STATE REPORTING AND EVALUATION PROGRAM
Issues of Content and Graphic Design
Division of Criminal Justice
Colorado Department of Public Safety
Assesment and Evaluation
Handbook Series No. 3
Publication Funded by
Bureau of Justice Assistance
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs
Table of Contents
a few words about reporting accomplishments
Chapter Two why design?
Chapter Three the tools
Chapter Four getting the job done
The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice staff felt compelled to find a mechanism to report the "human" impact of the Byrne funds in Colorado after we discovered an extraordinary "program outcome" that was never intended (nor imagined). Without our statewide monitoring efforts, it would have gone unnoticed and unreported. Here's the story: A small police department in a Denver suburb received a Byrne grant to provide on-site crime prevention education to the elderly at a community senior center. The goal of the project was to improve police-community relations by teaching crime prevention classes -- educating participants and, hopefully, increasing their willingness to report crimes to the police department. During a telephone conversation with one of the project staff, we discovered something important. Many of the women at the center participate in an ongoing quilting bee. This group donates 150 quilts each year to local charities. After becoming involved in the Byrne-funded crime prevention program, the women now donate 75 quilts annually to the police department for officers to give to victims at the scene of violent crimes.
These quilts reflect what is well known to those administering the Byrne funds yet remains largely unknown to others: much of the value of a statewide strategy to combat crime and monitor the results lies in the humanity that surfaces through education, cooperation, collaboration, and cross-jurisdiction planning. Monitoring these programs allows us to learn of a variety of surprising outcomes, and the Point Page is our vehicle for reporting them.
Dr. Robert Kirchner, Chief of Program Evaluation for The United States Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and leader of the State Reporting and Evaluation Program (SREP), emphasizes that evaluation information -- while perhaps fascinating in and of itself -- is most powerful when it is consumed by the target audience! In other words, people need to actually read evaluation reports for the information and statistics to have value!
Evaluation information is most powerful when it is consumed by the target audience!
The main questions therefore become: How do we present our evaluations and "hard data" so they will stand out and be noticed? How do we compete with all those other reports waiting in policy makers' "IN" baskets?
Answer: "Presentation is Everything!" as they say in the culinary arts. In the criminal justice system, presentation may not be quite everything, but we have found that the accessibility and credibility of evaluation outcomes, data tables, and planning strategies can be significantly enhanced by strong presentation.
Presentation is Everything!" as they say in the culinary arts.
As a state research and planning agency (including our roles as the Statistical Analysis Center [SAC], and the State Administrative Agency [SAA] for the Byrne funds), we are responsible for a number of projects and evaluations every year. We are often faced with creating more and more reports (usually on the same deadline!) in the wake of declining resources. This has challenged staff within the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) to develop some innovative strategies to present data that make information clear, readable, and compelling. Two staff members in particular, William Webster and John Patzman, have helped us rethink the importance of data presentation. As graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, Bill and John have pushed us a quantum leap forward on the information highway by continually questioning our traditional research reports.
This Handbook represents a combination of Bill and John's graphic expertise, SREP's interest in developing a variety of methods for reporting the impact of the Byrne funds (as reflected in large part by the SREP project), and our own agency's need to better communicate the work we and local project staff undertake. In so doing, Handbook Three reflects one of the most significant, yet basically unmeasured and unreported, outcomes of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Byrne Formula Grant Program: Improved collaboration among criminal justice professionals working in a variety of government settings. This spirit of federal, state, and local collaboration occurred under Dr. Kirchner's leadership, and we are very grateful for his support of our work. While SREP championed this effort, we emphasize that any errors contained in Handbook Three are ours alone.
We thank John Inmann, administrator of the Byrne program for the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), for his goodwill and relentless support of our efforts to report on and evaluate the Byrne program. We also thank William R. Woodward, DCJ's director, for encouraging us to do this work. Additionally, we thank Robert Kirchner of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and Kellie Dressler of the Justice Research and Statistics Association for many things, not the least of which is their support in the production of this Handbook. Finally, we thank the quilting participants of the Broomfield Police Senior Liaison Program whose kindness encouraged us to look beyond typical criminal justice program outcome measures.
Criminal justice analysts and policy makers vie with scores of other agencies, departments, and interest groups for attention and resources. We also compete with the media's five-second sound bites about sensational crime accompanied by "film at 11." In this Handbook, we recognize the media's ability to dispense brief and visually appealing information. Here, we describe Colorado's effort to portray briefly -- often by anecdote and with conscious consideration of the visual impact the product might have on the reader -- the interesting and sometimes unexpected outcomes of programs funded by the Byrne Memorial Fund.
