RE: document design: I don't know what I don't know

Subject: RE: document design: I don't know what I don't know
From: Lynne Wright <Lynne -dot- Wright -at- tiburoninc -dot- com>
To: Gregory P Sweet <gps03 -at- health -dot- state -dot- ny -dot- us>, Becca <becca -at- di -dot- org>
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2012 13:24:07 +0000

I don't think you'd benefit from taking an entire course on typography. The fundamentals of which fonts are most readable on-screen and/vs in print are pretty basic (hint: non-serif faces look more modern and display better at all resolutions because the stroke width of the letter components don't vary from thin to thicker as they do in serif fonts) and that work with your overall corporate image can be kind of figured out intuitively by comparing examples and playing around, backed up by ground rules that you can find on the Internet.

In terms of how design impacts usability in technical documentation, what you need to know is not so much graphic-artist-focused concerns such as how to make it look pretty/follow an eye-catching visual style (issues that apply more to magazines, newsletters, etc.), but fundamentals of readability and how people's brains work when faced with a page of content -- how to balance type size/line spacing vs. line length; use of white space; how to place illustrations; how to use captions and callouts without generating clutter; how to organize information so that you get a logical visual flow from left to right/top to bottom; how to make important information (and recurring doc components such as section and procedure headers) stand out; and how to make all of those factors work whether the doc is delivered in hard copy or as a pdf, and whether the content can be converted into help files that reflect the same overall look and functionality.

So unless you can find a course that specifically deals with those issues, you may be best off seeing what you can find on the Internet/buy some relevant books/look at a lot of examples of technical manuals and try to develop an eye for what works and what doesn't for you as a reader.

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+lynne -dot- wright=tiburoninc -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+lynne -dot- wright=tiburoninc -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Gregory P Sweet
Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 8:22 AM
To: Becca
Cc: techwr-l-bounces+gps03=health -dot- state -dot- ny -dot- us -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com; tech2wr-l
Subject: Re: document design: I don't know what I don't know


Just take the design courses. You need to master design fundementals before
you begin to figure out how to apply those fundementals to technical
documents.

-Greg

techwr-l-bounces+gps03=health -dot- state -dot- ny -dot- us -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com wrote on
08/28/2012 08:34:39 PM:

> From: Becca <becca_price -at- yahoo -dot- com>
> To: tech2wr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
> Date: 08/28/2012 08:34 PM
> Subject: document design: I don't know what I don't know
> Sent by: techwr-l-bounces+gps03=health -dot- state -dot- ny -dot- us -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
>
> I am in a technical communication certificate program at our local
> community college. I'm trying to put together a proposal for an
> independent study class on document design from a writer's
> viewpoint. (My documents are serviceable, but not particularly
> inspired). The school has several courses that relate to what I want
> to learn: for example, there's a typography class and a document
> design class, but they're all part of the Graphics Design
> curriculum, and (from the few courses I've taken in that curriculum)
> very design-focused, not document-focused. I'm not a graphics
> designer, and not interested in the design of type faces, for
> example, but I know I need to know more about specing type faces
> beyond Arial and Times New Roman. the trouble is, I don't know what
> I don't know - I'm not sure where to begin asking the questions,
> much less finding answers.
>
>
> So - if you were designing a 3-credit course in designing technical
> documentation, what sorts of topics would you include?
>
> Thanks!
>
> -becca
>

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Create and publish documentation through multiple channels with Doc-To-Help. Choose your authoring formats and get any output you may need.

Try Doc-To-Help, now with MS SharePoint integration, free for 30-days.

http://bit.ly/doc-to-help

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Follow-Ups:

References:
document design: I don't know what I don't know: From: Becca
Re: document design: I don't know what I don't know: From: Gregory P Sweet

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