RE: Graphic design

Subject: RE: Graphic design
From: Joanne Wittenbrook <jwittenbrook -at- ameritech -dot- net>
To: Al Geist <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 8 Apr 2007 18:00:44 -0700 (PDT)

We are all entitled to our opinion. Yes I am old school, been in the publication business on both design and writing end of things long enough to consider the changes in the last few years to be very recent. When I worked as an art director, I kept the writers from making design decisions because they simply were not as good at it as designers and layout artists. Most of the designers and artists I worked with did not write well. I would never let them edit copy.

The availability of desktop publishing software has turned many writers into "document creators". However, relying on a person who's entire career is spent focusing on design and visuals for that aspect of a publication is not necessarily "inefficient".

The trend to structured authoring removes the task of design and formatting from the hands of the writer. It frees the writers to do what they do best--write. It also results in content that is much easier to re-purpose for web, publishing or on-line help systems.

The notion of having writers focus only on writing may seem old-school, but the industry is trending back in that direction. There are people who have spent their careers doing it all, but large organizations recognize the efficiency of having people focus on what they do best.

Al Geist <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com> wrote:
I totally disagree. The concept that a "writer is to write" is old school
and ignores the evolution of technical writing in the past ten years or

Few writers today have the luxury of only "being a writer." I also think the
more you know about the entire publication process, the more valuable you
are to your company and to your team. I am presently working on a contract
where one member of the staff wants the "writers to just write" so another
contractor will be employed to do the entire layout and prepress. The result
is added inefficiencies and increased difficulty moving from old
print-driven methods of technical documentation to newer single-source
methods that output print in addition to video, CD-ROM, and web-based

As for print production, writers no longer have to know all the
manufacturing steps required for good color separation. All they need to do
now is understand how to prepare a good PDF. Most printers expect PDF inputs
and they use them to the four-color separations. Understanding how to make a
good PDF is a simple matter of spending a few hours with your printer. (It's
not rocket science.)

I have worked as the lone writer most of my career (which includes graphic
arts, magazine publishing and professional photography) and most of that
career found my job description to be one thing, but the job requirements to
include a lot more. I've also found that most art directors try to keep
technical writers from getting involved in graphics and layout because of a
misconception that tech writers only write.

It's been a long time since I've been involved in a project where "writers
only write." Writers today also design web sites, develop interactive
training programs, create Flash and video programs, and the list goes on....

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RE: Graphic design: From: Al Geist

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