, ,

The quirks of designing for the public sector

Pages from an open report on a grey background

Factors driving a public sector design project can be quite different to those in the corporate or business world.

This is because:

  • of accountability to rate payers and tax payers
  • projects are often community-based and grassroots which can require accessible design and different languages
  • it’s about communicating information rather than driving sales
  • things take time to get through the approvals and sign-off processes
  • projects can be political and perceptions may influence design decisions.
Page from a document showing pull out quotes

Feedback quotes from consultation participants shown in Porirua Development/Kāinga Ora’s Community Engagement Report.


There’s a lot of design staples in the public sector – here are three types I most commonly work on.

  • Regulatory documents like Annual Reports and Statements of Intent
    These usually are published within a prescribed timeframe and have to contain specific information. But as far as design is concerned, and certainly in the front half of these documents, there’s room to reflect the organisations character and reflect its values. I’ve written a blog about ‘The anatomy of an annual report’ which has some more information and design tips on how to make it look great!
Cover and inside page of an A4 document shown on a grey background

Wellington Water’s Annual Report designed within their existing brand guidelines.

Document Design Wellington

Pages from Wellington Water’s Statement of Intent.


  • Infographics
    A picture tells a thousand words – and that’s the role of the infographic. Maps, graphs, charts, diagrams, icons, illustrations, pull-out quotes and numbers are all great ways to help make often complicated information more digestible. The ‘Wellington Regional Growth Framework’ is packed with facts and figures and uses lots of different types of maps, diagrams and schematic to demonstrate them. (https://wrgf.co.nz/reports/)

Pages from the ‘Wellington Regional Growth Framework’ Foundation Report showing demographic statistics through graphs.

Pages from the ‘Wellington Regional Growth Framework’ Foundation Report showing access to opportunities.


  • Promotional work including posters, invites and social media tiles
    Consultation is often required and many projects I’ve worked on have a community consultation component, often involving open days or events. Designs work better when they consider the neighbourhood and the communities within it. Printed posters and physical invites /flyers often compliment social media promotions. Maps or diagrams often feature to explain the options being proposed and to prompt comment and feedback.
Invite showing a photo of a child riding a bike

Invite to a safer cycling community working hosted by Kapiti Coast District Council using their brand guidelines.


Facebook Event image

Facebook event banner for a community event.


Kapiti Coast Map Design

A map used in public consultation about speed limit changes proposed for Kapiti Coast District Council roads.


Usually local government, council controlled organisations and other public sector organisations have established brands. I can provide both brand strategy advice or be a virtual “in-house” designer and custodian of existing brand guidelines. My well organised document management system means I can easily retrieve that job we worked on five years ago so we don’t have to start from scratch for a similar project.

If you have any public sector design questions, feel free to get in touch.