Nottingham Trent University worked in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and NCVO to assess the impact Covid-19 had on the voluntary sector. The research needed to be presented in an eye-catching and accessible way, to be used by sector stakeholders and decision makers, aiming to effect policy and change. A series of 13 monthly reports were produced. Given the nature of the information and the pace of change and opinion during the pandemic, it was vital the reports were delivered in a timely fashion. Each 12-20 page report took two weeks from completion of data collection to report release. This included the research team's work with the data plus other outputs, leaving just a few days for Studio Bifrost to turn the report around. The final report, was a much bigger piece at 60 pages, including infographics and more digital interaction. This also required a quick turnaround, with the vast majority of creative work completed within a week. Working with three organisations meant we needed to satisfy multiple decision makers, especially in the early stages when agreeing the creative route.
The overall look needed to be approachable yet authoritative. A warm colour palette with a rounded, open serif for the primary typeface were chosen for a soft feel. This was counteracted with a structured page layout with plenty of white space and a clean sans serif for the body copy. The design of the charts was kept simple to allow the data and colours to stand out. The colours were the same across all reports, but used to differentiate each edition and break up the content within. Accessibility was a key concern for NTU, with colour blindness discussed when choosing colour palettes and alt tags added to the final report.
The use of white space, flexible layouts and use of pull quotes broke up the content into digestible chunks. With the exception of the covers for the final report, we avoided using photography so there were no issues with inclusivity and to shorten the time taken to produce each report. Instead, we used fluid shapes to add visual interest and link to the human and ever changing aspect of the subject matter. These were used sparingly so as not to distract from the content. Icons had a hand-drawn feel with texture similar to the shapes added for consistency.
The reports have been distributed far and wide, including being featured in the media by Radio 4's Today Programme, the Financial Times, Charity Times and ThirdSector. Project evidence was used in successful funding applications by VCSE infrastructure organisations. The reports were presented to law, policy and decision makers, including the Civil Society Minister and key sector stakeholders; MPs, Peers and key stakeholders at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering; key infrastructure organisations including the VCSEP partnership, Interfaith Network conference and NCVO advisory group; and at AGMs, practitioner and academic workshops, and conferences. Project Lead Professor Daniel King even garnered the accolade Pandemic Pioneer by the Charity Times!
Having developed a good relationship with our contacts over the course of the project, we were recommended to other colleagues at NTU for further work.