Finding your angle: Portrait or landscape reporting, which one works best?
Amanpreet Nandhra

"When choosing between portrait and landscape orientation for an annual report, it's essential to consider the specific content, design requirements, and intended audience to determine which format will best meet the objectives of the report."

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In recent years, there has been a notable shift in the corporate reporting landscape, with an increasing number of companies adopting landscape format for their annual and sustainability reports.

This is something we’ve seen amongst our own clients as around 10% of our reporting partners now opt for a landscape report, reflecting a growing trend towards digital-first viewing experiences and a reduction in print quantities.

This transition can be seen across the FTSE spectrum as more companies are embracing this change. In 2023, ten FTSE 100 companies chose a landscape format for their reports, a number that surged to 42 in 2024. This evolving preference has sparked a debate among reporting companies about the suitability of the traditional portrait orientation for their reporting suite.

In this blog post, we will delve into the benefits and disadvantages of both landscape and portrait orientations to help you make an informed decision on which format best aligns with your reporting needs.

What is causing this shift?

Embracing a digital-first mindset: With audiences increasingly turning to digital platforms for information rather than traditional printed reports, there's a growing need for reporters to adapt. This shift demands content that is easily accessible and optimised for both desktop and mobile viewing. The rising popularity of landscape reporting can be seen as a strategic response to this evolving digital landscape.

Regulatory developments

As part of The Companies (Non-financial Reporting) (Amendment) Regulations 2024, the UK Government is reviewing a series of measures aimed at simplifying and reducing the regulatory burden on companies regarding non-financial reporting. A key measure is to improve the accessibility of information and reduce regulatory burdens on businesses by enabling annual reports to be shared digitally with members in the first instance. 

The measure could remove the presumption in the Companies Act 2006 that the duty to share annual accounts and reports is via physical copies of the report. The reforms are at the first stage of the review process and are yet to be passed as secondary legislation, but signify that companies should consider a landscape format in line with future regulatory trends. 

Landscape vs portrait

Advantages of landscape reporting

Landscape reports offer a digital-first approach and fill the screen better, making them easier to read online.

Given that presentations and social media content are typically formatted horizontally, content can be easily repurposed within the annual report without needing to redesign to accommodate portrait orientation.

Wider layouts can help add visual impact for the reader. Showing a single page at a time which fills the screen often allows the combination of photos, infographics and text to be designed in a more visually engaging way.

More horizontal space can help present data – such as tables, charts, case studies and timelines – in a more digestible way. Also, financial information or performance metrics can have more columns within tables.

Disadvantages of a landscape report

Landscape reports might not always be as accessible for individuals who use screen readers or have visual impairments. Portrait format reports are generally easier to navigate and read linearly from top to bottom. That said, if you are producing an accessible PDF as part of your reporting project, we can manually tag the reading order and ensure a logical reading structure.

Long tables of data more naturally fit a portrait orientation. Longer financial tables often have to be split over pages, or sit side-by-side in columns, to fit the page. Ultimately, the choice between landscape and portrait orientation for your report depends on various factors, including your content, audiences, accessibility requirements, and design preferences.

With the adoption of landscape orientations, reporters must adjust their perspective, treating each spread as a single page rather than two separate pages as in portrait reports. This shift can affect the word count per page, leading to a larger overall page count. While this may not pose challenges for digital reports, companies still producing printed versions may face increased costs due to the higher page count.

Landscape-oriented reports may not fit well on standard bookshelves or filing systems designed for portrait-oriented documents, requiring specialized storage solutions.

Advantages for a portrait report

Many people find it easier to read text in portrait orientation since it mimics the natural flow of reading from top to bottom. This can enhance the overall readability of the report.

Portrait orientation is typically the standard format for most documents, making it easier and more cost-effective to print, distribute, and store. 

Portrait-oriented documents generally display better for smaller digital screens, notably smartphones or tablets, without requiring users to zoom or scroll horizontally.

Disadvantages of a portrait report 

Navigation often requires more scrolling in portrait reports, particularly when not in double-page spread mode, making it less user-friendly. Moreover, tables can be harder to interpret as they are presented vertically, contrasting with the more intuitive left-to-right format found in landscape reports.

The vertical layout of portrait orientation may limit the visual impact of certain design elements, such as panoramic photos or wide infographics, which may not fit as well. 

The traditional nature of portrait orientation may limit the creative freedom in terms of layout and design compared to landscape orientation, where there is more flexibility to experiment with different design elements and arrangements.

So, what should you choose? 

Ultimately, there isn’t a one-size fits-all solution.

When choosing between portrait and landscape orientation for an annual report, it's essential to consider the specific content, design requirements, and intended audience to determine which format will best meet the objectives of the report. 

At Design Portfolio, we’ve been proactive in advising clients, particularly those with a primarily digital audience, to transition to landscape reporting. As more companies make this switch, it is important to note that adopting a landscape orientation doesn’t automatically equate to being “digital-first”; there is much more to it. A landscape report should be considered as "screen-first" rather than "digital-first". 

For advice on which orientation is most appropriate for your company, or guidance on how to embrace a truly digital first approach to reporting, get in touch with our Head of Insights and Engagement Amanpreet Nandhra.

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