My 4-Steps to Strategize for Design Awesome Documents

Sometimes clients come to me with an idea of what they want me to create, are not sure about implementation. I don’t just make pretty pictures — no direction? Clear direction? Let’s Strategize Your Document!

What type of documents can we work on together?

Here are some of the types of documents I’ve created for clients. Some of them are simple one-page marketing materials. Some of them are over 200-page documents with sections and contents – think of them as mini-books.

  • Whitepapers
  • Annual Report
  • Special Report
  • One-sheet
  • Sales sheets
  • Brochures
  • Proposals
  • Magazines
  • Newsletters

Document graphic design strategy enables you to lean on me for direction, answers, and of course — strategy! In today’s competitive environment, companies can no longer afford to create documents without the end-user in mind.

Documents are communication tools and should be part of your branding. Every piece should have a consistent, direct influence on the recipient. It should reflect their choices, and brand loyalty. Based on what you think your need is and what you know about your end-user, I can propose the document type that will work best for you. 

My 4-Step Process to Your Document Design.

Step 1: Conversation — Let’s talk it through what your document needs to do.

We discuss what you would like your end-user to get out of the materials we are about to create. I ask a bunch of questions about your end-user and what you would like the document to accomplish.

Once we have discussed what we think will resonate with your audience, I get started reading what you have written. I like to understand what it is I am designing, so I might come back to you with some questions if there is something that I feel needs clarification. Because, if I don’t understand it, your audience may not either.

brochure document design samples

Poorly written, unclear, and cluttered documents can erode customer experience and increase the cost of doing business. I recommend plain language, writing to ensure the document is clear and understandable. And, sometimes I will suggest putting an eagle-eyed copyeditor/trusted collaborator on the job to make sure that it is focused and flows properly, without being too flowery (I do recommend that you have someone on your staff proofread the document. Spellcheck it does not always catch everything including grammatical errors.).

I will come back to you with questions about:

  • if we can turn a really really long descriptive paragraph into bulleted copy (like this)
  • what text might be best-served as infographics
  • how we can highlight some text with callout quotes

Step 2: Wireframe Your Initial Design Concepts to Make Sure the Design Meets Your Objective.

Once we have all of my questions cleared up I will start the design. I do some wireframing (aka sketching — yup old fashioned pen to paper) and then transfer those to my computer to have clean, clear concepts to present to you. These concepts will include:

  • strategic use of color
  • proper use of whitespace to increase legibility
  • infographics, images, and pull-quotes

I like to make mini-comps (visuals) and when I cannot present in person. And, I often send email them as a video that tells you how the document might fold. 

Step 3: Feedback to Make Sure the Design Achieves Consensus.

We get together in person or on Zoom so I can present the concepts to you. During that time, we banter about the design concepts I have shown you. That can result in choosing either the straight path or the road less traveled for your marketing document. (Read a case study about a recommended design shift for Hillary Clinton and the University of Oxford)

Sometimes when I am designing a large document I will break it into chapters, similar to a book. When designing a 280-page guide for B-train films we had chapter heads as well as standard formatting for bulleted copy, footers, and more. 

The feedback will enable you to express if the design is getting across the message you are trying to deliver. Does this accomplish the goals we set out at the onset of the project? Is it in line with your brand standards? Did we understand your edits? Will the user experience meet expectations?

Step 4: Project Managing through Print or Publication.

Whether is it a print or digital job I put all links in the document and check to make sure they are all in working order. For the 280-page guide, the client’s client sent links, and half of them did not work. It is part of my job to alert you to glitches like that. This enables the print document to do to double-duty and be a digital file too. These links can take the end-user back to your website or sales-specific landing pages.

If it is a print-job I prep the print-files, discuss the paper and process with your printer. Furthermore, I can recommend some printers that I have developed trusting relationships with over the years.

Equally important, I usually do 2-3 rounds of edits to the chosen design. Because this structure is in place it is easier to make the document flow properly to be read and viewed for maximum impact. So, from start to finish I will be in constant communication with you to make sure we are on track to get the job done on time, and on-budget.

In conclusion, if you are looking for whitepaper design ideas, publication design inspiration, or sales sheet design ideas for your document, give me a call. I have many examples to share, and many ideas taking up space in my creative brain.

If you need help with your document design… let’s talk!

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