How to Incorporate White Space Into Your Annual Report Design

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It’s nearing that time of year again. The end of a fiscal year means that you’ll have an annual report to deliver to your shareholders that documents all of the activities and finances that your company or organization has undertaken in the past year.

However, did you know that using white space appropriately can make your report more appealing? The proper use of white space can go a long way towards having more people actually read your content, rather than flip through it.

An added benefit of putting enough white space in the margins is that you’ll further engage your readers, allowing them to create their own notes beside your content.

If you want content that is simple, attractive and readable, white space and a good layout can go hand in hand to helping you realize that goal.

White Space Defined

White space, according to, is defined as “space that is unmarked in a piece of infographic or visual representation. It could be margins, padding, or the space between columns, text, and icons and design elements.”

There are creative ways you can add more white space to a document, beyond just throwing in some blank spaces:

  • Create bullet points to list information (like we’re doing here).
  • Use subheadings or internal subtitles for document structure.
  • Insert photographs and photo captions into your document to break up space. (Note that subheads and photo captions can be areas that are the most-read parts of your report. You’ll want to make sure your key messages are embedded in these areas, in the offhand chance that you have a reader so pressed for time that they’re still skimming the document.)
  • Place graphs, charts, tables and illustrations in key areas to hammer home your points.
  • Inject colour into your document to highlight salient parts of the report.

Here’s a tip related to creating white space if you’re a non-profit organization: If you have lengthy donor lists in your annual report, think about breaking those lists up with testimonials from donors about why they support the organization or photos of donors attending special events. This content pulls at the heartstrings, and can help engage your reader and prevent them from flipping past these lists.

It’s All About Balance

There is such a thing as too much white space, though, in addition to there being not enough. If you stuff your pages full of text and pictures, those pages will be hard to parse. Readers will be unable to focus on the key messaging as a result.

On the other hand, too much white space can make your pages look empty. This can affect the content and make it look as though what you have to say isn’t really important. suggests that a good balance between text and white space is a ratio of three parts text and images to one part white space, excluding margins or edging. Speaking of margins, placing a column of space for the far left and right of your page can help to make the page feel “balanced and unobtrusive.”

In short, creating white space will guide your readers through the text and assist them in avoiding feeling overwhelmed by it. Good white space is comfortable and pleasing on the eyes. And it will help your reader stay focused on your copy and what you actually have to say.

A Final Caveat

Don’t forget, though, that good design doesn’t take over from the place of good content. The two walk side by side.

If your report is nicely designed but isn’t full of rich content that convinces readers or adds value to your organization, they could ignore next year’s annual report. You know the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

So while you might want to use lists to make your report easier to read, using too many lists (or pictures, graphs and so on) can make the guts of the report seem paper thin.

Balance your text and your design so that you can make a case for any recommendations or proposals in the report. That, not simply stuffing the report with more white space alone, will make it a smashing success.

Contact Cyan Solutions

If you need assistance designing your annual report, contact Cyan Solutions. We’ve worked with major clients such as Canarie to create visually breathtaking annual reports that have delivered results. We would be happy to discuss your needs in more detail, and help you present an annual report that will be a hit with your stakeholders.

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