Designing a publication from scratch can be a daunting task, and you may not know where to start. Taking the following factors into consideration can help you create a roadmap for your annual report, policy report or impact statement and can help inform your design choices along the way.
Before diving into a new publication, you’ll need to give some thought to the purpose of the finished piece. Is its main purpose to inform members on facts and figures—such as an annual report or policy report—or to convey the mission and backstory of a trusted nonprofit to potential donors? Maybe the publication will accompany the company’s annual fundraising event. Make it clear to everyone on your team what the focus of your publication is.
Going hand in hand with the idea of purpose is the potential audience. Who will consume your publication? Once you’ve determined a purpose, a general idea of the audience should take shape. If the publication in question is an annual report, then your audience might be comprised of your members. If you have demographics for that group, use them. If your audience is the general public from whom you’d like to solicit donations, then try to imagine an age range and income level to start. Zeroing in on one ideal reader type is a great way to focus your content and design so that you can create just for them. Speak the language of this ideal client, using terminology they are already familiar with and explaining terms and concepts that might be outside their scope of knowledge. Every decision you make from this point forward will be to create the ideal publication for this conceptual reader.
Next, you’ll need to decide what form the publication will take and how your readers will interact with it. Will it live in the physical world as a printed piece, or will it exist in a digital format to be consumed onscreen? Keep your ideal reader in mind: Are they older with a preference for a classic magazine-like piece? Or are they the type to want to read shorter, more digestible articles on a tablet? [NOTE: We will cover the print-versus-digital topic in the near future.]
Once you’ve settled on print or digital (or even both), you’ll need to think about the physical look—and feel, if it’s being printed—of your publication. Many of these decisions will be dictated by budget when you’re going with a print version. For instance, a letter-sized publication done in landscape (wide) orientation with full-page images on premium paper stock might be your ideal look, but each of those items can add significantly to the overall cost. This is where taking every step of the process into consideration at the beginning pays off. Learn what’s possible and who will be handling each component, and keep the lines of communication—including with your printer—open at all times.
Now that you’ve identified the what, the who, and the how that will guide you, it’s time to get to the real meat of the design. You’ll want to establish an overall look for the publication, one that will convey the intended message to your target reader. Will you need to pack a lot of information in its pages, and if so, how will that information be presented? An annual report could be well served by large, colorful infographics and graphs to convey stats and figures. A pledge drive brochure might marry the company’s story and funding needs with large, compelling images. Continually ask the question, “What will drive my message home to my ideal reader?”
Even if you’re working with a designer who will decide on the actual fonts to be used, you’ll want to have a general feel for how type will be used in your publication. From cover type to body text, your type choices say a lot about the publication itself. A serif font—think Palatino or Minion Pro—can convey a sense of classic formality or authority. For a more modern and crisp message, try a sans serif typeface along the lines of Franklin Gothic or Aktiv Grotesk. Expand the possibilities by pairing fonts in harmonious ways. You might try mixing a serif with a sans serif font or utilizing a variety of weights from within the same font family. Online tools such as typ.io, fontpair.co, and typeconnection.com can help in creating font pairs that work well together.
JUST THE BEGINNING
These concepts are just the starting point to a great publication. Once you’ve assembled your team of editors, contributors, and designers, you can create your roadmap together to help guide you from idea to execution of your publication.
If you have publication design needs, please reach out to us for price estimate at 301-933-4062, or fill out our contact form.
Any pub designer who has worked on a publication for days, weeks or even months knows the sheer terror of worrying that his/her InDesign file has become corrupt. It happened to us this week. Here are the steps we went through to restore the INDD file to better health, and what eventually was the key to saving it.
- We restarted our Macs and INDD. This is always the best first step.
- We did another “save as” to clean up the file. We do this throughout any project at least a few times a week, so this didn’t fix the issue.
- Next we recomposed all of the text using the keyboard shortcut Command-option-/. Sometimes this works, but this time it didn’t fix our super-slow issues.
- Most senior pub designers cringe when they have to delete their preferences. We do. But we did it because we know sometimes this works. When we started up INDD, we pressed command-option-ctrl-shift which if our timing was right, threw up a dialog box that allowed us to delete our preferences file. sigh.
- Next we deleted INDD cache files by going here on our Mac:
[Home] > Library > Caches > Adobe InDesign > version > language > InDesign Recovery >
- Finally we exported the document to IDML. We were so happy this worked! Yeah!
A huge thank you to Keith Gilbert from gilbertconsulting.com, for these fantastic tips he shared at the 2016 INDD Conference in DC.
I polled the Annual Report Design Team at MillerCox Design and these are our top tips on how to make the most of your design budget. Whether your budget is generous or streamlined, your organization can benefit from these tips.
