Best Practice and Hassle Free Design Process for Government Departments

As a creative agency designing for both the private and public sector for well over 20 years now, we have seen many changes over this time, the most obvious being the need to shift from more traditional print forms of communication to more dynamic and digital channels. This seems to apply strongly to the government sector and there is a big shift from producing dry reporting documents or community messaging to much more dynamic, engaging, and interactive communications. Recently Fresco was added to the panel for design, digital, and advertising for both the State and Federal Government, this is based on our experience of working with departments over the years and our additional skill set in advising on best practices, processes, and project management. So exactly what is best practice when it comes to designing for the government sector?

Often departments have the need to produce large reporting documents, here the skill is not just creativity or adhering to an already set and often strict style guide but also in assisting the project leader in the management of the roll-out of the project which is often made up of multiple documents and communication channels. Often there is a requirement to roll out multiple large reporting documents that requires well thought through timelines, milestones, and processes that ensure the successful completion of the project over a set period of time.

As a rule of thumb in the initial stages of a project, the creative agency and team consisting of the account manager, account project assistant and appointed lead designer meet with the stakeholder team to discuss the briefing document and deliverables. At this point, the creative agency assists or at the very least should offer assistance with reverse briefs for cases where the client needs guidance in outlining all objectives and deliverables.

A creative agency needs to work closely with clients to assist in developing workable timelines for all projects. All jobs need to follow strict processes and procedures. In most instances, a production manager oversees the project from conception to final stages. Working closely with the account manager and designer, they ensure guidelines are met and timeframes are adhered to. The designers and account managers work closely with the client to gain client approval and input at various stages of the Project.

In saying that timelines need to have a degree of flexibility as within Government departments things can change at a moment’s notice!  A comprehensive meeting with all key stakeholders to sort out a priority list for the publications is essential from the beginning. Once this is established a dedicated account manager will provide a timeline ensuring that each project is scheduled and deadlines are achievable. It’s important to be realistic and not to over-promise.

As a rule, for projects running over a long period of time monthly meetings to ensure that all parties are on track is required. This allows the creative agency to provide feedback on streamlining the process further, check-in on WIPs, tasks are outstanding, and allows the opportunity for client feedback. With large projects with multiple publications and channels to roll out breaking it down into manageable tasks which will assist in staggering the process keeps things streamlined.

With large reporting documents, part of the initial process is the creation of the publication’s flat-plan, this outlines and forms the structure of the content architecture for the project. During these initial meetings, a creative agency needs to ensure clients are aware of the correct supply and format of all images, graphs, tables, maps, and copy to streamline concept and roll out. For the cases where the document has a high volume of pages, an agency can provide a plan for a staggered supply of client content and design drafts to ensure the smooth and manageable workflow of the project. Flexibility to work around client expectations is a must.

Where concepts are required, or the creative development of an existing style guideline is necessary, an agency will submit two to three concepts for client feedback and approval. Three sets of amends are offered at this stage. Agencies need to work collaboratively with the client to ensure client approval at this stage.

Once the concept has been approved roll-out of the complete document based on the supplied flat plan begins.

The effective management of client amends is a big part of a streamlined rollout of projects of this type. A process that involves an efficient use of communication through PDF markups is the best. When a draft is supplied to a client, “comments” and other forms of corrections can be marked up and circulated to the relevant stakeholders by using Adobe Acrobat. This reduces the risk of human error and allows all changes to be actioned with a systematic process of “ticking off” each comment to ensure nothing is missed. This is a user-friendly method that can be easily demonstrated to our clients if required.

When it comes to processes and procedures, designers are given a greater degree of autonomy in terms of the creative decisions of the project and who are in charge of managing the project until its completion ensures a streamlined output and the least hassle for clients. Having a team on hand to assist in the progress of a project so that there is familiarity with each other and the ability to produce a unified design based on the head designer’s understanding and interpretation of a project is also essential.

Below is an example of the various stages an agency should follow to manage large scale projects from initiation to completion.


In the area of design for government extensive knowledge in having designed a multitude of reports and large scale documents over the years is a boon for any creative agency. Experience equals a familiarity with the nuances in reporting and approaches across industries. An appreciation that Government agencies have specific formatting requirements, must meet AAA accessibility standards, require interactive digital PDF’s and printing must meet their stringent environmental requirements is also an advantage. Designing multi-page reports and large-scale publications it is imperative to create clean and structured design elements allowing users to navigate easily through the text-heavy document making good use of stark white space which sits in contrast to the bold use of colour applied to the heading styles and section dividers. The result is publications that are both compliant with brand style guides as well as creative and engaging.