We love hearing stories from writers and designers about how they’ve helped create clear communication. Designer Lisa Minichiello from Room44 shares her insights on keeping readers engaged with the content of a 600+ page government report. She worked on the infographics with Dean Gorissen, illustrator, designer and co-creative director of Room44.
“In 2013, then Commissioner of Environment and Sustainability Kate Auty engaged us to design the Government’s State of the Environment Report. The report comes out every five years and is so comprehensive it runs for 600+ pages. That’s a lot of information to digest!
It’s important information though, as it summarises and concludes five years of research and development for the Victorian Government. Policy makers, environmentalists, interested consumers and many others anticipate this report, so the pressure was on to make it easy to understand and visually interesting.
We worked closely with Kate Auty and her team, developing content and creating infographics that distilled complex environmental information. Working through the brief with key collaborators, editors and scientists, we identified bite-size chunks that could be visually represented. This included snapshots and overviews so key criteria stood out.
We gave advice on best visual practice to help the key messages resonate. One important message was to help people understand the bigger picture – how the Earth’s climate systems and cycles are being negatively impacted by population growth, continued emissions of greenhouse gases and global warming. We needed to communicate this complex message clearly, as it provided context to other information in the report.
The Commissioner wanted to express the view of a ‘sustainable society’ and how that can persist over generations. We suggested large infographic maps, showing micro details and allowing for macro overviews. The maps had to communicate complex theories, but we simplified the message with icons and other graphics, such as timelines, directional features, icons to represent space ratios and icons that simply said if something was working or not, to provide full transparency.
For example, information on how a community was affected by bushfire one week after the fire, and at two weeks, one month and six-month intervals was best shown as a radiating map. Icons and statistics depicted the effects and outcomes of the fire on all humans, animals and infrastructure.
A recommendation was provided at the end of each chapter in the report. This was essential and could be read as a solution, or at least as a tool that could lead towards a solution.
The report was well received when it was launched. Our client was delighted and passed on the positive feedback she received about the clarity of information, how easy it was to understand and process, and the visually attractive way the information was presented. We are still proud to this day of that report.
Lisa Minichiello is Co-Creative Director, along with Dean Gorissen, of design communications company Room44. Based in Melbourne, Room44 specialises in reports and infographics for business, government and institutions in print and web, publication and identity work.
The Clear Communication awards
The awards are a joint project of myself, Joh Kirby and Carolyn Alexander. They acknowledge information projects just like this. Projects that combine excellence in design, communication and plain language. Because everyone benefits from being able to find the information that they need more easily.
The awards open in June 2019.
We’re releasing information regularly. Subscribe to our mailing list or follow our Clear Communication Awards page on LinkedIn to receive updates on categories, judges and lots of information on clear communication.
Carol is a designer and co-founder of the Design Business Council, an organisation founded to promote excellence in design and its role in a successful and sustainable business. Prior to the DBC, Carol co-founded and managed a successful graphic design studio: Mackay Branson design.
Her design career focussed on helping the financial, legal, insurance, superannuation and service sectors use design to add clarity to their often complex message. She now uses the same skills to help business understand design, and designers understand business.