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Easy reproduction of images online and versatile printing options have resulted in workplace publications becoming increasingly visually oriented. With dozens of fonts and colours at our fingertips, and a multitude of layout options, producing a report or other workplace document has become so much more involved.

Graphic designers can add enormous value to your publication through creative application of font and colour. Effective use of devices such as text boxes and speech bubbles also adds appeal and increases readability. Graphic designers know how to use the different sections of a page to create the perfect balance. This takes both technical skill and a special talent.

To get the most out of the graphic design process, follow these 5 essential steps:

1.   Fully brief the graphic designer. Don’t assume that the graphic designer will read the content of your publication in detail and instantly understand what you want. He or she will need to know who your target audience is, what tone you are aiming for (for example, conservative, quirky, edgy) and what style of images you prefer (photographs or illustrations). If your organisation has a branding guide, you will also need to supply this to the graphic designer.

2.   Ask the graphic designer to prepare two or three design concepts. Being able to see a couple of different concepts before the designer starts adding the written content will avoid any unexpected surprises down the track. The designer can be working on these concepts while you are finishing the final stages of writing and proofing.

3.   Provide high-resolution images with even lighting. If you are using your own original photographs, rather than stock images from a commercial image library, make sure the images are good quality. A grainy photograph taken in low light on your smart phone can detract from the professionalism of the whole publication.

4.   Supply the document to the graphic designer with minimal formatting. Most workplace documents are first prepared in Microsoft Word. Although it is possible to copy text from Word into a graphic design program such InDesign, some Word formatting causes particular problems in the transfer. Remove all tabs from the Word document and use tables instead. Rather than inserting a text box, write instructions to the designer such as ‘begin text box’ or ‘end text box’.

5.   Proofread your document carefully before giving it to the graphic designer. Graphic designers may not include a fee for making corrections when they quote on a job. Even if the designer has included one or two rounds of corrections, always proofread and correct your document before giving it to the designer. You will still need to re-proof the document following design to reduce the possibility of errors slipping through, but doing an initial proof will make the design process far more efficient.

There is no doubt that first impressions are important – few people these days will read a page densely packed with text. Of course, it’s not practical to have every publication you produce at work graphically designed. But whenever you produce a report or other written communication, always consider its visual appeal as well as the content.

Concise Writing Consultancy specialises in producing government and corporate publications from concept through to graphic design. Thank you to graphic designer @Lealah Dow for her input to this article.