Handling reports and policy papers
Annual reports and policy papers represent the non-glamorous side of communication for charities and public sector work. Often text-heavy, full of technical language and rarely inviting to read, but these documents can contain the very heart of an organisation’s message.
Here at Wingfinger we will take your 40 pages of Word document with its tables, Excel charts and that graph you took from a low res pdf, and turn it into a clear, understandable piece of literature that won’t leave your message drowning beneath a fuzz of wild typography and bad layout.
Missing Millions investigates how £20–£50 million is being lost by UK charities in the process of sending funds overseas.
As a snapshot into our treatment of these documents, we focus on a report from Stamp Out Poverty, full of dense financial language and graphs.
Know your limits
Before we start a report, we make sure we know where the limits of the job lie – which means that we can get the most out of what we have to work with, and our client will get best value for money. We had a small budget and very limited time for Missing Millions, and used a simple but effective graphic for the front cover. Our focus was on clarity of content, and close contact with the folks at Stamp Out Poverty was essential while we digested the details of the document.
Find a way through
Because different people read these reports for different reasons, we make sure that not only is there a clear path through the document, but there is also an obvious structure for navigation. In Missing Millions we used a simple graphic for an obvious section start, enabling readers to quickly jump to a particular section. We also made sure that the other heading levels were clear and well spaced, and that the typography made for a smooth read across the whole document. When we felt that adjusting the structure would clarify the argument, we raised it with the client.
Focus on the details
Sometimes you can get so bogged down in the day-to-day language of your work that actually having a non-initiated outside eye can help reintroduce a bit of clarity. Readers would range from justice campaigners to policy makers and financial bigwigs, and Missing Millions is packed with descriptions of financial transactions and systems.
As well as the usual grammar and spelling checks we do for all documents, we check the content and quality of charts and images. One chart in Missing Millions wasn’t really showing the information that its title implied it was; another was not adding anything to the argument – in fact what it did show detracted from it – so we suggested it went. Our client agreed.
We don’t believe keeping report pages lively and interesting means throwing in some wacky graphics. Just the careful use of colour, the placement of a footnote or image, the introduction of a new heading or pull quote can make all the difference – without distracting from the message.
Sharp presentation of charts and graphs express information clearly and can break up dense pages. See more examples in the gallery.
You will find more examples of annual reviews, reports and policy papers for non-profit organisations and public sector clients in our gallery.
Value for money
We know that reports and policy papers often get pushed to the bottom of the funding pile, and we’ve got lots of experience in getting great results from small budgets:
Limit the colour
Print the inners in grayscale with colour for the cover, or use two colours on the inside (for larger print runs)
Limit the content
Decide how many pages you want and stick to it – sometimes an enforced edit actually helps overall clarity!
Go for simpler graphical content, eg a text-based solution for the cover.
We make the most of our working relationships with local printers and will go all out to find the best print deal.
We can design documents specifically for pdf format if you are concerned about the environmental impact of print (or the cost!).