Angelina Lopez on Creating Visual Reports

Hi, I’m Angelina Lopez. At the New York City Department of Education’s iZone, we create visual reports to share our progress and what we are learning about edtech and blended learning initiatives. Our team uses these reports, sharing them as PDFs or Google Slides, for meetings with staff, department teams, and project partners. While long-form reports and papers have their purpose, we’ve found that shorter docs are more engaging and efficient for our dissemination and organizational learning goals.

Rad Resource: Slidedoc

Slidedoc, coined by Nancy Durate, is “a visual document, developed in presentation software, that is intended to be read and referenced instead of projected.” Although PowerPoint has been criticized lately as much as bad pie charts, Durate makes the case for leveraging presentation tools for visual reports. The Slidedocs framework can also be applied to cloud-based tools like Google Slides and Canva.

Hot Tip: Know your readers

Like other dissemination activities, it’s essential to identify your primary audience. To help plan the content, design and key messages for a visual report, our team often develops quick personas, written representations of the report end-users, as part of our report planning process. This exercise helps keep our team aligned on who our primary audience is and how the report should be designed to meet their learning needs.

Lessons Learned: Mise en place…it’s all about the prep

Experienced cooks know the importance of mise en place. When I first began tinkering with visual reporting, you could often find me sourcing new content while simultaneously creating the report. I have found that, like starting a new recipe, it is worth taking time to organize your content before working on the report design. Managing your content starts with knowing who is responsible for crafting copy, sourcing images or other artifacts, and designing charts and graphs that will help tell your story. Preparing the written and visual content that will ultimately make up your report enables you to more efficiently identify a narrative arc and develop a design that is responsive to your needs.

Hot Tip: Break the reporting mold

Our brains are hardwired for stories. Visual reports are one way to break the reporting mold to share evaluation findings and tell a story with purpose. If you are not tied to the structure of a traditional or final report, try a nonlinear structure to show before telling or explaining what happened. Try saving the description of the evaluation purpose and methodology for the end of the report. Instead, first identify the headline or main message that you’d like to convey and consider how you might use the content you’ve curated to illustrate or visualize your main message. Whether your headline is about change, impact, or promising practices, lead with a story to “hook” your readers in.

Rad Resource: Join my session at Eval 2015!

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to Want to learn more from Angelina? She’ll be presenting as part of the Evaluation 2015 Conference Program, November 9-14 in Chicago, Illinois.

1 thought on “Angelina Lopez on Creating Visual Reports”

  1. Hi Angelina,

    I really enjoyed reading your post titled “Creating Visual Reports”. I found this article to be very applicable to my own professional experiences. Quite often I find myself sitting through long winded, non engaging presentations for variety of educational topics like pass/fail rates for standardized testing. These meeting are inefficient and not engaging at all. We go through data that has almost no meaning in way it is presented. There is little to no takeaway from these presentations. I really like the idea of leveraging presentation software as visual reports as an alternative to formal reports. It is so easy with cloud-based tools like Google Slides to incorporate links, meaningful visuals, data and also be able share the presentation within seconds. Everything that is needed to convey the message without actually having a presenter. With the new Google Sites that launched recently available to only educational & work domains for testing, I feel that this would also be a great tool for creating visual reports. It is a very awesome update from the old sites and worth checking out.

    The thing I found most interesting about your article is how you create personas for your audience. I have never thought about the effects of this on a bigger scale. I know as an educator I cater information to different groups often without really thinking about it. I never thought about how much developing a personas may impact the presentation. The resource you posted for creating personas is great I will for sure be using this on my next report to make sure I align my audience.

    Thanks for the helpful article. Next time I am tasked with creating a report I am going to use this information and see if I can spark a change and save everyone’s time!

    Thanks – Evan

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