In this Handbook, we describe the process for presenting "user-friendly" program assessment information by detailing the product. The product in this case, the BJA/DCJ* Point Page, is a bulletin that describes the various efforts of the Byrne Program in Colorado. The Point Page is distributed bi-monthly to over 2,000 criminal justice professionals and policy makers, including our Congressional delegation, BJA officials, the U.S. Attorney General's Office, state planning and research agencies across the country, Colorado state legislators, officials from our Governor's Office, Department of Corrections officials, district attorneys, probation and parole officers, county sheriffs, police chiefs, and all project directors in Colorado receiving Byrne funding. The members of our audience are quite varied, yet they all have vested interests in improving the quality of life in our communities by combating illicit drug use and violent crime. We found that by using thorough, sometimes qualitative, descriptions and a very short bulletin format we have been able to document some of our efforts to implement the state drug and violent crime control strategy. And judging by the number of telephone calls we receive from criminal justice professionals requesting further information, people read the Point Page!
The remainder of this chapter consists of a short discussion of the merits of program evaluation and documentation. This is followed by a description of measurement problems we face when evaluating the effectiveness of criminal justice programs. Here we highlight the advantage of using qualitative data, particularly anecdotes, to capture what we would otherwise miss: the unexpected, sometimes unplanned, outcomes of law enforcement crime prevention and treatment programs. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 focus on data presentation.
The Value of Program Evaluation and Documentation
The State Reporting and Evaluation Program's (SREP's) Handbook One (by Kirchner, Cardella, and Przybylski) and Handbook Two (by Hatfield) present approaches for describing and measuring the effectiveness of criminal justice programs. In Handbook Three, we suggest a method of documenting these programs and offer some "tools" to use to optimize the presentation of the information.
As discussed in Handbook One, improving internal evaluation capabilities is fundamental to efficient administration and management of crime control programs. Information generated from evaluation efforts and then fed back to program staff allows programs to "self-correct." The systematic documentation that occurs during the evaluation process also allows agencies with oversight responsibilities (such as State Administrative Agencies and the U.S. Office of Justice Programs) to assess resource allocation and project effectiveness. This process helps to inform us about "what works," "could work better," and "what does not work." The process of documenting and evaluating the community safety projects that our agencies implements serves to enhance these crime fighting efforts. Program development, implementation, and administration can be given a "jump start" in a new jurisdiction when solid documentation on similar programming is available and relevant. That is, reliable documentation of a project's goals, objectives, activities, obstacles, and solutions can streamline replication efforts elsewhere. Evaluating criminal justice programs to assist in program development and replication (when appropriate), is an important effort in making government more efficient.
The Search for Meaningful Measures
"Unanimous agreement exists that the justice system ought to be efficient, effective and fair. Less accord, however, exists about how best to secure these essential qualities or how to measure whether they have been achieved" (emphasis added). Lawrence A. Greenfeld "Performance Measures for the Criminal Justice System" U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (1993: v.)
Evaluating criminal justice programs is challenging work. Evaluations require clear program goals and objectives, and these must be linked to valid process and outcome measures, the data for which must be available, complete, and accurate. Whew!
Common outcome measures for criminal justice program effectiveness are crime rates or offender rearrest rates (although the wisdom of these measures deserves considerable debate). We are all familiar with the completeness and accuracy problems of arrest data (the U.S. Justice Department's Criminal History Record Improvement Project not withstanding!). Add to this problem the following threats to internal validity1 described in detail by Judd and Kenny (1981:32-39): (1) selection biases; (2) maturation effect; (3) historical/contextual changes; (4) subject attrition; (5) testing effect; and (6) instrumentation. Given the scope of these measurement problems, we must be cautious when we render program evaluation conclusions. Clearly, sometimes we may not have adequate data to confidently measure outcome effects. And to make matters worse, when we have good measures, we may have poor statistical power to detect outcome differences (see McCord, 1993).
Reports of our findings must be qualified, when appropriate, according to these limitations. And we must begin to elevate in value the considerable usefulness of our data in ongoing program development and improvement.
I use the term evaluation quite broadly to include any effort to increase human effectiveness through systematic data-based inquiry." Michael Quinn Patton, "Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods" (1990:11)
These measurement problems plague all of criminology. And they occur in the context of what Fagen (1993:381) calls a period of accelerated information and statistical advances. Fagen believes this acceleration has "led to a paradox where our methods grow more powerful and precise as we move ever further away from our data and the complex realities they represent." This concern resulted in a special issue of the "Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency" about the future of criminological research (see Volume 30, Number 4, November 1993). In this issue, Braithwaite (1993:391) makes the following observation: Criminologists interested in making policy prescriptions in a particular sociohistorical context must get their hands dirty--go out and talk to the people involved, observe them doing their job, so that they can appreciate the way differences in time, place, and culture matter.... Then the evaluator can write a rich report on what was special about this context, particularly if it is one where a dramatic success or an unexpected failure occurs. This, in turn, enables other criminologists to discern how such a dramatic success or failure is different and similar to the implementation context they confront.
