Because not all publications are alike, the time needed to produce material for them varies. Due to extensive analysis and writing process, a comprehensive report may take six months to a year (or more) to produce. In contrast, a one-colour flyer may be completed in a few weeks and a full-colour brochure may take a few months from concept to delivery. Rushing the process may compromise the quality of your product and increase production costs.
To better prepare for the production process, you will benefit from asking who needs to be involved, in what way and during which phases. For example, you will need to involve writers, a graphic designer, a web designer, a database manager, maybe a cartographer and an editor. Further, clarify who is responsible for specific parts of the plan, and who coordinates the joint efforts.
Box 5: Common steps in the production of a printed IEA report.
The following list summarizes common steps in the production of a printed IEA report.
Specifications. Rough specifications on format of the publication, size, font, illustrations and layout option. It is recommended that dummy reports are produced to present different options.
- Contents. Production of text, as well as choosing graphics and pictures. At this stage it is important not to forget any elements like picture text, references and headings.
- Translation. (If needed.)
- Pre-design. Can be useful to test the design in order to be able to make revisions before developing all the contents.
- Layout. Place all the contents into the design chosen.
- Proofreading. This is the last chance to make revisions before the report goes to the printers.
- Test print/blue line. You should always ask for a test print in order to get rid of the last mistakes, correct colours, identify missing elements, etc.
- Print. Now your major concern is to make sure the printed report is ready on time, according to quality expectations and within budget.
- Quality control. Quality control, revisions and editing. This should be done throughout the production process.
Specification and contents
A writing process will usually involve many people from different fields and with different perspectives. Therefore, it is important that the actual writing process be supported by specifications that are clear, so that the writing tasks are interpreted accurately, and information can be integrated with ease (see Module 2, Box 8 for an example list of tasks and responsibilities for authors). For example, you should be consistent in the use of fonts, formats, words and phrases. Good specifications that are carefully followed make the review process much smoother and simpler. A rule of thumb can be that written formats should be clear, easily read and understood, with a good mix of relevant graphs, tables and photographs for maximum visual appeal.
Quality control and translation
Once the text is written, it needs to be reviewed and edited. This should be a precise process in terms of quality control and adherence to set specifications and deadlines. The review process should incorporate as many relevant stakeholders as possible given time and resource constraints. There must be a good feedback mechanism within this process so that collaborative decisions are taken. However, it must be made clear that the decisions of the designated product management team are final, in order to avoid unnecessary complaints.
Peer review (in Module 2 see Stage 5 of the IEA process) is an important element of the review process to ensure the credibility for larger more complex products. The objective of the peer review is to check for adherence by the authors to the specifications provided at the start of the assignment, to check the reliability and appropriateness of the scientific basis of the analyses, and the reliability and appropriateness of the data and information used for the analyses. It can also be used to provide relevant and up-to-date data and information to enrich the analyses, and to ensure that the sources of information as well as citations are used correctly.
Quality publications demand quality editing functions including copy, literary and technical editing. Technical editing ensures that the content is accurate and scientifically sound. The technical editor should be familiar with the subject being presented, and be familiar with the technical terminology used within the subject. The literary edit ensures that the document conforms to the guidelines and standards of the organizations, and ensures consistency within the document (e.g., referencing, capitalization, spelling, hyphenation of compound words, use of symbols and use of italics or bold). The literary edit also covers copy-editing, which is to ensure that spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct, that sentences are complete and comprehensible, that no material is missing, that illustrations and references to graphics are correctly inserted, and that tables are laid out correctly.
As the language edit is the most important from the reader’s perspective, it is important that ideas are expressed clearly, that sentences are not too complex, that the flow of ideas is logical and that excessive jargon is avoided. Only when the original text is finalized does it go to the translation if other language versions are requested.
Layout is another crucial part of the process. Bad layout will easily confuse the reader and hide your message. A long report can be made more reader friendly through layout and design. For your message to stick out in the crowd of information products, it needs the right packaging. The layout is in many ways the final touch where you will have to think of such issues as harmony between text and illustrations, a good use of graphics and photographs, space and structure. The aim should be to have a product that is easy for the reader to navigate.
The printing process can be costly, so it is important to seek professional advice and budget the costs taking into consideration the number of colours, type of paper, format, binding and finishing. You should get quotations from several printers, because the price can vary significantly. It is very important not to rush this part of the process. Once your give the printer approval to proceed, you no longer have control of the process. You should always ask to see the blueprint, the finished document from which they make several copies, and study it closely before approving the printing.
See Exercise 7.3.1