RE: Figures with numbered callouts

Subject: RE: Figures with numbered callouts
From: "Chinell, David F (GE EntSol, Security)" <David -dot- Chinell -at- GE -dot- com>
To: "Nancy Allison" <maker -at- verizon -dot- net>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 3 Nov 2009 18:18:47 -0500


Whether it's right or wrong, our approach is to simulate the callout
legend being part of the drawing. It's in an invisible table after the
image, but the position and font are intended to convey the impression
that the legend was created in the drawing package and is part of the
drawing itself. Our figure captions go above the figures, so we have
structures like this:

Figure caption
Figure graphic (the drawing, inline in its own para)
Figure notes (for the callout legend: either plain paras, or cells in an
invisible formatting table)

Because it's difficult to automate font changes inside drawings, we
settled on always using Arial Unicode at 8 point in our drawings.
Drawings may still have some text in them (line names, text on products,
etc.). And we set our callout numbers in the same face and size, but put
a circle around them. To make the callout legend look like part of the
drawing, the FigureNote style is also Arial Unicode 8.

When a drawing has just a handful of callout numbers, we don't title the
legend. If there are both notes (engineering diagrams can accumulate
them all too rapidly) and a callout legend, we might use titles to
distinguish between them -- again trying to make it look like the
headings, notes, and callout text are part of the drawing.

The horrible part comes when the figure and the callout legend have to
be separated. For example, if we place the figure only once at the
beginning of a multilingual document, but repeat the callouts in each
language. I think this is a serious offense to the reader, but it's a
hard fight to convince the product managers to repeat those figures if
it means more pages.

In those horrible cases, we may set the callout legend as a regular
table of its own and rely on the surrounding text to properly connect
them in the reader's mind. Or we may abandon our regular table caption
and title and use a title like "Figure 5 legend" for the table. But
that's far from ideal -- the tables look like they have figure captions.

If anybody has a best practice or better idea about how to handle this,
please chime in.

Oh, and in body text, we refer to the callout numbers using the term
"item." So you'd see things like: Release the captive screw (Figure 2,
item 3) at the bottom of the casing.


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Figures with numbered callouts: From: Nancy Allison

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