We agree with Braithwaite's remarks, but we would include "program administrators" with the criminologists.
Given the measurement problems that we only allude to here (we'd find a soapbox if brevity was not our objective), we appreciate the contributions of Michael Quinn Patton to qualitative inquiry. We recommend becoming familiar with his work, whether for program monitoring or full-scale outcome evaluations. According to Patton (1990:10):
Qualitative methods consist of three kinds of data collection: (1) in-depth, open-ended interviews; (2) direct observation; and (3) written documents. The data from interviews consist of direct quotations from people about their experiences, opinions, feelings, and knowledge. The data from observations consist of detailed descriptions of people's activities, behaviors, actions, and the full range of interpersonal interactions and organizational processes that are part of observable human experience. Documentation analysis in qualitative inquiry yields excerpts, quotations, or entire passages from organizational, clinical, or program records; memoranda and correspondence; official publications and reports; personal diaries; and open-ended written responses to questionnaires and surveys.
In sum, the challenges we face documenting the outcome of Byrne program funding led to our decision to use multiple approaches to describe criminal justice programs. This Handbook reflects our hope that qualitative and anecdotal program descriptions contained in our Point Pages report one facet of the Byrne program. We use the Point Page series to provide current and contextual information about the philosophy of the Byrne program and the activities of the projects it supports. The Point Page is a vehicle to bring the matter of drugs and crime to human proportions. After all, drugs and crime are human dilemmas, and it will take human solutions, not just numbers, to combat the problem.
Now, back to the Handbook! When we glean useful and reliable data about criminal justice programs we need to present it in a style that piques our audience's interest. That is the focus of the remainder of Handbook Three. We hope you enjoy it.
Chapter One--a few words about reporting accomplishments
Reporting Program Accomplishments
Does this problem sound familiar to you?
Over the years, we have diligently completed BJA's Annual Progress Reports (APRs) and Individual Project Reports (IPRs). We have conducted formal, large scale, evaluations of programs funded by the Byrne monies. We have participated in Consortium1 activities to improve the quality of the data reported. Yet, these efforts failed to capture much of our experience in administering and formally evaluating the impact of BJA's Formula Grant Funds in Colorado. Indeed, our interaction with many grant project line-staff and participants often reveals excellent and sometimes unexpected accomplishments that we are unable to "formally" report to BJA or others interested in the progress of the War on Drugs and Violent Crime. Many of the accomplishments are anecdotal and do not lend themselves to any of the reporting methods we use. This leaves us feeling the need to "tell the rest of the story."
Although we wanted to tell the stories, we were (are!) busy! Who has time to take on one more reporting project? Faced with rapidly increasing correctional populations, shrinking fiscal resources, and consistent public controversy over the management of crime and justice, how could we meaningfully report Colorado's efforts to improve the criminal justice system? One thing was clear: Any project we undertook to report additional information would have to meet our criterion for new ventures -- speed. We needed to be able to develop a product very quickly, and we wanted our audience to absorb the information quickly.
Introducing The Point Page
A year ago we developed the Point Page. The Point Page, described in this Handbook, allows us to meet our "need for speed." Most importantly, it allows us to describe the variety of Byrne Programs underway in Colorado.
To gain the most from Handbook Three, we suggest it be used in tandem with Handbook One. Handbook One describes a research process that applies to a continuum of efforts, from program monitoring, to program process evaluations, to full scale, methodologically rigorous (read: time consuming and expensive!) program outcome evaluations. The graphics information provided in Handbook Three can be applied to documentation of any activity in the description-monitor-evaluation continuum.
The Point Page illustrates how basic graphic design concepts can be used to create a simple yet powerful document highlighting criminal justice programs. However, highlighting this approach is not intended to minimize the need for full scale outcome evaluations of programs funded by Byrne monies. On the contrary, our multi-year outcome Byrne evaluations of task forces and intensive supervision probation2 have allowed us to (1) understand how these projects work, (2) estimate (statistically) the impact these initiatives have on our local criminal justice systems, and (3) report specific data back to project staff and our funding Advisory Group.3 This feedback allows program staff to continuously refine program development, and it enhances the Advisory Group's ability to achieve the goals of Colorado's strategy to fight drugs and violent crime.
Chapter Two --why design?
The purpose of this Handbook is to address form and design as essential elements of precise and effective communication.
Think of content, form, and design as a glass of water. The water is content. The glass is form. The size and shape of the glass are design. The size and shape of the glass determine how the audience views the water inside. The same amount of water (content) can appear many different ways depending on the nature on the container (form and design).
