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Designing Templates to Improve Workflow and Efficiency

I work as a program analyst for a government agency, and it is my job to find ways to improve the efficiency of day-to-day program operations.

An important part of my job is identifying and creating the appropriate communication products for each program, such as standard operating procedures, desk guides, fact sheets, and dashboards.

When I first joined the team, we had no style guide to dictate what fonts, colors, or design to use for our signature products. With multiple people regularly contributing to the same publications, how can we ensure consistency with design and writing? I remember one situation when I was contributing to three publications with three completely different styles. The fonts and colors were all over the place, and each person was manually editing headings and subheadings. Don’t even get me started on the Table of Contents!

I do not consider myself a tech-savvy person at all, but I knew there had to be a better way to create consistently designed reports and products. I made it my mission to learn branding and design tips and tricks to help my team enhance our communication materials.

Not knowing where to begin, I searched the internet and found the Depict Data Studio website. I wanted to sign up for several courses right away, and I tried unsuccessfully to get approval from my employer to cover professional development expenses for report and design courses. So for a long time, I sufficed with Ann’s free resources and blog posts. But I wanted to learn even more, and I registered from the Report Redesign course along with Dashboard Design.

Revamping Report Templates with Skills Learned in Depict Courses

Enrolling in Depict Data Studio courses is one of the best professional development decisions I have made.

I immediately was able to apply the tips and tricks Ann shared to improve my reporting quality and processes.

My greatest takeaway from Ann’s Report Redesign and Dashboard Design courses is that small and simple steps can make a tremendous impact.

One of the most useful and time-saving tricks I was how to set up theme colors and theme fonts. I set up customized colors and fonts for each of the publication types that I regularly produce, so that I can quickly select the appropriate style for any new communication product.

I went a step further and created a detailed template for each communication product. I personally like to start each new publications from a template that has more of the document architecture built into it. My templates usually include the following:

  • Title, Subtitle, and Date
  • Text Hierarchy
  • Table Format
  • Margins
  • Footer with Page Numbers
  • Icons and Symbols (when relevant)

Of course, each template also applies the relevant theme color and font! Below is an example of a standard operating procedure template.

The Outcome: Save Time and Trouble with a Few Straightforward Steps

With just a few straightforward changes, I helped my team save hours of reporting time and formatting trouble.

As soon as I learned something new from Ann’s Report Redesign and Dashboard Design courses, I created templates and job aids to help myself master the process and have a reference tool that applied directly to my job.

I also shared tips and tricks with my colleagues so everyone could benefit.

As a result of implementing the knowledge I learned in Ann’s courses, my team’s report development time reduced by 50%!

Advance Your Professional Development, and Have Fun Too!

I incorporate so much of what I’ve learned from Ann’s courses into my day-to-day work.

Creating report and dashboard templates has made it so much easier for my team to start right away on new projects.

Our branding is consistent with the organization, and my team also created a unique identity for our signature reports.

Senior management loves that our products stand out from the crowd and have a consistent look and feel.

The concepts Ann teaches might seem intimidating at first, but each step is small and simple. A few tweaks and the right attitude can make a very big difference!

Connect with Stephanie Gentle

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephaniegentle/

More about Stephanie Gentle
Stephanie Gentle works as a Program Analyst for disaster operations at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, DC.

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