The font in your annual report is the delivery mechanism for your content. Get it right and few people will notice, but get it wrong and everybody will notice. Companies want to set the right tone with a report that is businesslike and engaging, ideally reflecting the company’s brand and values. For these reasons, the font is a subtle, but vital element in the design of your annual report.
Last year during How does it stack up?, Radley Yeldar’s research into narrative reporting, we identified 38 different typefaces in the FTSE100. And that excludes variations within the family of fonts and a further 11 companies that commissioned their own font.
The most popular font is Helvetica Neue, which is used by 22 companies. If you have an iPhone, you’ll be familiar with Helvetica as it was adopted by Apple for the introduction of the first generation iPhone and has since been applied to all Apple’s software. As its association with Apple suggests, it is considered a design classic, with every character easy to read.
Companies with their own font tend to be consumer facing. Some have taken a classical font and added their own mark, a nuance in the shape of the letter or spacing that reflects their personality. In these businesses, brand perception is all-important. The competitive nature of these businesses means they need to find ways to standout and utilise every component of their brand, including the typeface.
While there are many fonts used in the FTSE 100, the majority of these share one overriding characteristic. Ninety-five percent of companies use a sans serif font - a sans typeface is simply one that does not have the small projecting features called "serifs" at the end of strokes. These are considered to be more modern and progressive, and easier to read in a digital format.
But don’t underestimate the power of the serif – it would be nice to see it being used more often. Used well, it can exude a quiet confidence - calm and understated. Not bad qualities to project to your shareholders?
Next time you look at an annual report, take a closer look at the font. It could tell you more about a company than you thought.
This is one of a series of articles we are posting as part of the launch of our How does it stack up? report. For the past decade Radley Yeldar’s research into corporate reporting in the FTSE 100 – How does it stack up? – has aimed to encourage and recognise best practice reporting. To join us, please click here.