Organize your Reporting with a Style Sheet Template

Dudes, I know report writing is no small task. It takes lots of people working on different parts – sure. But so often I see reports that look like they’ve been Frankensteined: different fonts and colors in each section, barely stitched together into a cohesive whole. One way graphic designers keep a team on the same mental page is through the use of style sheets.

Style sheets dictate the way a report will look and feel, by specifying exact colors, fonts, font sizes, logos, etc. The most comprehensive style sheets I’ve seen even detail the type of imagery that will be used, so one person doesn’t get a photograph while another section author pastes in an illustration.

Here is the style sheet Chris Metzner developed for our work on the Potent Presentations Initiative:

style sheet for potent presentation initiative

You can see it lists the color codes for our exact shade of red. It contains the different versions of our logo. This style sheet was so handy because I only had to go to one place to grab what I needed to stay in line with our initiative branding.

Here’s another style sheet I made for my own workshop slides, which I knew I’d be working on over time:

style sheet for workshop slides

I was sure I’d never remember the precise size and position, for example, of where I placed images in my slides. A style sheet is the perfect place to keep track of those notes. And it ensures that my slides look consistent with one another, which reflects back on me and the quality of my work.

Usually, organizational style sheets are a bit lengthier than the one page examples I’m showing you here. For reporting, you’ll want to give examples of what headers should look like, how images should be placed, and how the written report and the accompanying slideshow will be coordinated.

What else should you include? Download my style sheet template in Word to see each of the sections you should think through and then fill in your own blanks.

Then distribute the completed document to everyone on your team to keep your look and feel consistent, polished, and professional.

Final note: Don’t worry if you have to make changes to the style sheet once you start to apply it to actual products. That’s life. It’s a work in progress.

I talk about style sheets in the last chapter of my just-published book, Presenting Data Effectively. Check it out! I’ll be talking about reports and slides more in depth in webinars over the next couple months. Get your team registered!

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