December 20

How to choose the best annual report design agency in Singapore


We get it.

Finding an agency to write, conceptualise, and design your annual report can be a real pain in the butt.

We know, because we’ve been on both sides. Both as the buyer, sourcing for agencies to design the annual report; and the vendor, providing the design services.

Here’s what we think you should look for before you buy any design agency.

First be clear about what you’re going to provide, and therefore need

There are 5 crucial elements to the annual report design, from start to end.


Let’s first start with the conceptualisation. Sometimes, customers come with a set theme in mind. They have a phrase they want to use, and they would like us to design a report around that theme.

Other times, they don’t.

This can often be difficult for both yourself, the customer, and the eventual vendor.

In one case, the client wanted something to celebrate the building of their new clubhouse. But when we asked them about the ideas they had, they left it to us. They told us,

Why not you come up with some ideas and let us know?

At every single draft version, they changed the artistic and thematic direction. It made for a lot of wasted time.

My advice?

Have something in mind before you approach an agency. This way, you get to shortlist based on what you want, rather than what the agency gives you.


Not all agencies are the strongest at writing.

Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar, the animation studio, once said this of writers,

Not only is writing time-consuming but writers also bring structural thinking to the development process—input that most directors really need.

Whilst this may refer to the movie-creating process, I believe it has a lot to do with the process of making an annual report well too.

When you decide to create an annual report, you’re deciding to put together the highlights of your year, all in a single document.

Some questions that are important to consider are:

  1. What do you keep?
  2. What do you leave out?
  3. What’s the angle you should use?

All these are hard questions, but they often are made easier by having the presence of strong writers who can help you to structure thought.

Let me give you an example of a client we recently had, MINDS.

MINDS is a charity serving those with special needs and intellectual disabilities in Singapore, and we had the privilege of working with them on their first ever yearbook. When we first started with them, they were abit overwhelmed as it was their first time.

But they had a good idea of the theme they wanted to convey – LIFE.

MINDS Woodlands Garden School had a clear theme they wanted to convey
MINDS Woodlands Garden School had a clear theme they wanted to convey

Using that theme, our writers helped them to organise the information to get from the various members of staff. This eventually culminated in a yearbook that was produced in record time, taking just 2 months, rather than the usual 4 months for most agencies.

Domain expertise

It might seem unimportant to ask if your vendor actually has the domain expertise to design the annual report.

After all, they are just designing it, aren’t they? Nope, not really.

For example, if you look at the annual report of Sheng Siong, a listed grocery retailer in Singapore, you would have noticed that the report was excellent because of how the agency was able to capture the idea of ‘being like water’ throughout the whole annual report.

Let’s go back to MINDS, the special needs school that we worked with.

In this instance, we would have struggled to understand how best to bring out the vibrancy of the students, if we didn’t have prior experience working in the social services.

I had worked with people with intellectual disabilities for 5 years as a volunteer, and therefore knew their particular quirks that could help to bring out the life in them.

Finding a vendor who has the domain expertise of your particular field would really help you to align faster on the look you want. You get an agency who simply ‘gets’ you, without you having to explain more.

Project management skills

Annual reports are really, really difficult to make.

Let’s be honest. You would have seen many agencies who overpromise and underdeliver.

Always ask your agency,

  1. How do you all manage this project?
  2. What tools do you use?

For example, in our own agency, we find the best way to manage a project of this scale is to use a Kanban board like Notion, where each task is listed, and moved steadily across, from left to right. This ensures that everyone has visibility on where the project is at, what is lacking, and how to move forward.

It’s also useful to tell how good the agency is simply by how they manage your time. The better agencies often

  1. Send out meeting agendas in advance, so that the meeting is focused
  2. Send out meeting minutes after the meeting so that it’s clear what has been agreed on, timelines, and what will happen next

Check how your agency does this. You may well be surprised.


In an inflationary climate like this, we know that one of the most sensitive issues will be around pricing.

You don’t have to walk into their office and see if they are drinking fancy Twinnings teabags or cheap Nescafe instant coffee to check if they are overcharging you.

But it’s always hard to maintain the balance between price and quality.

How to maintain price and quality balance in choosing a design agency for your annual report
How to maintain price and quality balance in choosing a design agency for your annual report

Honestly, some of the best agencies are able to offer a good mix of quality and price. How?

For us, we decide to cut down the costs of office space rental. We use a cheap coworking space like Crane that allows us to reduce office space rental costs by more than half.

We also have other revenue sources like web development that allow us to pass on the savings to you.

Choice comes down to reliability

Are you an Apple or an Android user?

Bear with me. I think the question above tends to show your perspective towards how you choose arguably the most personal object in our lives – our phones.

Apple is known for objects that ‘just work’. No fuss. Just plug and play.

Like your AirPods.

Open the lid of the case, and the AirPods automatically pop up in your iPhone, and you can start using them.

Android (whilst it has improved), still isn’t that simple. Yes, it’s cheaper. But what do you pay with the cheaper price? Your time, your energy trying to fix it, and ultimately, some of your happiness.

Choosing an agency is similar. Do you want an agency that ‘just works?’

Or one that may prompt a little more frustration?



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