I picked out four of the published annual reports for these projects to have a look at.
The Furniture Station > Furniture Station Annual Report 2010
Cover images: full page of woman sitting on chair looking a bit needy. Inset photos of men fixing and moving furniture, a delivery van, and the same woman sitting on a sofa looking happy. The slogan is ‘Supporting people to turn a house into a home’. The layout is professional, style is consistent throughout, solid fresh blue and green colour scheme, simple typography, and black body text on white or tinted boxes. Illustrated with photos of furniture and people at work. Statistics are presented as brightly coloured pie charts. Lots of lists, various techniques to present them a bit differently. Boxed case studies. Fairly functional professional presentation > does the job.
Wesley Community Furniture > Wesley Annual Report 2009
Probably produced using a wordprocessing package, one and 2 column layout with inline photos and boxed accounts summary. Generous margins, the narrative section has big blocks of text and works well, but it gets messy on the last two pages where the lists are. This is where you need visual aids to make it a bit more readable – and deal with those default blue hyperlinks. Photos describe the building, activities, the furniture, renovating, sofas in the road, and the van. They make it look busy, friendly and fun to work there. It works, and it would be interesting to ‘professionalise’ it and make it glossier and shinier – and then see if it conveyed the same message.
Question > how much does the funding environment dictate the report style (as distinct from content).
Re>build > Re>build Annual Review 2011
This is similar to the Wesley but a bit more ambitious in the design. Layout is black on white, it uses a lot of boxes and a black footer (white text). Front page titles follow the style of the logo as close as they can – colour, font and stylistic use of ‘>’. Lots of lists and varied bullets. Use of angled photos, describing the organisation in a similar style to the Wesley. As with the Wesley report, the people page is messy >there’s an issue here with not enough text to give it shape without some visual aids. Similarly the visual representation of the numbers page (that uses loads of clip art) – this could be ‘designed’ – but how little design would you need to improve it without changing the nature of it? Also, I don’t know if it’s designed to be printed or read on screen – I would want to tone down those black footers if it was intended to print it.
Shepherd’s Bush Housing > SBHG annual report 0910
At the opposite end of the scale, here the furniture store is just an aspect of a much bigger and wider service. This is a shiny and glossy production, it’s totally depersonalised, but technically looks quite nice. It’s designed to print (expensively) on the sort of paper the black will work on, it’s square, it uses a mock hand-drawn style, and the statistics are neat. Lots and lots of jargon. It’s interesting to see how the design resolves the layout difficulties of the people section by grouping and balancing the lists across the page.
Lessons to learn: consistency of style, make style appropriate to the scale of the organisation and it’s environment, no clutter, keep it simple, be careful with the lists.