Content + Form = Design
Content is the raw material--the words, the numbers, the information that conveys the work you've been doing.
Form is the presentation and display of content--the visual presence of the words and numbers.
Design is the fusion of form and content--the ideal process by which form integrates perfectly with content to present a unified and coherent message (Rand, 1993).
Vaclav Havel, the former president of Czechoslovakia, commenting on the correlation between taste and governing: "I came to this castle and I was confronted with tasteless furniture and tasteless pictures. Only then did I realize how closely the bad taste of rulers was connected with their bad way of ruling." If we view the rulers here as content, then the rulers' taste becomes a matter of FORM (TIME magazine, August 3, 1992).
Essentially, for the purposes of this discussion, we will treat form and design as the same thing. Think of form as passive and design as active in describing the same concept. Form is the tool, while design is the process of building.
Form is the packaging of an idea: the aesthetics and style of an idea.
Form cannot be a substitute for content: the content must be high quality and relevant to your audience. Ideally, form and content must exist simultaneously in order to capture the attention of the audience. Commonly, however, form (design) is treated as an afterthought instead of an integral part of the communication process. Communication, no matter how compelling the idea, is severely compromised without the benefit of thoughtful presentation.
Difficult or complicated information obtained from empirical research or policy analysis is particularly in need of good form (think of formatting). Although content (data) is always at the heart of every idea, form is able to give an idea an added level of clarity. Form is essential to the successful communication of an idea. Form is the packaging of an idea: the aesthetics and style of an idea. Without this packaging, the content of an idea is vulnerable, open to being misread, ignored, or lost altogether. Forsaking the form endangers the content, no matter how compelling it may be. Form is the first thing seen, even before the idea itself.
Perhaps the time constraints associated with simply getting a report out the door numbs our ability to imagine that anyone might actually read it.
The written document (for our purposes known as the research, evaluation, policy report or bulletin) is the focus of this Handbook. The "report" is clearly one of the most popular communication vehicles, but it also holds the distinction of often being one of the most poorly designed types of documents. Perhaps the time constraints associated with simply getting a report out the door numbs our ability to imagine that anyone might actually read it.
Time constraints aside, a common assumption is that bland, dry, and dull equates with credible. A fear clearly exists that making a report interesting and enjoyable to read is somehow frivolous. We say dull is dull.
This Handbook was created in part to encourage the rethinking of the relationship of design and credibility. Design will only enhance the credibility of your information. Remember, our audiences are now
ery media savvy. Your report is competing with PEPSI, HBO, Newsweek, and the M-TV. With this as our cultural background, and with many other organizations vying for policy makers' attention, dull is the kiss of death.
Content is not always best served by a full-blown report format.
One good place to start when beginning to design a report is to ask whether you really need one. Consider your audience and consider what you are trying to communicate. Effective design begins at the format or basic vehicle that carries the content. Content is not always best served by a full-blown report format, especially when you are thinking about who will be on the receiving end of the message. Do not allow the report format to become an automatic default. Consider with equal weight the page, the paragraph, the sentence, and the word. Three concise pages in a bulletin may make more of an impact than a thirty page report. A large document describing a complex set of ideas may be better understood by dividing it into several smaller reports. A new policy may effect more change as a paragraph on a poster than if buried in a dreary manual. Effective design is, in almost every situation, driven by simplicity, brevity, and restraint. Minimizing information will only heighten the impact of the content. An excess of information works against the content.
Making good use of a few simple tools can transform a document. In fact, these tools most likely are already within your grasp. They are things as straightforward as typeface selection, type styles, type sizes, margins , c
s , and w h i t e s p a c e .
Effective design is, in almost every situation, driven by simplicity,
brevity, and restraint. Minimizing information will only heighten the
impact of the content.
The trick is to recognize the potential of these tools and see them as powerful aids to designing a document. Ironically, these tools are frequently overlooked because of a pesky machine that we all have: the computer. At the heart of this beast are default settings--the automatic format settings programmed into the software. Default settings make it all too easy to overlook the design of a document; the computer makes all the decisions. Design is not something one should leave up to a computer. Computers are well versed in function but not very good at form. The main body of this Handbook will illustrate some of the basic tools that can be used to design a more effective document.
Computers are well versed in function but not very good at form.
Think of new ways to present the same old stuff. When you buy a candy bar, 90% of the price goes into packaging and advertising. This is not to say that the candy bar itself isn't important, but the 90% highlights the significance of selling the product. The content of a report is no different. The graphics and design of the report, the way the report looks, will sell your audience on reading your content. We hope
this Handbook will provide insight into some basic design issues,
and help you create more effective documents: documents that communicate better.