- Reuse and repurpose your content! Print copy and images can be refined for an impact statement, web copy for an annual report website, a script for an annual report video and copy for social media channels.
- Collect data, stories, and photos from volunteers, clients, partners throughout the year. This material can be recycled for blog posts, social media, print ads, and more!
- Designate one contact to communicate with your design firm and give that contact decisionmaking authority.
- Provide clean and final text to your annual report design firm.
- Provide print quality photos larger than 1mb. Cellphone cameras allow you to take photos almost anywhere. Unfortunately these photos frequently get saved as low-resolution images. While just fine for your website and social media channels, you will need high resolution photos for your printed annual report.
- Provide edits in a marked up document using neat handwriting and professional copywriting notation.
- Enjoy telling your organization’s story! A mix of story-telling techniques, compelling photos, data and professional design will make your annual report shine.
I had the pleasure of attending an AIGA panel discussion on design return-on-investment (ROI) for nonprofits at the offices of the Human Rights Campaign in DC this week. AIGA pulled together a terrific panel to discuss this complex issue. Much of the discussion defaulted to nonprofit design projects (after all, we are designers), yet there were still a few pearls of wisdom in the discussion.
While many nonprofits equate ROI with donations, at least two of the panelists work for advocacy organizations, and they mentioned that design is core to their brand and everything they do. ROI is about how they are changing policy, not raising donations. This design team faced a dichotomy of pleasing policy experts while at the same time, their bosses were asking them to make the creative “cool.” In advocacy nonprofits, ROI can be measured by whether they become and remain the go-to authority on a particular issue. This can be accomplished through both outreach and education, and can be measured, among other ways, by media impressions. Different kinds of design products can increase engagement (and earned media), such as t-shirts, booth design and bus-sides for road tours, and magazines that get their message out. One nonprofit talked about how their annual report was strategically designed to have usefulness that extended beyond sending them to major donors.
The nonprofits at the table conveyed their frustration with nicely-designed materials that weren’t strategic; and designers on the panel talked about the opportunity costs of not investing in design (and the hit your credibility and reputation can take if you present your cause poorly).
An advocacy nonprofit talked about how their index report became a useful tool in igniting action. In this case, more than double the number of cities scored a perfect 100 points in the Municipal Equality Index (MEI) this year. And even though they had also rated more cities in the current year, cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, Columbus, and Jersey City earned perfect scores, because they took direct action after reviewing their scores in this report. While great design wasn’t the only factor in the success of this report in producing measurable results, it helped this nonprofit’s first impression be a lasting impression, at least for these five cities.
There was a lot of discussion around design thinking. Design thinking is clearly identifying the problem to be solved, collaborating on a solution, and writing a design brief before any design implementation begins. Great design products result from design thinking and early collaboration. When designers help nonprofits identify and solve the right problems — when they change an idea, using design — this has the power to improve the bottom line of a nonprofit.
ROI on a design product can include measurements such as:
- How easy is it to comprehend information? (especially complex information and statistics)
- Does it drive behavior? (volunteer, choose to care, register, donate, share, or learn more)
- Does it influence attitudes and change legislation? (change perceptions)
One topic that came up was how incredibly important it is for a client and a designer to build a relationship. Once there is trust, a design team has leverage to take risks, and clients feel safer in taking leaps of faith with their design partner, and this can produce design solutions that will have better returns on investment.
Finally, the panel talked about the difficulty of keeping communication materials on-brand. They suggested that nonprofits build out a brand book of common materials such as:
- An understandable logo guide with many “approved” versions of the logo
- An icon set
- Photos and imagery
- A PowerPoint template
- Word templates
More panel discussions are in the works, and I look forward to upcoming panel discussion on design ROI for nonprofits. If you are interested in sitting on a panel to discuss this, let me know and I’ll connect you with the organizers. Just fill out my form here and mention that you’d like to participate.
For the second year in a row, I attended the Nten conference put on by the Nonprofit technology network. Once again, I met amazing leaders in the nonprofit sector doing terrific work to solve some of our world’s most difficult challenges. I also had the privilege to serve the attendees by presenting a session entitled “Emerging Trends in Annual Reports”. Presenting with me were Sheri Chaney Jones from Measurement Resources (her new book will be released by Wiley later this year) and Yasmin Nguyen from Vibrance Global. Our session covered three ideas:
- Stop counting hamburgers! Sheri explained how to implement a measurement culture that emphasizes strong performance and measurable outcomes.
- Yasmin showed us all a simple way to take and upload video using his iPad, a tripod, and YouTube.
- I demonstrated simple ways to add interactivity to PDFs, and an easy way to post your annual report content online using a basic WordPress installation.
