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Resources and tools for creating and iterating Urban Institute branded PDFs with R Markdown
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design Start simple factsheet example. Add Urban logo to and close #1. Apr 17, 2018
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README.html Add Sybil's table and update the documentation. May 16, 2019
preamble.tex Add Sybil's table and update the documentation. May 16, 2019



This repository contains tools and templates for creating Urban Institute-styled, PDF factsheets in R Markdown. For more information, read Iterated fact sheets with R Markdown and Iterated PDFs with R Markdown.

Getting started

Lato font

The Urban Institute uses the font Lato. Go to Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Fonts to see if Lato is installed on your computer. Contact the IT Helpdesk if Lato isn't installed on your computer.

Fonts are embedded in the PDFs with the Cairo graphics library. Cairo is installed when R is installed. On Macs, Cairo won't work unless XQuartz is installed.

LaTeX distribution

Creating PDFs with R Markdown requires a LaTeX distribution. In the past, this too often meant installing and maintaining the large and clunky MiKTeX. Fortunately, Yihui Xie created TinTeX, a custom LaTeX distribution based on TeX Live that is lightweight and can be managed in R.

Submit the following code in R to install TinyTex (full instructions here):

install.packages(c("tinytex", "rmarkdown"))

Note: If you installed MiKTeX in the past, uninstall it before installing TinyTex.

Fork or download this repository

Fork this respoitory or download the contents of this repository to get access to the template. Using R Projects with the template is highly recommended and an R Project is included in the repository.


preamble.tex and template.Rmd contain settings and code to put R Markdown PDFs into the Urban Institute factsheet style. Many of the changes are automated.


Some of the changes require using custom LaTeX macros:

  • \contactinfo{} Adds the Urban Institute contact information to the end of the page.
  • \urbnlogo{} Add the Urban Institute logo to the top left of the page
  • \urbnlogofunderlogo{} Adds \urbnlogo{} and adds a funder logo to the top right of the page Argument: path to location of the funder logo
  • \urbntitle{} Adds formatted title. Argument: title text
  • \urbnsubtitle{} Adds formatted subtitle. Argument: text subtitle
  • \urbnauthors{} Adds formatted byline. Argument: byline text
  • \urbnsubhead{} Adds formatted subhead. Argument: subhead text
  • \urbnfigurenumber{} Adds formatted figure label. Argument: figure number
  • \urbnfiguretitle{} Adds formatted figure title. Argument: figure title
  • \urbnsource{} Adds formatted figure source. Argument: figure source
  • \urbnnote{} Adds formatted figure note. Argument: figure note
  • \urbnboilerplate{}{}{} Adds Urban Institute boilerplate to end of current page. Arguments: funder name, month, year. Note: The boilerplate is in an absolute position, not a relative position.
  • \urbntablenumber{} Adds formatted table number. Argument: table number
  • \urbntabletitle{} Adds a formatted table title. Argument: table title text
  • \urbntablesubtitle{} Adds formatted table subtitle. Argument: table subtitle text


Some of the changes require using custom LaTeX environments:

  • \urbnbullets{} Creates an environment for styled bullets. Use:
  \item bullet text
  \item bullet text
  \item bullet text
  • \urbnenumerate{} Creates an environment for styled bullets. Use:
  \item list text
  \item list text
  \item list text

Data visualizations

Styled data visualizations can be created with urbnthemes. Install the package and include the following at the top of the .Rmd file:


set_urbn_defaults(style = "print")

General guidelines

  • No text smaller than 9 point.
  • All headings and body text (including bullets, table text, etc.) should be flush left.
  • First-level headings should be the second-most-prominent text on the page and should include a visual break (i.e., blank space). 12 pt Lato, bold, 12 points of space before the paragraph.
  • Titles, subtitles, and author names should be centered at the top of page one.
  • The title should be the most prominent text on page 1. Titles should be 15 pt Lato, bold, black.
  • Subtitles should be 12 pt Lato, regular, Urban blue.
  • Author name(s) should appear on page 1 under the title (and subtitle, if applicable). Author name(s) should be 11 pt Lato, italic, black, 12 points of space after the paragraph.
  • Make heavy use of the Urban Institute Data Visualization Style Guide
  • Hyperlinks should be included using \href{}{}


The template (for example, simple-factsheet.Rmd) is iterated with the iterate.R script.

iterate.R takes an index, creates a data frame with outfile names and parameters, and iterates the template across each row of the data frame.



  • Aaron Williams


  • Marni Epstein
  • Bhargavi Ganesh
  • Irvin Mull
  • Graham MacDonald
  • Sybil Mendonca
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