Simply put, ‘corporate literature’ is a term used to describe a broad range of printed materials used by a business to communicate with its audiences. These audiences vary from company to company, but common examples include customers, clients, staff, businesses, partners and shareholders. Typical examples of corporate literature are brochures, annual reports, company profiles and recruitment literature.
Sometimes described as branded literature or business literature, the nature of these materials is to inform, educate and persuade. The design of these materials is often a key part in getting a message across clearly as they need to be visually appealing while also being informative. The content needs to be clear and easy-to-read so that an audience can quickly understand what they are reading.
The word ‘corporate’ often adds confusion to the topic, as it can feel like these communications are only for large corporations. In reality, most organisations need a level of branded literature to help them articulate their services and products.
Branded literature can be used to fit many different functions. One of the most common is a brochure. A corporate brochure can be designed to inform, persuade, or sell products and services for example by displaying your company’s alignment with values that potential customers want such as environmental consciousness.
While we generally consider corporate literature to be printed material, we also include websites, blogs and other digital communications as part of the ‘branded literature’ mix. We prefer to keep these materials separate as there are different editorial practices used across the board.
Recent examples of corporate literature design include The Feather Company environmental policy brochure, RBB Economics recruitment brochure, Mace Group annual report and accounts, Max McCance supplier guide and Halley Stevensons EverWax sample packs.
There are many different types of corporate literature. As we touched upon above, these include brochures, annual reports, company profiles, recruitment materials, leaflets, innovation reports, pitch tenders, corporate policies and much more. These materials tend to be long-form pieces that look to explain a topic in detail. Copywriting and information hierarchy are key components of these as they look to deliver the content in the most efficient way while keeping information easy for readers to break down and remember.
This differs from advertising where the assumed knowledge of a given subject is lower and the time to learn is limited. Corporate literature can afford to be more detailed, expanding on topics fully and giving information that might otherwise be difficult to source. Below are the most common types of corporate literature.
Printed brochures are perhaps the most common type of business literature. These documents are often A-format (A4, A5, A6), tri-fold (DL) or square in shape. They deliberately use these interactive formats to encourage readers to handle them — this increases the chances of the brochure being read cover to cover.
Brochures used by organisations usually have a specific purpose, such as promoting products and services or explaining corporate values and culture. The design for these documents can be anything from very straightforward typography with infographics or images on each page, to more creative layouts that combine text with graphics within each section. Branded brochures can also be designed to work as a standalone document or supplement other materials such as presentations, reports and e-books. They are especially good for giving more information about products, services and the organisation itself in a condensed way.
Brochures can be produced in a number of ways, however, the most common practice is to use an A-format design such as A5 with page numbers that can be divided by four. Using this example, an A4 sheet of paper can be folded once, creating four ‘pages’. Typical A-format brochure page counts are 16pp, 24pp and 38pp. Tri-fold brochures work in a similar way, but instead of having one fold, they have two folds, creating six pages per sheet. This increases the number of interactions and surfaces that can be designed but reduces the space available.
Annual reports are a long-established discipline of both editorial design and corporate literature. They are used to explain how an organisation has performed over the course of one year, usually with a focus on financials and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Annual report design varies from company to company; some organisations use them as promotional materials while others are simply focused on reporting their achievements or explaining progress made in a certain territory.
Annual reports are usually designed as printed material, however, it is also common for PDF and online versions to be produced. For larger companies that have floated on a stock exchange, it can be a legal requirement to produce an annual report, and for these companies, the design is often more conservative. These documents need to be carefully laid out to ensure that readers can find their way around. Annual reports also include an appendix with a set of pages that list all the shareholders and major corporate stakeholders.
For more information about this subject, please read our article about annual report design.
A company profile is a document that includes information about a business such as its mission, values, history, and more. For many businesses, these documents don’t usually contain as much information as a brochure or annual report because they are designed to give people a quick overview. You may see them used in marketing campaigns to attract new customers or when someone is trying to answer a question about what a company does.
One of the most popular uses of company profiles is when it’s being used alongside other corporate documents such as brochures and annual reports. This is because they can help to give a good introduction to the company and establish what makes them unique relative to their competitors.
Recruitment materials are an increasingly important area of corporate literature as businesses compete for the best talent. As the marketplace evolves, this means that a lot of companies are investing in creating high quality printed materials to attract the best candidates.
While there is no set format for recruitment material, they usually include information about the company’s values and what it offers as well as an overview of their current vacancies with contact details so potential employees can apply easily. Corporate literature such as brochures and reports are a great way for HR to work on branding themselves and raising awareness of their organisation.
Recruitment materials often also showcase personal and professional growth opportunities within a business, highlighting the perks and training available. This helps to establish a clear career path for potential employees to work towards.
Whitepapers, thought-leadership pieces and innovation reports are specific types of corporate literature. These showcase a companies expertise, latest research projects, innovations and developments in a professional format that can be easily distributed to interested parties. These reports can be used to establish a company’s reputation as an authority in their industry or show how they are progressing with strategic plans.
While innovation reports typically focus on one particular area of a business, it is not uncommon for them to cross over into other areas such as HR strategy and marketing initiatives.
Whitepapers are commonly used when a business wants to draw attention to an issue or propose a solution. These pieces often include relevant statistics and research, but they are also designed with the reader in mind — so it’s important that these reports use simple language that can be easily understood by anyone interested in the subject matter.
While leaflets and flyers are most commonly associated with advertising and direct-to-consumer campaigns, they are occasionally used as corporate literature materials. These might be used as an insert within more expansive materials such as an annual report or corporate brochure.
Leaflets and flyers are also used by businesses to communicate both concise messages (such as an event) or to promote other materials such as whitepapers or innovation reports.
Pitch documents, bid documents, tenders and business proposals (RFPs) are all common types of corporate literature that businesses might use to try and win new business. These can be used as part of a larger marketing strategy or as stand-alone documents, depending on what the company wants to achieve.
Pitch documents are often used by small businesses to try and win new customers. These will give an overview of a company, outline how they propose to navigate and manage a project and detail the services, staff and methodologies they would use. Particular care is given to cost, time and material estimates, which are all included in the document.
Bid documents, tenders and RFPs are typically used by larger companies to win new business — often from other large businesses. These will give a very detailed overview of what is required for the project or campaign and how it would be executed if they were chosen as suppliers. These will usually follow a set format with specific criteria being addressed throughout. As with most types of corporate literature, a company’s profile and previous experience will be outlined in detail.
Corporate policies such as an Environmental Policy or an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy are common types of corporate literature that are often required by law. These policies clearly outline a companies position on various topics, from employment law through to how they source and manage resources.
Common types of corporate policies are:
If your business would benefit from a fresh approach to print design and production, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strong brand identity is defined to ensure all printed materials are unique, consistent and effective.