Our session was only one of over 90 sessions, and I wanted to share some new strategies I picked up at the conference and in three of the sessions I attended:
- Probably one of the funniest moments was when the do-gooder finalist video awards were announced, and an award went to Nutiquette, a very entertaining take on a serious subject, aimed at young men and intended to encourage them to do regular checks for cancer to ensure early detection.
- Since we often work with graphs and charts in the publications we design, my favorite session was DataViz!, which was presented by Ann Kemery and Johanna Morariu from InnoNet, and Andrew Means from Groupon. They shared that they typically start with a scatter plot, to look for correlations and trends in the data. Their favorite chart (in general) is a dot blot. They directly label chart elements, avoiding legends. And they remove unnecessary clutter, such as grid lines, rules, and the tick marks that excel automatically includes in charts and graphs. They use color and weight to pop out key findings. They showed a great example of combining quantitative information with qualitative data. And my biggest takeaway was to title charts with the message you are trying to convey. For instance: “In climbing the income ladder, location matters” is far better than “Income by location” in conveying meaning and helping readers to understand the data.
- I attended a terrific SEO session lead by Andrew Garberson SEO Lead at Lunametrics, and Eric Werner, the Search Marketing Manager at The Home Depot. Andrew reminded us that SEO is not a number, a word or a set of links. It is an extension of our marketing not a metric. SEO should drive traffic that should already belong to you. It is measured by non-branded organic search returns. If you do redesign your site, your SEO will take a hit. Try not to change your domain name or URLs or you will lose the authority associated with the page content. And internal linking within a site is incredibly helpful in SEO, as it allows google to move through and index your site more easily.
Next year the conference is in Austin. Hope to see you there!
On the rare occasion that I find a quiet hour at home to relax, I reach for a beautifully designed magazine. Whether it is Mindfulness, Real Simple, or the latest issue of Oprah, they have one thing in common: they are tangible. I know I can view them on my iPad, but ink on paper is much easier on my eyes.
If you are wondering whether you should print your next annual report in addition to distributing it digitally, consider that major donors still expect an annual report in their hands. Costs vary, and prices are estimated by considering the following factors:
1. Quantity or print run. (How many will you be printing?)
With traditional print methods, the start up costs are great, so incremental quantity increases result in marginal cost increases, so print as many as you think you will need, without skimping on the quantity.
2. Length (number of pages in your publication)
Sometimes with publications you have to take your best guess at the start of a project. Costs increase at specific break points, depending on the press. For instance, a thirty-two page document might print on two sixteen-page signatures, so when the length increased to thirty-six pages, there may be a significant cost increase (but not so if you increase from twenty-eight to thirty-two pages). Each print shop has a unique capability range, so it’s important to choose a shop with a press that fits your needs.
Continue reading →
I’m reading a great book right now on leadership. The author is clearly well-read on the subject, and thoughtful in his writing. I’ve gotten tremendous insight from the book, yet it’s painful to read, because he skipped the design step. The type is too small for my eyes, and in Times New Roman. The text creeps into the middle fold of the paperback, so I have to pull hard at the spine to read the inside edge of the type, and each line is so long that I struggle to figure out where to continue on as I read across the page. After a chapter or so, I set it aside and reach for something easier on my eyes.
So, if you are wondering if you should handle the layout of your next annual report, magazine, or newsletter yourself, consider this: beautiful publications rarely spring from non-designers using MS Word. Working with a publication professional (a very specific type of graphic designer) ensures that your publication is easy to read, reflects the quality of your thought leadership, and presents your organization in a favorable and professional light.
If you are wondering how much it might cost to design a publication, consider the following factors:
1. Sophistication of the design
A professional design can consist of a simple type treatment and arrangement on the front and back cover. It could be an arrangement of photos juxtaposed with a title. Or, it can be much more complex, such as a conceptual approach that represents the subject matter within. That requires a deep understanding of the subject matter, creative brainstorming, and more sophisticated design thinking by an experienced publication designer.
2. Number of design options requested
With tight budgets, publication managers typically review an initial creative brief and are presented with a single design option, followed by a round or two of refinements. As budgets expand, more cover design options are possible. Once a cover design is chosen, it is refined and finalized, and one or more inside spread designs are presented for feedback and refinement. Design time and fees both increase with each design option requested.
Will imagery be required, and if so, will it be supplied to the designer? The time spent for stock photo searches will add to the design estimate. While there is very affordable stock imagery available these days, sometimes something less common or more specific can be desired, and the cost of the royalties and extra effort in finding unique imagery should be considered. If a photo shoot is a requirement, consider the costs of the photographer, and whether or not you are requesting full rights to the photographs taken.
