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.