One of the reasons that companies reach out to external communications agencies to compile and design the CSR reports is the look and feel of the report. In most of the projects we have handled, the client has the content in word documents – sometimes well edited, other times not; there are some photographs in various folders, attempts made by the inhouse CSR Lead to develop the report into a readable, presentable document – while this may not always be successful.

When the agency steps in, this is what you can expect as the client.

  1. The agency must know how you wish to present the information: company-wise, chronologically, or event-wise.
  2. If you have a logo or public identity for your CSR initiatives, share them with your agency in the first meeting itself. The agency may want to work around your logo forms or colours during the design process.
  3. If your agency has not handled too many of such report design jobs, help them by laying out a set of guidelines.

Guidelines for the design team

  • The pictures are the most important part of such a report; second is the content. The design is at the tertiary level. Often agencies with a background in designing brochures get fixated on layout and design and may end up compromising the seriousness of content.
  • The design team must remember that beyond a point, content cannot be edited to fit into design. The design will have to adapt to the content.
  • While content with activity details is important, your report must have adequate visual breaks. This could be in the form of factual insets, info-graphics, or a break in the page layout.
  • Most ‘CSR only’ reports range from 24 pages to upto 70-odd pages depending on the oragnisations activity in this space. The design team would do well to work on a family of 4-5 different templates for the layout.

These templates could be:

  1. Full content page
  2. Full image page with content as caption
  3. Content page with images (2-3 on a spread of 2 pages. Here, define the photos sizes and format of captions
  4. Use of insets on the page
  5. 1, 2 & 3 column layouts can be worked and used with discretion in the report especially if the number of pages is over 40.
  6. The style of illustrations in the info-graphics must be shared & approved at the initial stages of the project.
  7. Define the design & layout stencil in the first round itself. If content needs to be edited, it is easier to work with a defined word-count, once the stencil is fixed.
  8. The agency must have the leeway to rewrite your entire content if they feel the language of the original inputs is varying and not consistent.

While this is definitely not at all-encompassing list, it will definitely help you understand the process through which a design team works to deliver your expected results. Knowing the process and keeping them in mind during interactions can lead to smoother and quicker deliveries.

~ Bharti Athray

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