4. Design reviews and refinements
Consider how long it will take to get a design approved up the chain of command. If a junior team member will be reviewing and refining initial designs, and then present to his/her manager, who will review and refine again before presenting to the director, then the budget will need to accommodate many levels of review. (Tip: it’s least expensive to work directly with the final decision-maker.)
5. Cost of layout
Now that the design phase is complete, consider the following factors when estimating the cost to layout your publications:
- The number of pages in the manuscript (the text, prior to layout)
- The number of rounds of edits expected, and the scope of the edits (three or fewer is typical)
- Imagery/photos that need to be sourced, retouched, and/or managed in large numbers
- The number of charts, graphs, and tables, and the complexity of each
- The number of Infographics
- The number of Footnotes and endnotes
- The number of unique sections, section openers, and unique page layouts (especially for magazines)
- English or foreign languages necessary
- Complex formatting requirements such as calculations, pages of hyperlinks, multilevel lists, outlined text
- Timeline: Rush or regular schedule
6. Sample price estimates
Since every publication is by its nature, unique, each has its own custom requirements. Pricing is dependent on all of the factors listed above. Here are a few samples of how a publication might be priced, as a point of reference:
Annual Report for a very large nonprofit
This annual report is distributed in print to their board and major donors, as a marketing tool to get attract corporate donors and sponsors, and for the media to download from their web site. Sixty-four pages, four cover design options, three interior spread design options, twelve financial charts, eight financial tables and graphs, one infographic, a half-day conceptual photoshoot for cover art, retouch board photos, three onsite meetings, three levels of review, five rounds of edits, review photo random color proof, final file preparation, review printer proof, and attend press check. Design estimate: $28,000.
Annual Report for corporate foundation
This annual report is distributed in print to the board, employees of the corporation, stockholders, and major donors, and is available by download for the media. Forty-four pages, three cover design options, two interior spread design options, six financial charts, five financial tables, find twelve appropriate low-cost stock photos, retouched board photos, one onsite meeting, two levels of review, three rounds of edits, review of photo random color proof, final file preparation, review of printer proof, and attend press check. Design estimate: $20,000.
Annual Report for small federal agency
This annual report is posted on their web site and available to all interested parties. It is twenty-four pages, two cover design options, one interior spread design option, one level of review, four financial charts, three financial tables, six low-cost stock photos, no onsite meetings, three rounds of edits, final file preparation, and review of printer proofs. Design estimate: $6,000.
Over the years, we have found that, especially with clients new to the process, the following tips can save you from additional design charges. I’m sharing these budget-friendly strategies to help you keep your project on track.
- Try to submit close-to-final text as well as your charts and graphs, when you request a design estimate.
- Provide plenty of resolution when sending imagery (1mb minimum).
- Provide the “vector” versions of your logo, typically the .ai or .eps file.
- Be sure that your text is finalized when sending it for layout.
- Make sure your publication designer understands how many layers of review necessary so they can budget for every round.
- Designate only one key contact on your team, to avoid misunderstandings.
- Provide final data for all tables and charts, as well as excel examples.
- Try to stay on schedule, especially if you have a hard deadlines.
- Manage revision cycles carefully, for instance
- Make sure your edits are neat and easy-to-understand (use standard proofreading marks, view here »).
- Never provide revisions as “tracked changes” in the original Word document.
- Avoid providing changes as PDF annotations, unless they are very few and very simple.
- Retype and email long passages instead of hand-writing major revisions.
- Avoid providing edits as long lists in email.
The most efficient, least expensive method to submit edits is to use standard copywriting marks, clearly marked on the latest set of page proofs, and scanned and emailed (or dropboxed) in a PDF.
Last weekend I spent the day in Baltimore in a room full of WordPress fans for a fun day of learning and sharing . Two tracks of sessions made it hard for me to choose — every session was terrific. It was a great day and I picked up a few tips to share.
1. George Stephanis, from Automattic, shared that the JetPack plug-in suite includes rich analytics, specific to WordPress, that run side by side with Google Analytics.
2.Akilah Thompkins-Robinson, from Akzmedesigns shared that google doesn’t like when we post links in FaceBook posts, and she recommended that we post links into comments instead, in order to improve our FB visibility
3. Josh Patterson, from Web Mechanix, shared that SEO is not about building back links any longer. It’s about content, and sharing this content across all of your social platforms. Throughout the conference, there was a lot of buzz about google+ as the platform to watch for SEO. Continue reading →
Spending three full days with nonprofit leaders talking about marketing and fundraising was inspirational. Throughout the conference, the overarching message was how multi-channel marketing campaigns should integrate across all channels, and that we can no longer ignore our mobile audience. While I l have so much I’d like to share, I wanted to share a top ten list of great takeaways from the Bridge Conference in DC in July 2013. Continue reading →