Design Journey of The Nigerian Graduate Report

I have had this article on my to-do list for almost a month and recently decided to fight the ingrained need to procrastinate and complete and publish it before another month rolls by.

The Nigeria graduate report released last month (May) was met with different opinions, views and reactions with some accepting that it is what it is and others ready to fight the data clearly stated with supported findings in the report.

The report is basically about activities surrounding graduates in Nigeria and what happens in their professional life starting from their first jobs down to their current jobs. It covers the percentage of employed and unemployed graduates, the average starting salary of a Nigerian graduate based on several factors such as gender and industry. The most controversial and widely argued find in the report was that which was tagged ‘university with the most employable graduates’ which had Covenant University at the top. This one find caused quite a stir but the report in general shed light on a number of issues that were once in the dark land of obscurity.

Alas, this article is not about the report. It’s about the design journey that brought about the report and its accompanying infographics.

Front cover page and infographics

Prior to working on this report, I don’t think I ever appreciated the work, thoughts and processes involved in producing a finished work. Now, I am a believer and I give thumbs up to all design teams out there developing beautiful works of art.

So I start my story:

The survey to collect data from respondents came to an end around the last week of March. As much as we love and thank google form for making our lives easier by giving us diagrammatic representation of data collected, we have to admit that for a large number of respondents, the graphs and pie chart just don’t cut it in. So the directive to represent the data in an alternative format that would be both aesthetically pleasing to readers and understandable was given and we decided we would do it in-house instead of contracting it out and so we began.

In true spirit of being a part of something revolutionary, the team started out by scouring the internet searching for inspiration (Thank you Behance, Pintrest and Dribbble and countless others design websites) and similar works done in the past and saved them in our resource folder.

We then arranged plain sheets of A4 papers (in the coming weeks we would use up almost as much A4 papers I used for my final year project) and set out to create outlines for each data represented borrowing design principles and layouts from our resource folder. At the time, the outlines summed up to about 15 design layouts with one layout per data representation. Then we decided on the colours we wanted to use settling on tetradic colours of Stutern colour (#2EC4B6). We went with Avenir Next for our font and dug into the project with all gusto.

Understandably, it was our first time working on something like this so we made several big blunders one of which was representing the information across several pages instead of a single page like so:

Bad versus Good design consideration

Thankfully, because we asked for constant feedback, we were able to correct ourselves in time.

Our second most time wasting and effort draining blunder was our refusal to move from the known to the unknown. Recently I read in this article titled ‘CRIC: Confidence Reflex Intuition Consistency’ that neophobia is basically the fear of new things which is something I think most, if not all people have, myself included.

margin layout in Adobe Illustrator

Since we had a working knowledge of Adobe Illustrator, we felt we could and should use it to create both the report and design the infographics and came up with this layout to keep our margins constant.

In retrospect, it might have worked out if one person had worked on the report, but we were a team and it was difficult maintaining the margins and the artboards were more confusing than helpful.

I remember telling a friend I was collaborating and he said something along the lines of design collaboration being a design disaster and suggested we use Adobe InDesign instead of Adobe Illustrator. I brushed it aside especially when I searched online and saw that some books and reports were done using Illustrator so I felt we could carry on with Illustrator and so we did for approximately 4 weeks. The pace at which we produced the pages was slow, frustrating and nerve wracking. Whenever we would bring our artboards together we would notice something was off. It was either one margin was not equal in size or there was an overflow in the text box or something else entirely.

A screenshot of our workspace in Adobe Illustrator

We focused more on adjusting margins, and fixing over flows than on the actual data representation until in frustration or something close to it, we decided to watch tutorials on Adobe InDesign. And boy did that help!

It was just ridiculously simple how we caught on and how much more it made our work easy since it gave a constant margin across all pages and simplified a number of processes such as page numbering and even going further to allow designing for specific pages.

There were no more scattered artboards and no more margin adjustment and readjustment. It was just pure bliss. This allowed us focus on the design of data which we still did on Adobe Illustrator and imported in Adobe inDesign to put it in book format.

We moved from one form of design to another almost always based on feedback. This experience made me develop an appreciation of receiving feedback. Yes, it was hard when we received feedback we did not like aka negative feedback, but all in all, it helped and allowed us produce beautiful infographics.

first and final versions of designs

I don’t know how it works anywhere else, but the front page for the report was another huge hurdle to cross. We went through more than 10 front page designs all in a bid to come up with something that would satisfy partnering companies and would also be informative at a glance.

front cover evolution

Several front page designs later and numerous feedback from amazing people, both experts in design and non-experts, we arrived at the current page.

My take from this is that design constantly evolves. It is a mistake to think it is static. Every infographic in the report went through several processes before arriving at what is the final one.

Moving from one variation to another is all part of the process and one variation will always influence the next variation be it in changing colour or size or removing or editing a particular element.

Variation of design

An equally important take is that using the right design tools simplifies a lot of otherwise difficult process. As much as having an alternative is good, the alternative should only be used when the main tool cannot be used for one reason or another.

I really enjoyed this design journey and look forward to my next project and design journey which I might write about as long as I can keep procrastination in check.