How To Design Financial Reports That Anyone Can Understand

Accounting and finance numbers tell the story of a company’s financial health and it is crucial for key members of the organization to understand financial reports and presentations. However, numbers can also be very complicated and even boring to those who don’t work in accounting. The problem often lies in the way information is presented.  How can your team design reports that resonate with those outside of A&F departments?


Common Accounting Reporting Pitfalls

Graphs can help non-financial team members grasp complicated concepts, but they must be visually pleasing, the must be simple, and they must attract and keep the viewer’s attention. Plain graphs that don’t speak to people’s visual learning tendencies will fall flat. Typically, accountants make mistakes like this when reporting to non-finance teams:

  • Creating long lists of numbers or presenting spreadsheets in raw data form.
  • Not varying graphical representations and presenting all line graphs, all pie graphs, etc.
  • Using accounting and finance jargon.
  • Creating grayscale graphs, or graphs with just one or two colors, leaving important data lost in the background.
  • Including data that is not directly relevant to the audience.

Creating A&F Presentations That Pop

The best way to present accounting information is to choose the best graphical representation of the data being described. The most common forms for finance graphing are:

  • Line graphs: Ideal for illustrating trends over time.
  • Pie graphs: Ideal for showing relative comparisons like percentages of a whole.
  • Bar graphs: Ideal for showing comparisons.


Graphs should always be as simple as possible, illustrating one concept at a time so the viewer can consume the information in manageable chunks.  Use color strategically to highlight comparative information, but there is a fine line. Too many colors can confuse the consumer as easily as too few colors. Legends should always be included to help the viewer understand the graph.


The best way to determine if a financial graph will resonate is to test it on someone outside the accounting department. If that person is able to understand the information, the chart is ready to go. If not, there is still work to be done.


It takes a special breed of A&F professionals to communicate information effectively with non-accounting members of the organization. Do you know how to spot this talent? If your company is seeking top accounting and finance talent, or you want to improve your accounting and finance hiring processes, contact the expert recruiters at Contemporary Staffing Solutions today. As a market leader, we can help you create a team that will keep your money – and your communications – flowing efficiently.