"You yell, with education."
Luciano Pavarotti answering the question, "what is it you do?"
from the Late Show with David Letterman, December 1993.
Now that the argument has been made for the need for affective design as part of the information dissemination process, we are ready to discuss the reality of what can be done. Although one can dedicate a life to the study and implementation of design, its basic concepts and vocabulary are simple. In this chapter we will introduce some basic, powerful tools to help you start this process.
We are going to use one project, BJA's Point Page on Formula Grant Funds, to illustrate some of these concepts. The Point Page was conceived as a vehicle to describe the positive outcomes of BJA's grant funds (content) and as a demonstration of effective design (form). In a product such as the Point Page, the goal is to balance the graphic design with the information.
From a design standpoint, the goal was to create a strong graphic identity for the Point Page. Graphic identity is the unique visual characteristic that gives the project visual distinction. Ideally, the graphic identity is strong enough that the audience immediately recognizes Point Page by its style. At the same time the design should not be overwhelming and overshadow the information.
The most recognizable form that graphic identity can take is that of a logo. In addition to the logo of the Point Page, the graphic elements that establish its identity include the typefaces used, the typography, and the layout. An integral part of the Point Page's graphic identity is its brevity. Through the combination of these elements the audience comes to expect that it will be short, easy to read, and chock-full-o'-information.
Typography is probably the area that can most affect the look, feel, and function of a product. Ironically, it is often overlooked while being one of the easiest elements to work with.
Typography is the basic building block of graphic design.
It is important to understand some key words and concepts of typography as a starting point for our discussion about implementing graphic design.
Three key vocabulary words in typography are:
typeface, type size, and leading.
is the letterform that is used. Typeface refers to the full range of type of the same design (i.e. all sizes and styles [italic, bold, underline]).
A typeface is made up of fonts. Fonts are the complete sets of characters (all the letters of the alphabet, punctuation marks, and symbols) in the same size and style of a typeface.
An example of a typeface is Univers.
An example of a font is 12 point Univers bold.
Today in computer terms the words typeface and font are used interchangeably. Often the word font is used when typeface would have traditionally been more accurate.
Typefaces generally fall into
two categories :
serif and sans serif
refers to the size of the typeface.
A point is the standard unit of measure for type. There are approximately 72 points in an inch. The type size is measured from the bottom of the descender to the top of the ascender, so this measurement does not refer to an individual letter but rather to the total vertical
area the characters of a particular typeface may occupy.
(rhymes with "heading") is the amount of white space between two lines of type. The measurement of leading is the space between the base lines of two lines of text. Like type size, leading is also measured in points.
pardtypoGraPhY choosing typefaces
When choosing typefaces for a project, keep them simple.
Body-copy The typefaces that you want to use for the main areas
of text are referred to as body-copy typefaces. The examples to the right are some of the most common body-copy typefaces. These typefaces are commonly used for text because of their legibility in small sizes (for body-copy, usually 9-12 points is standard).
Display typefaces Display typefaces are ornate and expressive and tend not to work well in small sizes. Because of their expressive (versus communicative) qualities, they are generally used in logos, headlines, and other areas where only a few strongly emphasized words are needed. Display faces should be used sparingly and only when they seem very appropriate.
Generally, it is best to use a maximum of three body-copy typefaces per document and take advantage of changes in size and style to create variations. If you are going to use two typefaces, it is most traditional to use a serif typeface and a sans serif typeface together. As a suggested starting point, try using a sans serif typeface (such as Univers) for the body-copy and a serif typeface (such as Times) for headlines. This combination is common and will have a comfortable feel. Explore different typeface combinations; there is no "right" answer, just remember to keep it simple.
Do not think that using only a few fonts is prohibitive. By applying various type sizes, styles, and leadings, you can achieve a wide variety of effects. These concepts will be discussed in the
pardof the Point page
pardtypoGraPhY type size & leading
Type size and leading are two of the elements of typography that can most affect the legibility of a project. If used with care, they can greatly increase the effectiveness of the information being presented by enhancing its ability to communicate.
Type size and leading are discussed together because they work in conjunction with each other. As the scale (type size) of a typeface changes, so too will the amount of leading.
Type size When deciding on a type size of typeface, legibility is the primary concern. For body-copy text the range is generally 9 to 12 points, depending on the typeface being used. Most often the default setting for type is 12 points. We recommend trying 11 point first; Usually, 11 point is as legible as 12 point and will feel less imposing.
Leading Leading is a powerful typographic tool that is underused
in today's world of desktop publishing. The real effectiveness of leading is in making blocks of text feel less constricted by giving the lines of type some "breathing room." In most software programs the default for the leading is in an "automatic" setting in which the leading is scaled proportionately to the type size of the type.
