Arts Council England

Annual report and accounts

This key publication is a legal requirement, a benchmark for cultural organisations, a central information source for stakeholders, and a vital advocacy tool to introduce Arts Council England to a wider audience.

For the 2013/14 publication (our fourth in a row) we were briefed to show the diversity of the Arts Council’s funding and support; from the sectors and regions supported, to the range of investment through their strategic programmes in helping them achieve their goal of Great art and culture for everyone.

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Our starting point was to establish a strong visual framework that could support the eclectic nature of the information, whilst fitting within our client’s brand guidelines.

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Our main challenge was to convey investment, across different artforms, funding through strategic programmes and geographic spread.

Our solution included bold infographics and a specially selected, dotted typeface. Together, they provide a sense of celebration and confidence that lift facts and figures from the page. Combined with a simple colour structure, we have visually tied together very different types of data in a coherent set of graphics that sit within the publication and are used as stand-alone advocacy tools.

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A key feature of our design is the use of large, full bleed images as divider pages between content sections. They provide a visual pause and introduce colour themes to the next section.

We are fortunate that Arts Council England were able to provide us with a stunning selection of images from funded projects.

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The front section is a quick overview of highlights and achievements, and a statement of intent for the years ahead. We incorporated graphic cues and visual elements from the infographics to ensure consistency throughout the publication.

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As designers, the exciting challenge for us is how to keep the designs fresh and original whilst working withing the tight parameters of the brief. We’re communicating lots of complex messages to a diverse and demanding audience; it’s a challenge we relish each year.

Michael Smith

The majority of the 146 pages are financial data. As publication shifts to this type of content, the visual approach changes to ensure that the information is presented as clearly as possible.

The visual pace is slower, and more subtle tones and colours are used to differentiate and highlight the data and light-touch tables of information.

Images are kept to a minimum, presenting the data in an uncluttered format that is simple to interrogate online and can easily be printed out, page by page, as required.

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The whole publication has to work both as a printed and bound A4 document (a legal requirement for Parliament) and as large on-screen spreads.

As the publication is almost exclusively for online use, we developed it as a PDF (with interactive navigation, external links etc).

Mindful of the need for accessibility, we also produced a PDF that can be browsed with screen-reading software, and converted a version to Microsoft Word, for users who prefer that format.

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Cog were brilliant to work with on our annual review. They helped deliver a complex document with very tight deadlines with professionalism and flexibility, and were also wonderful hosts when I gate-crashed the office to work on it with them.

Gráinne Cook, Marketing Officer, Arts Council England

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Covers from the previous three Annual Reviews for Arts Council England.