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Designing complex reports

In my previous role as Director of Marketing & Events at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), I was tasked with designing all policy reports, among other items. While I have a business degree and consider myself fairly intelligent, when I was handed the word document version of these reports 'overwhelmed' doesn't even begin to describe how I felt reading through information on energy, cap and trade, the ring of fire, and so on. The work being done at the Chamber on these files was incredibly important to all Ontarians, but the problem was the content was, well a little intense. Over the years, I learned a lot of lessons in how to make a report more digestible for the average reader.

I generally like to do the following to turn a complex report into a very easy to read piece of work:

  • Make the document as scannable as possible - call out boxes, quotes, logical text styling

  • Make the document as clean as possible - use 2, maximum 3 font styles, more white page per page, simple font such as Helvetica (a major gift to designers everywhere)

  • Control F aka find and replace the document and remove all inconsistencies. This just helps with overall readability of the document.

  • Make the document visual - turn those boxy excel charts and graphics into jaw-dropping, fun infographics and graphs

Here are some of the reports I am most proud of from my time at OCC:

One of my favourite quotes that always pops into my head when working on reports for a client is 'Design is thinking made visual'.

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