Category: Brand Integrity

Annual report design: what’s changed

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a renewed interest in publication design. There was a time where many reports and publications were beautifully designed and printed to be “forever” books.

Then we saw a switch to online, and discomfort around printing. We started to see businesses show real concern about the environmental footprint their printing was having. With less interest in printing their reports, there was less interest in getting them professionally designed too. It seemed like there wasn’t much point if they weren’t printed.

This lead to a lot of reports being shared online just as basic Word documents, or a quick description on their websites. But as often happens – things evolve and interest in getting reports designed professionally started to pick up again. We’re now seeing small print runs of reports and publications, and then those same reports and publications readily available for download online.

There’s been a move towards making the information easier to understand and relate to (which let’s face it, in annual reports is usually quite dry and corporate). The use of action photos, friendly infographics and personalised stories in these publications has been a big shift from tables of finances and a page of neat headshots of the board.

Annual reports are showing the personality of the businesses they are for now, and it’s been really exciting to be a part of this change.

Colours and expectations

Colours play a big role in branding. They create expectation in people’s minds before they process an image, or read a word.

This expectation is hugely important to consider when designing a logo, and developing a brand. Colours are often used across everything you eventually have made for your business, so it’s worth selecting them carefully.

Different shades of the same colour apply to this too; some examples are below:

Environmental, fresh, energetic.

Historical, classy, professional.


Energy, positivity, warmth.

Clinical, medical related.


Fun, friendly, child-based.

This list could go on forever, but you will see how even a different shade can hold different expectations to your customers. Instead of fearing a list like this, embrace it: knowing what colours mean can make your brand more engaging to the right people.

A brand used to be a promise…

“A brand used to be a promise but as we move forward, a brand is a relationship, a living thing.”

I was trawling through old essays I wrote while I was at university, and stumbled across this. A lot of the essay is a bit naive and misguided, but to be fair, it was written 13 years ago. However, this simple quote stood out to me again. The timing is a bit quirky, as I was only having this same conversation with a client last week.

The way brands are perceived today influences how businesses promote themselves – and it is vastly different than 30 years ago. For new businesses who come to us wanting their logo and promotional material designed, this is not as much of an issue. The businesses they look to for inspiration generally have that human connection that customers are looking for today. This makes it already familiar to new businesses.

I find that some well-established businesses struggle with the differences in how potential customers search and interact with a business today. What worked 20 or more years ago doesn’t work the same anymore.  A refresh of an existing business is more than just a logo change. So fundamentally, what on earth has changed?

A business used to be able to build a reputation on a brand name. The promise that brand name brought to a customer gave enough confidence. You didn’t need to know who ran the business, their process, or anything “behind the scenes” – what was presented as a polished product was ample. So what I find is that well-established businesses like to still hide behind their logo and branding, thinking that’s enough.

With the rise of social media, as customers we’ve become far more inquisitive. We always want to learn more, know more. A logo and brand is still uber important, yet it’s not everything. Who runs the business, what the processes are, what’s happening day-to-day have importance now. Customers want to feel a personal connection to a business they are planning to use – they want to feel like they know them, that they are approachable and friendly. That a customer can relate to them.

The ongoing transactions or use of services of a business then become a relationship. It’s not just a brand that is chosen, it’s a connection your customer feels. Not just to the logo, or the product – but the business as a whole, and the people behind it. Customers want to know about you. So don’t be shy to step out of your comfort zone and be proud of your business. Treat your business promotion as a living thing, not just an image. You’ll be surprised by the changes it brings.

Capability Statements & First Impressions

Most service-based businesses have some kind of capability statement. Whether you call it a company profile, tender introduction or capability statement – they all have the same goal. They can be the first document another business sees of you (and often, a bigger business or government organisation) – so it’s important that it gives an amazing first impression.

You might have stressed over the wording for ages, and finally got it reading as you hoped. Then you put it into Word, try to format it…and it doesn’t look as awesome as you had planned. Yours might be a short profile that needs to catch people quickly, but it looks like a formal letter. Or it might be a really long publication, but looks like a novel.

Our biggest tip is to make your whole capability statement match your brand. Every page should feel like your brand. This might include colours from your logo, fonts you regularly use, and maybe even an element from your logo. Below is an example of a capability statement – we designed this one for Aegir Divers.

Capability Statement Cover Design Capability Statement Page Design
Don’t be shy to break up content with big headings, graphs/tables (where relevant), lists and blocks of colour. Make the most important information on each page stand out. Air Connect had a small company profile they needed to stand out, so we used blocks of colour and highlighted text.

