Choosing Fonts for Annual Reports
ANNUAL REPORTS, FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES, INVESTOR PRESENTATIONS... When you're faced with designing text-heavy, number-heavy material, few things make the job easier than choosing the right fonts. Here are four things to consider when selecting a typographic palette, and five families of fonts designed to meet the challenge.
The numbers in a font can reveal where the design will work best. For setting text, look for a font with variable-width "proportional" figures; for aligning columns of numbers, choose a font with "tabular" figures. For annual reports, make sure your font has both: these five families from H&FJ do.
"Weight Duplexing" - In the font families that include tabular figures, we use the same fixed width throughout the entire range of weights, so designers can use boldface to highlight a single line without disrupting the underlying grid.
Condensed Tabulars - Even a well-designed table can collapse under the burden of a nine-digit number. For tables that feature narrow columns, long numbers, or both, try the newly-expanded Gotham family, which includes tabular figures in four different widths.
Fonts Featuring Tabular Figures
Numbers in circles are called indices, and they're indispensable when numbering key concepts in an overview, plotting data points on a graph, or highlighting features of a chart. To help with the most demanding situations, try the Whitney Index package, which includes indices in sixteen different forms.
Multiple Enclosures - Whitney's indices come in both circles and squares, and in both positive and negative versions, allowing readers to distinguish different data lines - even when designers are limited to a single color.
Double-Digit Indices - Whitney Index includes double digits for when the CEO's ten-point plan runs to eleven points (or 99, for that matter.) Also included is a full alphabet, because sometimes there's no better way to symbolize "third quarter" than an iconic "Q3."
Indices as Reference Marks - Instead of running out of punctuation after the asterisk, dagger, and double-dagger, try using indices to indicate footnotes. They're neater, more intuitive, and easier to use in combination with one another.
Fonts Featuring Indices
Sometimes it's necessary to fine-tune the 'color' of a font without changing its overall shape. Graded fonts are those provided in progressively more robust variations, which give designers precise control over the effects of ink on paper - and all without affecting copyfit.
Reversing Out - Dropping type out of a solid color means reinforcing the type, but the jump from one weight of a type family to the next is often too noticeable. Choose a graded family, in which the crisper Grade 1 can be used for text, and the brawnier Grade 4 for knockouts.
Stock Changes - If you're working with different papers in an annual report, choosing different grades of the same font can help keep the type's color looking consistent, even if you're using a high gloss sheet for the narrative section and an uncoated sheet for the financials.
Fonts Featuring Grades
Extended Character Sets
Mercury Text Numbers have a way of requiring special symbols that can sometimes be hard to come by. These four type families from H&FJ feature an assortment of esoteric glyphs that range from merely helpful to completely essential. Which ones will you need?
Extended Monetary - For projects that extend beyond dollars, pounds, Euros and yen, look for a typeface that includes an extended set of currency symbols. These font families from H&FJ include more than three times the typical number of symbols, for currencies as common as the Rupee and as rare as the Sheqel.
Footnotes - Frequently unavoidable, and hard to fake; anything with the word "disclosure" will have footnotes. Make sure your font has them.
Fonts Featuring Extended Character Sets
Editor's Note: As Alex White cautions in his Type In Use book,
"Good Design is communicative design. Period. Communication is why design exists in the first place. So, what is communicative design? It is the presentation of information in a clear, un-self-conscious way. The reader must not be aware of the act of reading..."
In the design of annual reports and all manner of financial publishing, Alex's words ring even so much more true. For, if the reader cannot understand the verbiage and the numbers it defines -- then communication is broken. Financials are all-important information for the success of most corporations; without that reporting, few potential share-holders would consider purchasing. So the typography must communicate the data, numbers and content in a most informative and compelling way. The right typography is essential to that goal.
We wish to express our sincere appreciation to Hoefler & Frere-Jones for sharing this article with us. Hopefully by reading and following the links above, graphic designers will have a better foundation for selecting the correct type faces and fonts for the job.
And, thanks for reading
Copyright © 1989-2009 H&FJ -- Since 1989, Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones have helped some of the world's foremost publications, corporations, and institutions develop their unique voice through typography. Their body of work includes some of the world's most famous designs, typefaces marked by both high performance and high style. The proof is in the name: www.typography.com