Literature Design Agencies
Listed at the end of this article are 20 agencies who offer literature design services and have been identified as having construction industry experience. (If you are not logged in, you will see below only those companies who have enhanced their entries.)
Construction Literature Design
Construction industry professionals, of all disciplines, continually receive substantial amounts of product information - hard-copy and digital - mostly unsolicited. Therefore, in order to ensure that the literature receives the maximum attention, professional design skills, preferably with construction industry experience, should be employed or consulted if possible.
The British Standards for construction literature, re-confirmed in Nov 2013, are as follows:
• BS 4940-1:1994. Technical information on construction products and services. Guide for management
• BS 4940-2:1994. Technical information on construction products and services. Guide to content and arrangement
• BS 4940-3:1994. Technical information on construction products and services. Guide to presentation
• BS 4940:1973. Recommendations for the presentation of technical information about products and services in the construction industry
A comprehensive overview of BS 4940, with some good guidance on preparing technical literature, was produced by Pat Ware for the Finishes and Interiors Sector (previously the Association of Interior Specialists) and can be viewed on the FIS website here.
Production of technical and promotional literature requires significant resources in both time and money, and should be designed both to be long-lasting and to grab, quickly and effectively, the attention of its intended audience. Obviously, BS 4940 was produced for the pre-digital market and the prominent inclusion of the product codes for the standard classification systems were vital to ensure fast and easy retrieval. Whilst still important, most construction professionals will search by key phrases, so it will also be important to give equal prominence to the product/service name and generic product type(s) in the headings and text, and, for digital versions, in the image captions.
Hardcopy or Digital?
On the subject of digital vs hardcopy literature, the latter still remains an important form of publication by specifiers referencing specific product data. This may, or may not, change in time. Construction literature design specialists, CDP (http://www.cdpweb.co.uk/) have produced a comprehensive paper on the subject specifically to aid construction product manufacturers. Entitled, 'Less paper, but not paperless ... the continuing importance of good technical literature', the paper argues that the demise of printed marketing communication material has been predicted for 20 years, yet, despite this, it remains very much alive and well. Whilst fully accepting that digital literature will continue to grow, it explains that:
“...the paperless argument pre-supposes that digital communication - with its navigability and ability to interlink - must automatically make everything more accessible than the printed page could ever be. This is not necessarily true. Poorly constructed or poorly designed websites don’t work well. Users get lost or lose interest and the bounce rate will escalate.
“There are two added factors with poor on-line information: firstly, the user’s ‘patience quotient’ is absolutely minimal. In other words, if we don’t see what we want, or a very clear route to what we want, immediately, we move on immediately. Secondly, the very nature of interactivity invites the user to ‘jump-off’, get lost or otherwise lose his or her place. In other words, even on the best websites, logic and structure are much more difficult to impose than they are in print.
“Printed material - as it IS a physical entity - has more weight (literally and metaphorically) and less disposability than its on-line incarnations. Its narrative logic is set.”
Supporting this view, research carried out by Competitive Advantage for the 2013 edition of the Construction Media Index asked respondents if there was still a role for hardcopy literature, and all groups, except interior designers, responded overwhelmingly “yes” (however, it should be noted that this a lower reading than the one recorded in the previous survey two years before, when all respondents said hardcopy literature still had a role, whereas only 76% agreed in this latest survey). You can read Chris Ashworth’s (Competitive Advantage) more comprehensive review of the findings on RIBA Insight’s website here.
In 'Less paper, but not paperless', CDP go on to explain that, not only does printed literature carry with it a “gravitas which is not associated with equivalent digital offerings”, but also how, when well-designed, it can disseminate extensive and complex information to specifiers quickly and efficiently by using clear navigation, logic and order. They advise that “intuitive navigational pointers, such as clear indexes, contents and sub-contents lists, colour coding, physical tabs, divider spreads, page references, ‘more info’ boxes and many more, should form a critical part of the overall design.” But layout and design are only part of the issue and the article posits that some construction product manufacturers have a tendency to focus “rigidly on their products and little else” and goes on to explain the importance of producing “clear and unambiguous” text that is written in a “solutions-based” context.
The full paper from CDP provides much useful information and food for thought for the construction product manufacturer and can be downloaded here. Additionally, looking at worst practice can also be useful for the construction product manufacturer and Rick Osman of Highwire Design addressed the subject in his article entitled, 'Examples of Really BAD Product Literature' which can be read on RIBA Insight's website here.
The agencies (log-on to view full list):