Company Profile Design

Capability statements are often perceived as “premium” documents. Make sure to use professional photos wherever possible. A bold front cover with a big photo for that first impression is a perfect place to start. This is the cover we designed for Peninsula Civil Solutions:

PCS Capability Statement Design

Sometimes, another company is only going to have a short space of time to read your capability statement, so make it one they want to pick up and keep reading.

Positioning vs. Prospecting

How do you define your sales at the moment – do they come to you, or do you have to hunt them down?

This is the difference between positioning versus prospecting.


If you’re spending valuable time prospecting for new customers, it’s probably a good time to step back and have a look at how your business is presenting itself when you’re not there to talk about it.

If you have a website, check that the first page explains what you do, where you are and who you are clearly. Make sure that any advertising presents your goods and services in their best light, and especially if you have services, that they are easy to understand.

Check that your brochures and other printed material look new and fresh. If they’re beginning to look outdated (even if the information hasn’t changed), it’s time to get a redesign.

Also make sure any photos you are using are taken by a professional. The difference of quality between amateur and professional photography is often worlds apart, and if you want people to come to you, the business should be looking it’s best in person and in print!

And especially: make sure your branding is consistent across everything. Keep your business feeling familiar, so when that new customer walks through the door they feel like they already know about you and are ready to continue the conversation.

The problems with cheap logo services

Over the past 12-18 months, there has been a steep rise in the amount of cheap logo providers. While the offer of potentially hundreds of designs for a very small fee might sound appealing (and can be useful to the low-budget end of the market), it’s worth being aware of the implications:

1. The designer may not be qualified

To become a design provider for websites which provide cheap logo services, the designer is not required to have any design qualifications. While this can be a good place for students to gain some experience in designing logos, it doesn’t mean the final outcome will be ideal for your business. If they are not qualified (or lack experience), they will not be able to provide professional design advice either.

2. They can be from anywhere worldwide

For all you know, someone in Iceland has designed you a logo for your Australian bathers company. While that statement might sound funny, if you have someone from overseas designing a logo for your business, they may not be aware of local expectations, customs, your audience or your competitors. It is by chance if they are able to design a relevant logo without having knowledge of those.

3. The designers aren’t available to find out more about you and your business

Following on from “being anywhere worldwide”, on most cheap logo provider websites, you (the client) has to provide a short brief of what you’re looking for in a logo – however, in standard practice, the designer usually finds out a lot more than just what you’re looking for. The designer will normally ask questions about your business goals, your target market, what makes you stand out from your competitors, and more. The answers to these questions then forms a brief the designer works from. Without this communication, many of the provided logo designs are often just stylised interpretations of the business name – and that’s not good business sense.

4. The design may not be original

You have to think to yourself, “why are these logos so cheap?”. To be churning out so many logos in such a short timeframe (and without the necessary business research and briefing process), it is almost guaranteed that not all designs provided to you through the cheap logo services will be original. Situations that can happen are:

  • They may have used clip-art, which is owned by someone else.
  • If they have used clip-art, the license may only cover personal use (not commercial).
  • They may re-use a generic design another customer has turned down.

5. Only the “winning” designer is paid

While you may feel this doesn’t concern you, it isn’t accepted industry practice. An example from another industry would be if you took your tax return to 5 different accountants and only paid the one who got you the biggest return. It doesn’t happen in the financial industry, so it shouldn’t be happening in the design industry either. Industry bodies AGDA and DIA are against such services as it is ultimately “work for free” which has even further legal issues for businesses utilising design services and the industry alike.

Logogate 2011

Reading stories such as Logogate 2011 disappoint me so much. A quick rundown for those who don’t want to read the article: what started as a “another cheap conveyor belt logo service” at turned into a discovery of an abundance of stolen logos from many renowned designers across the world, “slightly edited” into templates which any person could purchase to use as an icon in their own logo.

While I feel that such “fast food logo services” aren’t good for businesses to be utilising in the first place, plagiarism within the design industry is more of a concern. I believe a good brand – including a meaningful logo – comes from research, concept development and refinement. It doesn’t come from choosing a template and plopping a business name underneath it.

The most frustrating part is that there are potential customers of these services who may have no idea that their chosen logo is already used by another company (and possibly trademarked). They could be completely and innocently unknowing, until down the track they then see their logo used by another company. Now that’s an awkward situation if there ever was one.

Thankfully, a number of the designers who had their work stolen have had the offending logos removed from LogoGarden, but it’s not to say others haven’t been notified yet. Here’s hoping these types of services eventually fall off the radar – they’re doing nothing for the integrity or creativity in branding.