Secret lies in the storytelling
With more than 25 years working in the design industry and about 30 annual reports generated through his design studio each year, Victor Cheong has built up a wealth of experience in determining what it takes to produce an award-winning annual report.
'I have been in this business a long time and have noticed the trends change considerably over the years,' said Mr Cheong, president and creative director at The Design Associates. 'Annual reports today are more creative and focused on storytelling rather than just a document reporting the figures.'
Mr Cheong estimated he has designed more than 400 annual reports, and has been the recipient of many international and local design awards including the Grand Winner for the Best International Annual Report for ARC Awards, Mercury Awards, Galaxy Awards and Astrid Awards in the United States.
He said there was a tendency to provide not only the core information for investors, but also information needed to paint a broader picture for the readers to understand how the company operates. In addition, by adding a more emotional and creative factor, companies could arouse wider interest in their activities.
When planning an annual report, Mr Cheong said that there were three main points to consider - the message to be conveyed, how to tell the story and keeping the content direct and consistent.
'Some reports overlook the main points because they are too wordy or too busy with pictures. They need to be accurate, concise and straight to the point. This ensures the important information is instantly recognisable as people don't have time to read through pages of unnecessary content.'
Mr Cheong's approach for designing each annual report depends on the nature of the client's business. 'Our reports are tailor-made and designed to showcase a specific company's credentials and to sell what they do and who they are, not only to investors but a wider audience,' he said. 'As a designer, I must be able to capitalise on the client's vision to create the best possible result to influence the end user. The design has to fit the company and be in line with their industry and company culture.'
Memorable annual reports he has worked on include those produced for The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Hang Lung Properties, Bank of China and the Hong Kong Police. Those projects proved to be particularly interesting for the designer because they had a main feature story theme and well chosen picture gallery to highlight the calendar year. The report produced for The Peninsula Hotel also had a full general manager's report, which stated how the business performed and plans for the future. 'It made me feel that I wanted to stay at the hotel,' he said.
Mr Cheong became interested in the design industry after seeing the Hong Kong Design Association exhibition in the Connaught Centre (now Jardine House) when he was 15 years old. 'The job is highly visible; successes and failures alike are recognised and are put on display. Those who are insecure about their skills or their ideas have a hard time accepting the amount of risk and rejection this career entails,' he said.