Re: Manual design questions?

Subject: Re: Manual design questions?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2001 12:10:37 -0800

"Hart, Geoff" wrote:

> "Branding" relates to an awful lot more than just the appearance of the
> page; in fact, that's arguably the least important part of branding. That's
> particularly true if the existing templates already differ widely enough
> that they present no single impression of the brand. Usability and the
> overall impression of your company that a reader gets from reading the
> manual are much more important aspects of branding in the context of
> documentation.

Usability and overall impression? Where do these come from, if not
from design. Aside from very broad issues, such as whether the
design makes people want to read the manual at all, how the
information is arranged has a major effect on how easy the manual is
to read and scan. Similarly, simply changing the font for body text
can change whether a company's public face is conservative or
innovative. However, these perceptions usually go unnoticed because
they take place below the level of consciousness. Everyone is much
less rational than they like to think.

Virtually every client I ever had has told me the same thing: just
focus on the information, and don't worry about layout. Being a fast
work and a perfectionist and interested in design, I've often made
design suggestions anyway (when I could do so without interferring
with deadlines or budgets, of course). Without exception, the same
people who told me not to worry about layout have enthused about my
suggestions and adapted them. Now, that may prove that design is
more interesting than complete, accurate, and concise information,
but I prefer to think that it shows the power of design - especially
since I'm self-taught and probably far from an expert.

Bruce Byfield 317.833.0313 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com
Director of Marketing and Communications, Progeny Linux Systems
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux

"I got sinister things waiting for you in my rattle-bag,
Egyptian rings, and the dust of kings and the tooth of hag,
The bones of Keats, the tongues of cheats and a mad dog's eye
I'm going to make you love me, and you won't know why."
-Richard Thompson, "The Business on You"

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