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A theme can enliven a long report

Your business or nonprofit needs to report progress. Here’s how to do it in a way that isn’t boring.

A few people will read your report because they have to or really need the information. Don’t concern yourself with them. The challenge is to write and design a report in such a way that many more people in your audience will read it.

For longer and more complex reports, it can help to develop a theme — a metaphor in words and images that supports a single, unifying message for the report. The theme also can be applied to PowerPoints, posters and other supporting materials used to disseminate the information in the report .

When developing a theme for a report, we follow these best practices:

  • Spend enough time talking with company representatives to truly understand all facets of the message they want to convey. The metaphor selected will have to embrace the right nuances of style and tone if it is going to ring true.
  • Write the title or headline to express one big idea about the metaphor in an original and powerful way. Then write three to five statements that support or elaborate on the big idea. The statements form the bridge from the metaphor to the information in the report. Be sure that the language used will be easily understood by all audiences.
  • Use photos and graphics to create a bold image that amplifies the message. Resist the urge to get overly clever here. In the mind of the designer, the image may have deep layers of meaning, but on its surface it should be instantly recognizable to everyone. You want to hear “Wow,” not “What’s that?”


Incredible Annual Report Design

“Hollister Creative did an excellent job listening to our organization’s needs and working with surgeons, leadership and staff to conceptualize and deliver an incredible design for our Annual Report. The Hollister team was very professional and easy to work with. They paid close attention to detail and effectively helped to coordinate all voices and feedback into a high-quality, cohesive story. We are getting rave reviews with the finished piece!”

Melissa J. D’Archangelo

AO North America

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