Creating A Consumer Action Handbook

GSA Federal Consumer Information Center (FCIC)

Educating and Assisting the Public

FCIC updates and produces the Consumer Action Handbook, a 170+ page federal publication designed to educate and assist the public in resolving consumer problems, yearly and required a contractor with experience in similar consumer-related projects. For the 2011 Handbook, Sage/JDG provided focus group research; revised content, design and layout of the Handbook based on the information obtained in the focus groups; an updated Index; and print ready files.

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Every year, the GSA Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC), located within the Office of Citizen Services and Communications, updates and produces the Consumer Action Handbook. Used by individual consumers and consumer affairs professionals, the Handbook is a 170+ page federal publication designed to educate and assist the public in resolving consumer problems in the marketplace. For the 2011 Handbook, FCIC needed a contractor with experience in similar consumer-related projects, including extensive research of consumer protection regulations and resources in both the private and public sectors; experience organizing focus groups and implementing recommendations; and experience designing and producing a similar document.


Within 70 workdays of FCIC approval of the work plan and timeline, Sage provided focus group research, copywriting, editing, design, and production services for the 2011 Consumer Action Handbook. After the launch meeting, Sage provided two internal design concepts and three cover options. Upon FCIC review, we recruited for and conducted two focus groups – one with individuals and one with consumer affairs professionals – to gain feedback related to the design concepts, book layout and content. The final Handbook was delivered in multiple file types, including InDesign, PDF and Microsoft Word.

Our Process:

To begin each project, Sage assigns a dedicated project manager and conducts a launch meeting.  At the meeting, the project manager introduces the team, builds a firm foundation to establish a positive working relationship, confirms contract expectations and roles, establishes communication and reporting channels, and discusses any known challenges or barriers to success.

For this project, our highly creative graphic design services used cutting-edge graphics and well-chosen typography, combined with illustration, photography, color, and white space, to ensure that the handbook confirmed that FCIC was a reliable and trusted advisor on consumer affairs.

After FCIC design review and approval, Sage prepared for, conducted, and analyzed and reported the findings from two focus groups sessions.

Before conducting our research, we met with FCIC to clarify the research objectives, discuss participant profiles and brainstorm focus group discussion topics. Using this information, we developed the moderator’s guide, which was used to manage the discussions and ensure that all important topics were covered in both two-hour focus group sessions. We also developed a recruiting script to qualify potential participants so that each focus group has a balance of men, women and minorities.

During the focus groups, the moderator guided participants through discussions to elicit feedback and suggestions to the current version of the Handbook, including reactions to potential cover artwork. Sage also solicited ideas and topics to include in the 2011 edition.

We then coded each idea or incidence in the notes from the focus groups. Using this system (known as axial coding), we are able to discover valuable insights and innovative solutions. Using the results of the data analysis and audio recordings of the focus group sessions, Sage prepared and delivered written reports on the two focus groups for FCIC.

After completing the research, our copywriter worked closely with Subject Matter Experts (SME) and market researchers to ensure that the final Handbook content reflected the expectations of the client, as well as the interests and preferences of the intended audience(s).

During Sage’s editing and proofreading stage, we focused on headlines, photo captions, and table and figure headings. We also generated a table of contents, acronyms list, index, and other related front and back matter. In addition, Sage used an editorial checklist to correct text, alignment, and any font styles and sizing inconsistencies, as well as ensure that other professional publishing formatting standards were handled consistently and cleanly throughout the product.

Before final delivery to FCIC, Sage proofread the final text and visuals in the designed templates, and delivered proofs to FCIC for final review and approval. Upon final approval, Sage delivered native files that had been pre-flighted and prepared for printing, in addition to an Adobe PDF and Microsoft Word document


Sage produced the 2011 Consumer Action Handbook on budget and within the time line set by the client. FCIC reported that their overall experience with Sage was exceptional, saying “we are extremely pleased with Sage’s project management for the Handbook and with the final content.” The client stated that the director of FCIC and other key leadership had seen the Handbook and were all very pleased with the final product. They felt “confident that consumers and consumer professionals will find this edition to be even more useful than the past editions” and that Sage “created a book that will be a great help for consumers!” The Handbook is currently available for order and as a PDF download through

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