Established in 1974, Comvita is a New Zealand company with global reach, specialising in the harvesting and sale of Mānuka honey.

Mānuka honey is made by European honey bees feeding on the flowers of a single species of tree, the Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium), which is native to New Zealand and parts of Australia (Mānuka is the Māori name for the tree). The honey has an earthy scent, a highly viscous texture, creamy-brown colouring and is highly prized among honey lovers. Comvita manages about 40,000 hives in New Zealand.

Comvita makes two odd choices in its 2023 report that detract from what is otherwise a well-constructed document. First, the cover image and the first double-page spread image lean toward the generic, despite Mānuka honey being such a visually rich subject and ‘Poised’ (the title of the report) being such an evocative word.

Second, the company opts not to honour the Māori history of the tree, spelling it Manuka, (without the macron) despite spelling Māori correctly (with the macron). Encouragingly, the company does seem invested in learning from Māori relationships with the land as documented on pages 59 and 96 of the report.

The rest of the report is thoughtfully designed and modelled after a lifestyle magazine, where it pitches Mānuka honey as a luxury product. To do so, the designers, Insight Creative Ltd., rely on two elegant sans serif typefaces for titles and pull-quotes, paired with a sans serif in two weights. Type is set ragged right or centred, to create organically shaped blocks of text and negative space. A soft, pastel colour palette is rounded out with a golden-brown accent colour, echoing the colour of Mānuka honey and adding a touch of richness to the report.

Photography is another strong point and images are processed to provide a consistent look, using a common modern approach which calls for mid-tones to play a more central role than blacks. Coupled with soft lighting dialled in to look like natural light, this ensures a gentle quality to the imagery. It also helps reinforce the sense of space created by the type treatments.

Despite an unsteady start, Comvita’s 2023 report has a lot to recommend it, specifically in its typographic and photographic treatments.

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