Wondering how to have a successful, goal-meeting, on-time, on-budget annual report or brochure journey? Start by figuring out these six important things. The clarity from each step informs the other steps, and makes the entire project clear before embarking!
Set up a successful project by doing these six things:
- Define who needs to be involved. Is your organization going to have one internal project leader who will communicate with the designer? This is ideal! Who else will be involved in the project? Who provides the information? Who approves the project? Does your mother have to look at it? (Yes, I’m serious. If your mother needs to approve it, make this known up-front!) Tip: If the information is coming from various sources — it might be a good idea to include a copywriter/editor so the voice all sounds the same.
- Clarify the direction, objective, or mission of the report. What is the key message or theme (thematic) of the report? How much information do you want to share? With the project leader at the helm, also consider: How to keep it on-brand. Tip: Sometimes special annual reports detour a smidge from the organization’s main branding. See #7 for how to do that in a smart way.
- Set a budget. Even if you’re not sure what the budget is. Breaking down your design, editing, photography, printing and anything else that might be involved.
- Know your audience. Who is this going to? The design and format are largely based on who the audience is. Knowing the specific audience is essential so your piece can be designed and formatted into something they can absorb and engage with. What do they want to know, what are you telling them, and why would they be interested? Get as specific as possible.
- Choose the best format to get your message across Print, online, email, digital? This depends largely on the message, goals, and audience! When it comes to the format for your initiative, it can be a combination. One of my clients prints a small quantity of annual reports for older donors — and they also do an online annual report because they know it’s easier for everyone to see, and it’s budget-friendly! Tip: Paper is incredible, and it still works really well. But if your audience is 50+, never use shiny paper. The reflection can make it difficult to see.
- Create a schedule. It’s critical to plan ahead and make sure this design deliverable is realistic and achievable. Tip: I like to set a date for when you need the report in hand or online, then work backward to see if we can get this done, and how. The phases for a typical report can be:
- Content outline. Figure out what has to be in your report and write a synopsis for each section. This is a good time to assign portions of the content to those who will be supplying information from within the company.
- Key message/story/theme. A key message helps tie each area of the report together. It can focus on a person who has met all the touchpoints of your product or service, a new project launch — follow the journey, the state of your company. This is a great time to strategize with your creative team.
- Designers/copywriters briefed. The earlier you bring in your designer and copywriter (internal or external) the better. They can not only discuss direction, but also help set a schedule and let you know the assets they need from you. For some projects Ruzow Graphics sets up a Slack channel so all drafts and questions are easier to find than searching through emails. This is the time to decide how you wil be supply content to the designer: Dropbox and Wetransfer are options we often use.
- First draft of content. This is key to get your content written. A first draft — who needs to see it? How many rounds of edits are included? We like to include collection of headshots, and other images at this time. Make sure your copy has links provided if a digital or online version is your deliverable.
- Content signed-off. Make sure you get all of your approvals in place so you lessen the editing time and fees.
- Content and financials to designers. If you have not previously discussed with your designer how they will receive materials from you, we recommend Dropbox and Wetransfer, as stated above. The entire schedule goes out of whack if the content and financials are not received on time. Some set date 1 for content and date 2 for financials.
- First draft of design/layouts. At Ruzow Graphics we usually take 1-2 weeks for the first design which includes a few internal pages and a cover (for print versions), or the “above the fold” area and a few key sections for an online report. We like to present them to you online. We send these choices to you so you can make a decsion on the design direction.
- Approve the first designs. We like to meet a few days after we present the design concepts to you to see which of the concepts you have chosen, and if any tweaks need to be made.
- Design/layout of the full report. We then take another 1-2 weeks (depending on your report size) to design the full report. Once again we like to hop online and present our design. We then email you a comment-enabled PDF so you can mark it with your comments and changes. If you do not know how, we will show you — it’s easy! We might go back and forth a few times if you have a lot of edits.
- Printing/Online prices. Once the design format is approved we can discuss paper, die-cuts, fancy finishes (glossy, matte, etc), and more. If we are creating an online report (or microsite) we discuss bells & whistles that you would like with our developer.
- Design signed-off. Approved! Ready to go to press or to our developer!!
- Online versions created. This could take 2-3 weeks.
- Printing and distribution. This could take 2-3 weeks.
Want the smoothest-running project possible? Speak to your designer early!
As a strategic art director and designer, I can help you brainstorm what’s possible, then define all these steps and take the stress away. Whether your project is 4 pages or 400, the creative process at Ruzow Graphics will ensure that your project is on time, on budget, and that your audience is effectively engaged.
Want success — without the stress? Let’s explore a partnership.