Providing a road map to your messages

It’s easy to think that as long as a publication – whether it’s a report, brochure or website – contains the information the audience wants, then it’s a successful product.

But it’s also easy for information to be lost in dense paragraphs, or for key messages to be buried on the 19th page of a 20-page brochure. The information might be there, but the reader has to work to find it. Giving audiences a structure or ‘road map’ to follow helps them to find, and remember, the messages you want to convey.

Our work with the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources provides a good example. A few years ago, the department wanted to produce a series of report cards on the environment for a general audience. It drafted one for each topic, with just a main heading, such as ‘Soil quality’, then a range of collected information and graphs.

The information was there, but the audience needed to work to fully understand it. We took the information and divided it into 4 key areas, restricted to 1 page:

  • introduction – why the topic was important
  • trend – what has been happening
  • where we are at – the current condition
  • reliability of the information.

This simple overlay of sound information architecture enabled audiences to rapidly see what was happening in any particular topic (eg How are diseases affecting our aquatic species).

The design was so successful that it has been generally adopted as the framework for South Australian environmental reporting.