Help me make clear reports!
December 19, 2007 7:44 PM   Subscribe

I have an upcoming meeting at work about standardizing technical reports from several different offices. The people writing and designing the reports are technical experts and not graphic professionals, and thus, we have some strange looking reports with a lot of information jammed on one page or series of nested tables surrounding a photo. I have trouble following the content of the reports due to the design and format issues.

I'm looking for some easy to interpret information about how to present information. I am familiar with texts like the Visual Display of Quantitative Information and the like, but I need more general information- stuff like when or when not to use a page border, the importance of whitespace, etc. Maybe a version of Presentation Zen for MS Word.
posted by buttercup to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You need to read up on typography and layout. The ones I've read are in Swedish, but, as always, Amazon comes to the rescue:
Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students

The Elements of Typographic Style

Typography Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Using Type in Graphic Design

Designing with Type: The Essential Guide to Typography

Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Building Pages in Graphic Design

Making and Breaking the Grid: A Graphic Design Layout Workshop

Also, check out this (partially broken) tutorial on typography and layout, it covers the basics. Furthermore, your company might want to hire a pro to design your document templates. It doesn't have to be too expensive and the results can be quite beautiful and functional.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:46 PM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

I agree with Foci to hire a pro (afterall that's what I do). Or, you could find a report that fits your parameters and use it as a template for all to follow. It won't be beautiful but may be better than what you presently have.
posted by artdrectr at 11:51 PM on December 19, 2007

Technical experts should still be able to write clear reports regardless of lack of graphic design experience. Use standard Style Guides as references such as the Chicago Manual of Style. Or you could go for some precise guideline such as this. Technical reports don't have to be works of art but writing a clear paper should have been something they learned in English 101.
posted by JJ86 at 6:28 AM on December 20, 2007

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