The importance of being curious

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but for the Merck Group, it certainly gave life to the company’s 2016 Annual Report. Titled Infinitely Curious, the report is an homage to the driving spirit of scientific curiosity that underpins much of the research and development that the enterprise proudly calls its own.

The report’s colour scheme is primary-based, with shades of blue, yellow and red splashing out across the pages, which certainly makes for eye-catching legibility. Statements written in large font (‘’Would you have thought that…”) incite the reader to turn the page to seek out information, which is in accordance with the report’s theme of inquisitiveness.

Overall, the report conveys playfulness, as exemplified by the simple graphics that appear next to photographs and case studies.

This serves as an effective counterbalance to the complex scientific discussions peppered throughout the report. However, whether such a simplistic approach in design actually serves to entice the reader – or distract them through the ‘infantilising’ of the detailed content presented, is a matter of question.

Much of the report’s photography is dedicated to profiles. This might be because the company wishes to showcase the faces behind the research, and thus humanise the report. The publication emphasises its playful qualities in the management portraits, by having the subjects pose next to colourful, geometric shapes.

Infographics are bold and chunky, and executed in the report’s choice of vivid primary colours.

In spite of the scientific content in the report, it employs very few statistical charts, and conveys much of its information through text.

The report is available as a navigable HTML report on the group’s website, along with a mobile-friendly version. The printed report does not explicitly state its commitment to utilising carbon-offset paper or similar resources, but its usage is implied.

Printed reports are available in both English and German. The English report uses simple, straightforward language, with an emphasis on substance over style. The report stays true to addressing its focus on creativity by including concrete examples of how the company is using research and development to further its aims. Scientific terminology tends to feature prominently throughout the report, but it is usually explained in a way that is comprehensible to the average reader.


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