Asking the Right Questions: Crafting a Report Checklist

In the last few months, my graphic designer, Annie Riker, and I have spoken to hundreds of in-house designers about some of the work we’ve done to improve design at the National Parks Conservation Association, an opportunity that emerged following the response to my article in HOW Magazine, January 2013. One item that got a surprisingly positive response was the Report Checklist that we had introduced after noticing that most of our colleagues produced reports with no photo budget, only a few days allotted for design, and numerous errors due to inadequate fact-checking.

We usually send the form to our coworkers in advance of a 30-minute meeting, so they can think about the answers prior to the meeting, and we can offer our insights and make suggestions for how to proceed. The goal isn’t to burden people with bureaucratic forms, but to offer the support and guidance that our coworkers need, from Day 1.

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Photo from Shutterstock

During our presentations to in-house designers, the checklist appears on the screen for a few seconds, and without fail, a few people always ask if we can share the questions via email, so they can adapt them for their own purposes.

This seemed like a good venue to share some of our key questions:

  • Who is the project manager?
  • How does this report advance your program goals?
  • Who is the primary audience?
  • Who will write the text?
  • Who will gather/edit photos?
  • Who will design the report?
  • Who will print the report?
  • Are there other NPCA reports that you would like to emulate in terms of design/approach?
  • What other departments are key to the production of this report? Please engage them early in the process and include them in key e-mails regarding the project.
  • Will the report appear on-line? Please notify the web team in advance.
  • What is the roll-out strategy? Are you hoping to generate media interest? Social-media engagement? Please notify the media team and Digital Outreach Teams, so they can begin drafting a strategy.
  • What is the budget? Photography__________ Design _________ Writing ___________ Proofreading/Editing ____________ Printing _________
  • What is the time-line? First draft ______ Internal review ______ External review _____________ Final Draft ________ Design _______ Printing _________ Release _________

Did we leave anything out? Use the comments section to add a few of the most valuable questions from your creative briefs and intake forms.


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