Adding simple images such as rounded corners to a data
section, a company logo in the header, or a relevant product image in a group
can change the interpretation of a report for the better. You do not have to
take out a second mortgage on your house to afford a decent image editor
either. Tools, such as Adobe Fireworks, Photoshop and Illustrato,r are great
for designers, but for a developer who is not going to use many of the tools
included in those products, they are overkill. I recommend a product such as Paint.net or GIMP,
both are free and in most situations contain more than enough tools to
accomplish what you need. After you have downloaded an editor, spend some time
in it and learn your way around. No matter which product you choose for image
editing, there are a lot of online tutorials that will help you learn how to
apply effects to images.
When I sit down to develop a report, the first thing I think
about is the data, where it is coming from, how to group it and how to get it
into the report (obviously I am a developer). The second thing I think about is
the color scheme. Many corporations may ask that you use their company colors,
but many times reports can benefit with more colors that are shades of the
corporate color scheme.
When I have to design a report from scratch with no
predetermined color scheme, I start off by looking at Adobe Kuler. This site contains hundreds of
color schemes; the experience reminds me of going to the local home improvement
store and looking through all of the sample paint swatches. Each color sample
is rated, and I usually look at the top rated schemes since I do not have a
good eye for color combinations, I put my trust into the experts.
If I have a color that I know that I need to work with,
often times I will use the color
schemer web site. This site enables you to enter an HTML HEX color code and
the site will provide you a scheme. There are even options to lighten and
darken the scheme if you choose.
Adding high quality and meaningful images can really spice
up a report. Having a repository of images is a handy tool. Sites such as iStockPhoto and
Stock Exchange allow you to place images on
your reports royalty free. Before placing images on reports, make sure to read
the license. Many of the image licenses allow placement in digital format on
websites, presentations and reports, but do not allow for placement as
endorsements or in company logos.