We have found that this setting tends to be too tight. Try setting your own leading with larger values. This will loosen the type and make it easier to read.
Typeface, type size, leading, and style are collectively referred to as the type specifications. The notation for these are as follows: for an area of type, you say it is "X (type size) on Y (points of leading)" and notate it: X/Y, the name of the typeface, and the style (if any is applied to the whole section). For this paragraph the notation for the type specifications are: 11/18 Univers (11 point Univers with 18 points of leading, no style)
To make choices about type size and leading it is best to copy a sample paragraph several times and apply different type sizes and leadings to them. After looking at these you will get a sense for the ones that "feel" the best and will then be able to make some decisions about these elements.
"Type size" and "leading" are used here because they are the traditional terms for these tools. Across the many software
programs that can do this type of publishing there may be other
terms for these ("line spacing" in place of "leading" for example). Keep in mind that the concepts are the same; it is just that different words are being used.
Type size and leading are discussed together because they work in conjunction with each other. As the scale (type size) of a typeface changes, so too will the amount of leading.
the type specifications for the body copy of this manual
Type size and leading are discussed together because they work in conjunction with each other. As the scale (type size) of a typeface changes, so too will the amount of leading.
pardtype sizes and leadIng
pardIN The Point page
Coupled with size, styles offer a greater range of choices, while still keeping the typography simple and clean.
When limited to a few typefaces for a project, bold, italic, and underline, are styles that can be applied to typefaces to expand their range of expression. Coupled with size, styles offer a greater range of choices, while still keeping the typography simple and clean. When applying styles it is best not to overuse them. Styles are used to emphasize information. Use styles with key words, sentences, and paragraphs but not for whole sections. Try not to apply more than one style to something. For example, it tends to be redundant to bold and italicize a word or words when just bold or italics would probably suffice. It is also important to use styles consistently. If you use bold to highlight a keyword, make that consistent throughout the document. Your audience will become accustomed to bold meaning a keyword, and then both accessibility and functionality will increase.
pardstyleS IN The Point page
pardElements of the Page
Columns Consider the use of columns. Columns tend to feel more official because of their historical use in formal publications. Because they are narrow, they work well with the smaller type sizes and are often found in bulletins, such as the Point Page. Unless the type size is very small, two columns tend to work best with the vertical letter-size page. Be sure to have enough room between the columns (the "gutter") so there is a distinct division between them.
White space As with leading, consideration should be given to the white space of the
whole page. Even though it might mean a few more pages in the long run, spreading out
type (leading) and opening up the page (columns with space between them and non-standard margins) give a document breathing room. Again, this sort of consideration to space will make the information easier to read and will increase its effectiveness.
Non-traditional margins Try breaking away from the traditional "settings" for margins.
As can be seen in the Point Page, non-traditional margins can create a more dynamic page. Using margins to create white space can really open up a page and also enhance usability. Also by creating a wide margin on one side you have an additional space to use. For example, this space could be used for a note, a text box, a graphic, or a footnote. You do not want to fill this space, but you can use it to your advantage to help create an interesting page.
Headings Headings are very important in separating information. Usually, these are done in sizes ranging from 14 to 36 points depending on their importance. Again, consistency is the key to success. Create a hierarchy among the different headlines so the reader can easily differentiate between titles, headlines, and sub-headlines. Do this with careful selection of typeface, size, and style.
Bullets Bullets are a great way to emphasize key information. Because they are elements that the eye is naturally drawn to, be sure that the information they highlight is vital and in a concise form that lends itself to a few sentences or less.
Lines and boxes Simple lines and boxes are another way to liven up a page while also helping with communication. For instance, the gutter between two columns can be narrower if a thin line is placed between them. Lines and boxes can also be used to highlight important text by giving it a border.
Tables and graphs Tables and graphs are like any other elements we have discussed.
Their power will be enhanced by simplicity and usability. Make their purpose simple and
clear by not trying to do too much with each one.
pardElements of a page*
pardPage lAyout conclusion
The tools (typefaces, styles, leading, non-traditional margins...) you are now familiar with do not work separately. They must all be considered together to create a strong product.
Page layout is where all the tools we have discussed come together
to create the designed page. As can be seen from the illustration on the previous page, it is the combination of many elements that create a successful page. They are not autonomous and must be considered together. Like typography, successful page layout is strengthened by simplicity. Remember: the goal is effective communication.
Hierarchy When looking at the whole page, a key to success is proper hierarchy for the information. Using the design tools, you
can create a visual order for the information so it is received according to its importance. This can be the creation of a headline to highlight
a subject, or as simply bolding certain words to show that they are key words.
