questions asked by the client. I defended my work.

A few days later, 10 copies of the book were sent to FiRe Awards committee. I tried not to think about it. Ask any graphic designer, we just want to design and move on. We tend to OVERTHINK. What do you expect from introverts?

A month or so later my client won 6 awards plus the overall trophy. Please note, graphics play a minimal role in the decision. To make you understand, it is the head of finance and strategy that is behind this success. He gathers information from different departments then lays it out and sends it to the graphic designer as Ms Word or Ms Excel documents. The graphic designer then brings the report to life with visually appealing artwork.

It is a combined effort. The head of finance I worked with is a perfectionist.

Highest Point

The book performed really well, I must say. That was the most exciting moment of my career. How did I celebrate? I slept like a baby. Yes, the project took around 3 months, and my sleep pattern was messed up, at times I slept at the office or left really late. I was fully committed.

The day after the awards night, everyone that worked on the book was happy. I wanted to find out if the Agency that dissed the book had sent a congratulations message. They did not.

The client hired me again to design their 2018 report. It won 4 awards and the overall trophy! My confidence level grew to 1000% percent. I still expect the same Agency to send another congratulations message. Unless he was just a critic that didn’t bother looking at the book.

Why am I sharing this?

If you believe in your skills, it doesn’t matter what others say. They can easily bring you down. And if that happens, it can really mess with your mind.

In the professional world, you are on your own. If you don’t think you can do it, then, it is your responsibility to learn that skill and do it.

Thank you for reading.


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