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4 Tips to Design a Visually Compelling Strategic Plan

By: Aqueenah Gude on August 1st, 2022

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4 Tips to Design a Visually Compelling Strategic Plan

Strategic Planning  |  District Leadership

You have just spent months engaging your community, identifying your priorities and getting your wording just right. It feels like you are inches from the finish line as you think about rolling out your final plan to the community. This is certainly a huge feat and worth a celebration but you are not quite done yet! 


According to leadership scholar John Kotter, 70% of strategic initiatives fail because of personal and organizational inertia resistance to change. At Education Elements we believe that this can be overcome, in part, through a thorough process where organizational and community buy-in is essential. In fact, how you communicate with and involve your community is the best indicator of how well your plan will be implemented. So, although you’ve involved your teams and completed your draft, this is not so much the end of the race, rather the end of the first leg of a relay; it’s time to pass the baton to your community!


First impression is key, and in strategic planning that tone is set in large measure by the visual design of your strategic plan.  In this blog, we’ll discuss four key things to keep in mind when designing the appearance your school strategic plan so that you can launch your plan with success. 


Strat Planning - Strat Plan - Auburn Strat Planning - Strat Plan - South Brunswick Strat Planning - Strat Plan - Salamanca


#1 Style Guide - Wearing the team uniform

The first thing to consider when designing your school strategic plan is your school's visual style. A style guide encompasses all the visual aspects of an organization's branding including, logo, color palette, typography, photo treatments and other graphic elements like icon styles. Most schools and districts work with a designer to create a cohesive style guide with elements that set their district apart, while also telling the district's unique story. For those districts that do not have established branding or a style guide, you can create one specifically for your strategic plan.


In creating your style guide, first get a high resolution version of your logo; decide which 2-4 colors best represent your school or district – and, make sure those colors complement each other. Next, decide which fonts work best for your plan. Pick a font that works well for headers and another that works best for large sections of text, ideally one that complements your values and vision. Lastly, if you choose to, select icons to use as graphic elements throughout your plan to visually communicate an idea or action.


Assembling your style guide before you begin designing your plan will help you with style consistency, the next important design tip.


Examples from Atlanta Public Schools, Austin ISD, Hillsborough, Indianapolis Public Schools, Polk County 


#2 Consistency in Style - Ensuring we are in lock step

Keep your style consistent. Doing so, it makes your plan look cohesive, more visually appealing, more professional. And, more importantly, it makes it easier to understand and keeps your reader engaged in the plan you’ve worked so hard to create.


#3 Photographs - Stay focus on your why

Photography is often crucial to telling your story. It brings the plan to life and can highlight key dimensions of your plan, and program. From a design perspective, there’s a number of considerations to keep in mind when using photos. Photo resolution is key. Some schools and districts choose to use professional photographs throughout their strategic plans, some schools use photos taken on a smartphone. Both are fine as long as they have good resolution; in fact, you’ll need high quality resolution (image quality) if you expect to print out the plan. You may decide to use a photo treatment – similar to filters on Instagram – in order to tie-in the style of the photo to the style of the guide. Also, consider the subjects within the photo, the story each photo tells, and it’s connection to the text. 


#4 Unifying Themes - Tell your story 

Finally, when designing your strategic plan, consider incorporating a theme or visual motif throughout. What makes your school or district or community unique? What visual best tells your story? What is a key initiative you want to work on? We’ve seen space themes, bridges, quilts, arrows, water, and many more. Chose a theme can pull your plan together and truly make it unique.  


These tips and examples should help you as you design your school’s strategic plan. We at Education Elements, can also help - with your strategic planning process: from aligning on your district’s goals, to helping define which priorities matters most to your community, to helping you develop metrics to monitor your progress. If you would like to partner with us on your school’s strategic plan, please contact us to get started.


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