Re: Issues with illustrations?

Subject: Re: Issues with illustrations?
From: Richard Hamilton <dick -at- rlhamilton -dot- net>
To: Steven Jong <stevefjong -at- comcast -dot- net>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2015 13:53:34 -0800

Hi Steven,

The biggest problems I run into as a publisher revolve around the challenge of creating illustrations that work in print, web, and multiple eBook formats.

That challenge has (at least) two dimensions:

1) Designing and executing an illustration that clearly communicates your intention across media that range from a monochrome kindle to a phone screen to a tablet to a printed page.

2) Wrestling with vendor (ebook and print) requirements for format, color (RGB vs. CMYK), resolution, transparency, ... etc.

The first challenge is mostly a design question, which usually requires some experimentation to get the best balance of detail and clarity. I don't think there's a formula, except to avoid getting locked into a particular design until you know it will work across all the media. You sometimes have to rethink complex illustrations or even abandon them and go with alternatives (for example, tables or lists, though each has it's own challenges).

The second challenge is mostly just a time sink. You need to know the requirements and keep on top of them (the ebook requirements are especially variable). My main tool for dealing with this diversity is to use SVG for all of our true illustrations (i.e., not screenshots or photographs). That takes care of print, and with good tools you can generate the rest (being a largely open-source shop, we use Inkscape and Gimp, which do a nice job for SVG and image processing, respectively). Then we use DocBook XML conditional processing to select the correct image for each deliverable. That usually translates to two, one for print and one for ebooks (we could further diverge for different type of ebooks, and we can do that if needed, but usually there's an acceptable lowest common denominator).

I don't claim we get it perfectly right (I cringe at some of the illustrations we've done:), but we keep trying.

Hope that helps.

Best regards,
Richard Hamilton
-------
XML Press
XML for Technical Communicators
http://xmlpress.net
hamilton -at- xmlpress -dot- net



On Feb 5, 2015, at 19:42, Steven Jong <stevefjong -at- comcast -dot- net> wrote:

> I am collecting information for a presentation at the STC New England regional conference (InterChange). I am going to discuss current best practices and issues with illustrations in technical communication. What would you say are the current issues with illustrations? I would appreciate your input.
>
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References:
Issues with illustrations?: From: Steven Jong

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