RE: Graphic design

Subject: RE: Graphic design
From: "Al Geist" <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>
To: "'Joanne Wittenbrook'" <jwittenbrook -at- ameritech -dot- net>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2007 08:07:07 -0400

Joanne Wittenbrook wrote:

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".

I'll give you that on the affects of desktop publishing software on the
publishing industry, but I have also interviewed too many "graphic" artists
who are that only because they took a course in DTP, just as I've
interviewed potential writers who think they can write because they took the
same DTP class. So, this argument swings both ways. I got into this field
long before Macs and PCs or DTP and I've been a professional photographer
for nearly 40 years. A good camera does not make you a photography and a new
desktop publishing program does not make you a writer or graphic artist.

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.

In my last few places of employment, the trend was just the opposite. In
one, we formed an in-house advertising agency where I worked as the
photographer, web developer, technical writer, and Help designer/writer. I
also designed a majority of the marketing collateral, including brochures,
pamphlets, convention posters, training handouts, etc. I agree that the
trend in some areas of writing is structured authoring, but that doesn't
mean that technical authors only write, or that they may be best at only

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.

Again, I have to disagree. In some larger companies this may be the trend,
but in small companies, reducing labor costs is critical to being
competitive. As I mentioned before, I've worked with a number of companies
where the technical writing staff (me) worked closely with the
marketing/design staff (me and the VP of Marketing). In another company,
graphic design was outsourced and the outsourced graphic artist worked
closely with the technical writing staff (me). So, in my experience the
industry is heading in the opposite direction from what you state.

I'm not saying that there isn't a need for graphic artists, and the rule
that "writer's are there to write" may be valid in large organizations, but
most businesses in the world are not large organizations. In small
companies, the trend has been and will continue to make maximum use of
existing resources. A technical writer with graphics and photography
experience is a much more cost effective solution than employing two
individuals, each with specialized skills in one only area.

Al Geist
Technical Writing, Help, Marketing Collateral, Web Design and Award Winning
Voice/Msg: 802-658-3140
Cell: 802-578-3964
E-mail: <mailto:al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>
mailto:al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com
URL: (Online portfolio and resume)
See also:
URL: (Fine art photographic prints for home or
office and beautiful note cards for all occasions.)


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RE: Graphic design: From: Al Geist
RE: Graphic design: From: Joanne Wittenbrook

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