Tabbed Report CoverThey say to never judge a book by its cover, and you might assume the same can be said for report covers. However, our brains are simply wired to create first impressions. As much as we’d like to be able to judge everything on merit alone, we just can’t help but respond positively to unique designs and negatively to boring ones.

Your report can have the most fascinating and important information the audience will ever read, but if it’s presented in a boring, standard way, it will reflect poorly on both the materials you are presenting and your brand. The best way to ensure a positive response is to dazzle the audience with a distinctively designed report cover.

1. Choose the best report cover style for your needs

The first step towards creating an outstanding report cover is deciding which unique style is right for you, since each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. One-piece report covers, for example, wrap around your report like a folder or book jacket. This type of cover gives you the ability to store your materials loosely inside or bind everything together using staples or a spine attachment.

However, the spine on a one-piece report cover limits how much you can store inside, while two-piece report covers can fit as many pages as you need. This is because two-piece covers simply bookend the report instead of wrapping around. The downside to these types of report covers is that they must be bound to your materials, which can mean extra work and production costs.

Other types of report covers have special features such as pockets to store additional materials. Tabbed report covers let you easily organize and file your reports by affixing a label to the tab area. If you want to really utilize the cover itself and create a dynamic presentation, you may want to consider a three panel report cover, which gives you extra design space.

Window Report Cover2. Add useful custom die-cuts

When a report cover is created, it goes through a die-cutting process in which the paper stock is cut into the shape of the cover. Custom die cut options let you alter this shape into whatever you like—though a rule of thumb is that the report cover shape should not interfere with the contents of the report itself. You don’t want to see pages sticking out or make it impossible to handle.

Die-cut windows are a valuable addition that let you show a preview of the report’s contents right on the front cover. By changing what you display behind the window, you can change the look of the cover itself. This makes it easy to recycle the same covers for multiple reports because the name of the report can be placed behind the window and changed accordingly.

Include die-cut business card and brochure slits to turn your reports into full-fledged media packets. Most printers include media slits as a standard feature, so it’s a waste of money if you don’t take advantage of them. If you want your windows and media slits to look unique or tie in with your brand, consider customizing these die cuts to better suit your design.

3. Select imprint methods that will dazzle the audience

A number of different imprint methods can be mixed and matched to help you create an attractive report cover. There are two types of standard ink printing—four color process and PMS printing. Using four color process is a lot like using a typical standard color printer—you can reproduce color photography and designs, but there can be a loss of color quality due to the limitations of the ink.

Foil Embossed Report CoverMeanwhile, PMS ink is pre-mixed and standardized, so there is no loss of color quality. This makes PMS ink better for color branding because you ensure an exact color match every time. The downside, however, is that each color is printed individually, so you are limited to how many colors you can use per design.

For special effect imprints that grab the audience’s attention, consider adding embossing or foil stamping to your report cover. Embossing add a textured effect to your design, much like a raised watermark or seal. Foil stamping uses metallic or colored foil instead of ink to create a textural design element that is shiny and reflective.

If you want your report cover to truly stand out, consider using more than one imprint method. PMS ink can be spot printed on a four color design to combine color photography with authentic branded elements. When embossing and foil stamping are used in tandem, it creates a 3-D metallic effect that looks sophisticated and professional.

4. Appeal to the audience’s sense of touch with textures

Many people forget that a report cover is a physical object that must be touched to be utilized, and so they fail to add any textural elements to please the fingers as well as the eyes. However, when we experience something using more than one sense at a time, we create a stronger memory of that item. Therefore, report covers that feel different than the rest will create a stronger impact with your audience than report covers that just look different.

Embossing, foil stamping and die cutting are three previously discussed effects that can add texture and interaction to your report cover. But you don’t have to add special effects to have texture—you can also use textural stocks, like linen and velum. Even the weight of your stock will have an impact on the way your report cover feels. A heavier stock feels more sturdy and authentic while a lighter stock can feel weak and unprofessional.

Special coatings and finishes are often added to your report cover to help protect them from wear and tear; these coatings can also be used to add some much needed texture. Specialty coatings like soft-touch and satin create a unique textural sensation in your hands. If there is a part of the design that you want to stand out, you can spot coat just that section to draw the audience’s eyes—and fingers—to that area.

5. Write effective and efficient copy

It’s not always about how your report cover design looks, but about the message you are delivering to the audience. The bulk of the information your audience will receive comes from the report itself—but the most important information should be apparent on the cover. Your report cover copy should be clear, easy to scan and effective enough to grab the audience’s attention.

A good report cover should have a headline that paints the audience a picture of what your report contains, or at the very least gives your audience a better idea of what your brand is all about. You may also want to include a company slogan or mission statement for further branding. Contact information is crucial since without it your audience will have no way of acting on the information they have just received.

You should also include a call to action, which is copy that informs the audience about what to do next. A call to action can be as simple as “Sign up for a free trial” or “Visit our website.” And though the ultimate goal of a call to action is an eventual sale or conversion, the call to action should always direct the audience to the next logical step in that process. You would never write “Become a customer today,” but you might write “Find our product in the beauty aisle of your local drugstore” or even just “Give us a call for more information.”

6. Complete the package with report cover accessories

Portfolio SleeveUtilize report cover add-ons and accessories to give your design that little extra “oomph” it needs to make a lasting impression. One-piece report covers have a spine which can be used in conjunction with spine attachments to add supplementary materials like stitched brochures to your report. Spine attachments also include mechanisms that make it easier for you to bind your reports by hand using a simple office stapler.

If you have to send your report through the mail or simply want a stylish way to transport your materials, consider pairing it with a portfolio sleeve. Design your portfolio using the same techniques, imprint methods and special features as your report cover so that the two pieces match one another and create a full media package.


Don’t be afraid to seek out some inspiration if you are having a hard time coming up with an effective report cover. Take a look at what others have done before you for an idea of how you can think outside of the box. Your printer is another good source of information concerning your report cover design as they are regularly exposed to a high number of cover designs and thus know what works, what doesn’t work and what is guaranteed to stand out in a crowd.