How was your 2018?

I’ve had the pleasure of gathering content for and laying out three annual reports this year. Here are some observations about the process. And why the most important thing is that they exist.

From the Left, The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, La Trobe Sports and Excercise Medicine Research Centre and The Living with Disability Research Centre, all at La Trobe University, Melbourne Australia.

It’s the sum of a whole years work. It’s one in a series, its the product of a team, it’s a physical manifestation of sometimes pretty intangible collective activity.

It’s a physical signifier of intellectual reputation and achievement. So many things. And its a ton of work for the people who have done the work to remember, recap and remind the team what they did, how many people were there and where they put the photos they swore they took.

My opinion is it’s best to separate the layout and the content. The designer becomes blind to the content and vice versa, having one person check the other’s work is the best way to get a good report.

Figuring out the story you want to tell beforehand is a good dream, but that’s hard for a lot of research teams new to creating an annual report.

Photos are important as well, alcohol and disability are two very hard subjects to summarise easily in photos. For alcohol, we ended up looking for the things around alcohol, bars, glasses, bottles, rather than risk glamorising alcohol, which I fully realise now is a poison and should be treated as such.

Disability is hard too, treating it like any other modelling shoot was the best thing the photographer that was commissioned to do the shoot could have done, and did do, long before my time, the images are starting to look a bit stale now though.

It will take longer than you think, involve more people than you think and need a lot more editing that you think. Even if you just use the same format as last year. The message from the director has to agree with the project descriptions, the summary of income has to agree with the detailed list of income.

Two of these used infographics, both well I think and this is an area that can benefit from infographics.

The most common feedback I get is ‘looks really good’. They have many audiences, and many functions, being nice to look at, reassuring and interesting, coherent and consistent is the baseline, anything above that is showing off, not a very Australian thing to do. The hard work is doing what goes into them, they should be a celebration, but they are a summary, of a lot of work, and putting it all together in one place is an act of pride, and those that have anything to do with them should be proud.