Construction Literature Design

Construction industry professionals, of all disciplines, continually receive substantial amounts of product information - hardcopy and digital - mostly unsolicited.   Therefore, in order to ensure that the literature receives the maximum attention and disseminates product credentials and generates interest, professional design skills, preferably with construction industry experience, should be employed 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

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. See also our feature on Classifying Literature.

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 specialist, CDP has 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 article 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 is Competitive Advantage, publisher of the Construction Media Index, which explains, “Although downloading digital literature is very much the norm, there is still demand for hard copy literature with a third of Architects saying they want both. But often the format which works for one format is not suitable for the other”.   In order to help manufacturers ensure their construction product literature is effective, Competitive Advantage offers a Construction Literature Health Check.

In 'Less paper, but not paperless', CDP goes 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.   CDP 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.

Nevertheless, whether it’s the consumption of product information via literature or industry news via the trade press, the transition to digital is now long-established and seems likely to accelerate further over the next few years.  In the research carried out for its 2017 report ‘What Specifiers Want’, NBS explored this in some detail, in particular its implications from the product manufacturer's position.    The section titled ‘Digitising manufacturers’ product data’ analysis the research and provides a useful perspective on the digitisation of literature for construction manufacturers.

Contract Publishing

Whilst discussing the topic of literature design, it’s worth stepping sideways to consider the related issue of contract publishing. Whilst there will be many dozens – possibly hundreds – of businesses working in the sector, they will mostly be active across a multitude of industries. Whether the requirement is for digital or printed format journals, newsletters, directories, magazines or yearbooks, using a publisher with knowledge of the construction industry is likely to prove very advantageous, since it will already have an understanding of how to visually grab the attention of the industry’s various target audiences.

Database of Construction Literature Design Agencies

Our database consists of agencies who offer literature design services and have been identified as having construction industry experience.   (You must be logged in to download the database.)

About Communication Design Partnership Specialists in the writing, design, illustration and production of marketing communication tools for building product manufacturers Communication Design Partnership write, design...

Construction Industry Literature & Publication Design