Avoid the static page Make your pages visually interesting. Make the reader want to look at them. Non-traditional margins or headlines that cross over two columns are effective ways to energize a page. Asymmetry, if done subtly, will add a lot of character to a page.
Policymakers like information on one page. To make sure your work gets read, try not to be so concerned with how much information can be crammed on a page. Instead, decide what is the most effective way to use a page. Most often it is to your advantage to free the page from the burden of too much information. Opening up the page will allow it to speak more clearly. So, you will need to be very clear about your message (content).
Remember, what we have discussed in this chapter are simply tools to communicate more effectively. Ultimately, the best approach to learning to use these tools is going to be experimentation and
implementation. Become familiar with the equipment you have at your disposal, understand how to use the tools we have discussed, and begin to explore. This process may take some time, but it will be time well invested when the power of the information is enhanced and your readers take notice of what you want to tell them.
pardgetting the job done
If the previous section was the nuts, this section is the bolts. In addition to thinking about the design of a document, the factors which facilitate the design process must also be considered:
Most importantly, the design of a document must be systematically integrated within the normal report process.
Also, consider the means and machines that you are designing with. A few tools (mostly software and a few pieces of hardware) can greatly enhance your graphic power.
1. Integrating graphic considerations into the report process
It is essential to work design into the t i m e l i n e for document production. If design is not a formal part of the report process, it will be the first thing to be dropped (and probably will always be dropped). The key to a systematic and effective design policy is to think about it prior to need.
In a spare moment (preferably when a report is not due), using an old document, set up a template report format. The creation of a "template" is critical to successfully integrating and implementing design issues. A template is a guide, an example, to follow when creating a report or any type of document. All general formatting and design decisions are made in the template so that the design process is greatly streamlined in actual report production. Optimally, templates should be generated for each type of document your office produces.
To make a template, go through an old document and reset fonts, type sizes, type styles, columns, margins, and spacing using the design tools described in the previous section. The template allows document design to become routine. The template also prevents you from reinventing (redesigning) the wheel prior to every report deadline. Remember, no rule says you cannot use the same format
template over and over (if it looks good). And, with minor modifi-cations to the format, each report can carry an independent style.
For each document that goes out the door, a "false time horizon" should be created in order to accommodate any design considerations. This is an internal deadline set forward from the final deadline. The time involved in designing a document, which determines the position of the false horizon, will vary according to the size and complexity of the document. Design time will also be affected enormously by whether or not, and how thoroughly, a template has been previously constructed. Taking into account these factors--size, complexity, and prior preparation--design considerations will most likely take a bite out of your timeline, ranging anywhere from a half day to one week on each project.
Allowing that you have already given some thought to and hopefully have created a general format template, design should be the very last consideration in the report process. The designing of the document will be the least intrusive and the most efficient if it is left as the last piece of document production. Don't worry about the design when writing the content other than general formatting themes you may want to follow. It is usually too cumbersome and time consuming to juggle form and content at the same time. Also, complete all proofreading and revisions before embarking on design issues, otherwise the document gets unnecessarily designed and redesigned.
The efficiency of the design process can be maximized even further by centralizing design issues. Ideally, all design formatting should be done by one person or a single work station. In this way, reports can be generated by multiple sources without these sources being concerned with or unnecessarily hindered by new design issues. Isolating design considerations limits disruption of existing report production patterns and minimizes confusion and inconsistency.
What it takes to get the job done: some thoughts on the
mechanical end of things.
A great document can be produced very simply. With an awareness of basic design issues, the equipment already on your desk can instantly become more powerful. For most of us, the "equipment at hand" means a basic PC and a basic word processing program. This kind of setup can adequately tackle the problem of designing a document; anything else is just icing on the cake.
Perhaps the most valuable investment you can make towards better designed documents is a basic desktop publishing program.
Software Perhaps the most valuable investment you can make towards better designed documents is a basic desktop publishing program. The most common program of this type (and we believe the easiest to learn and use and the best quality) is Pagemaker by Aldus. The other major competitor in this field is XPress by Quark. This kind of program opens up a wide range of possibilities. Desktop publishing programs were designed exclusively for the purpose of integrating content and form (text and design). Their job (and they are good at it) is to make the document design process easy.
Desktop publishing programs (e.g., Pagemaker) allow the user to work with and combine both text and graphic elements "under the same roof." Text, line, shapes, shading, and color can all be manipulated together in ONE place, and with a level of flexibility and control that far exceeds simple word processing programs. Text can either be generated in the desktop publishing program or imported from other word processing programs (WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, etc.).
Another advantage of desktop publishing software is its onscreen presentation. Desktop publishing programs are set up visually.
Unlike most word processing programs, the desktop publishing screen image looks exactly like the final printed image. Initially, this may seem insignificant, but it makes designing a document much easier because you can SEE exactly what your document looks like as you are working on it. On a word processing screen a Univers "S" looks exactly like a Times "S." A very large "S" looks the same on the
screen as a very small "S." This type of presentation does not lend itself to thinking about design issues. Essentially, it is the difference between being fluent in a foreign language and having to translate continuously. Ultimately, the desktop publishing format allows the user to work with more complex and fluid design styles because there is no guesswork.
Note: a big hard drive and lots of memory (technical terms, of course) are incredibly helpful when doing graphics/design work with desktop publishing programs. Desktop publishing programs are generally larger and more complex than word processing programs and therefore require more powerful computers to run at maximum efficiency. Optimally, a "big hard drive" means a minimum of 200MB, and "lots of memory" means somewhere in the ballpark of 8MB of RAM.
The primary considerations in choosing typefaces for a document should
be simplicity and restraint.
Any discussion of design software must also include typefaces. It is essential to consider typefaces when formatting a document. As mentioned in the previous section, text plays a key role not only in communicating information but also in conveying the image of a document. The primary considerations in choosing typefaces for a document should be simplicity and restraint. Thinking in these terms, the typefaces automatically included with the major software programs should provide plenty of range and flexibility for most documents. In some situations, though, you may wish to expand the style of a document to include more expressive or specific typefaces (display typefaces). Hundreds of typefaces exist, filling a range extending from very conservative to extremely outrageous. Typefaces may be purchased either individually or in group packages (usually about 30 typefaces). The packages of multiple typefaces are a much better deal, generally costing the same as one typeface purchased separately. Additional typefaces, used sparingly, are a great and simple way to energize a document. Note: if you do purchase a typeface package or an individual typeface, make sure it is compatible with both your computer and your printer.
The advantage of having a high resolution printer is that the quality of your output will match the quality of your input.
Printing One fundamental piece of equipment necessary for thorough document design and production is a high quality printer. Basically, "high quality" means a printer with a high printing resolution--preferably 600 dpi (dots per inch). The higher the printer's resolution, the "smoother" the type or graphics will look. This type of printing quality and resolution is almost exclusively the domain of "laser" printers. The word "laser" associated with a printer designates the highest level of printing technology available for desktop publishing. (This manual was produced using a Hewlett Packard LaserJet 4.) The advantage of having a high resolution printer is that the quality of your output will match the quality of your input.
Getting great quality output doesn't have to mean buying an expensive printer (although, that is the best option if you have the $$$). Most print shops (often called "reprographic" services) are set up to print directly from disk. You provide the print shop with your document on disk, and they print directly from the file the document was created in. Don't worry too much about what programs they may have--if you have got it, they have probably got it too. Finding the right print shop and figuring out the process may require a little legwork at first, but it should become routine once you figure out what the drill is. Also, print shops are often set up to receive computer files via modem. This allows you to print a file even without leaving your desk. "Jobbing out" your printing is a viable option to printing in-house, but will unquestionably be the more expensive alternative in the long run. The cost of a good laser
printer may be steep but will pay off in production efficiency and
(Scanning) The scanner is only mentioned here as an element of "getting the job done," not because it is indispensable to the design process, but because it is such an incredibly useful tool. Basically, a scanner is a camera hotwired to your computer. A scanner operates in a very similar manner to a copy machine, but instead of sending visual information to a piece of paper, the scanner delivers visual
information to a computer. The scanner can read both text and images. A scanner equipped with OCR (optical character recognition) software can read text and convert it into a variety of usable computer files (WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, PageMaker). In this manner a printed document can be integrated seamlessly into a computer document, bypassing the need to retype text manually. Scanners can also read printed images (photographs, drawings) and convert them into digital pictures that can be used by the computer. These digital pictures can then be imported into text files, enabling easy integration of graphic elements into documents. Simply, the scanner takes items from different places and turns them all into the same digital language--bringing them all onto the same playing field. Especially when doing design work, the "cut-and-paste" process becomes very important because of the diversity of objects you may want to integrate.
The purpose of discussing software and hardware is to make you aware of what design tools are available, not to discourage you from designing with any means possible. You do not need much to design. Design is primarily a matter of thinking visually and being continually aware of presentation. The mechanical factors (software, hard drive and memory size, printers, scanner) can facilitate the design process but will not make or break a document--that part is up to you.
hardware / software / fonts used to design this document
Gateway 2000 P5-60 computer
540MB hard drive
60 MHz Pentium processor
Sony MultiscanHG 17inch monitor
Hewlett Packard LaserJet 4m Plus printer (600dpi)
Hewlett Packard ScanJet IIcx color scanner
Times New Roman
Comix (Infinitype Plus Font Package)
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