RE: What happened to information architecture and design

Subject: RE: What happened to information architecture and design
From: "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Robert Lauriston" <robert -at- lauriston -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2016 22:44:42 +0000

This is an excellent point, but it still doesn't get at what's the answer for me.

I think what's missing for me in contemporary technical communication is a sense of "enchantment" that let's say you would get when opening a book from the 1800's or the early 1900's and you'd be immediately transported into a different realm, at the same time that you would be educated.

Now look, I know "enchantment" is a little far afield of the goal of tech comms and the budget, you would think. I'm not saying we should be writing books of fairy tales.

But I think the big thing that's missing is the sense of the visual. And I'm not talking about gratuitous images. For example, today, most images are simply plugged into their appropriate spot wholesale. They're separate things. They're referred to. In some ways they're not inseparable from the text or from what's being discussed.

I want an image to be woven into the fabric of the piece, essential to the meaning of the piece and the composition. Otherwise, why use it in the first place? And images can be so powerful.

In fact the image can be the focal point of the piece.

I'm not talking about something like IKEA, with the assembly instruction sheets. Those are great, but that's one end of the spectrum.

If I open a copy of "Treasure Island" and I see one Wyeth illustration, that can alter my entire experience of the story. In a good way. And that's great. That's what I want. I want the image to set the stage and be woven into the actual text of what's being communicated.

The problem with most infographics is, the image usually dominates, and the text is an afterthought. That's because those are typically designed by artists, for whom the image is paramount and text is just something they have to drag along. Maybe I'm characterizing those folks in the wrong way, but it seems to me their concern regarding text would be more for typography and how it fits into the visual composition of the piece rather than the meaning of the text itself. (Or maybe they're only interested in the meaning as it informs the image. They're not interested in the meaning for its own sake.)

This is a lot of mumbo-jumbo and I'd much rather wait until I can find something concrete that I can link to that will illustrate what I'm trying to talk about. I had actually looked at the examples that Mark linked to several weeks ago, on my own, and frankly (no offense, Mark), I don't like them. The reason is that they are all linear and (almost) all 100% text. They remind me of the command-line interface reference manuals I used to write 20+ years ago. Developer types probably love them, but writer-types do not. And that's the dilemma for folks on this list and in this field: there are the developers, and there are the writers, and it seems like never the twain shall meet. At least in terms of artists' sensibilities.

The conveyance of information should be an *experience*. That's what makes it memorable, that's what makes the learning stick. And that's what makes the learning enjoyable, by the way.

If I come across something I can find that represents what I'm talking about, I'll post it. But based on the things we've all said, I might be conducting that search for a while. So don't hold your breath.

Steve

--
On Tuesday, March 29, 2016 1:49 PM, Robert Lauriston wrote:

People think less about theories after they have spawned tools and procedures, especially when only portions of a theory turn out to be useful in practice.

A lot of Horn's theories are embodied in the design of mainstream technical documentation authoring tools, even for those of us who don't use DITA: modular writing of topics, organization of topics using map-like structures, differentiating between procedural, conceptual, and reference topics, integrated graphics, etc.

On Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 1:19 PM, Janoff, Steven <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com> wrote:
>... Nor does the money answer explain why the ideas have not continued to be discussed and at least bandied about within the community. It's not like everyone is saying, "Well, I'll never be able to do anything like that -- we don't have the budget -- so I give up even thinking about it."

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Follow-Ups:

References:
What happened to information architecture and design: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: What happened to information architecture and design: From: th
RE: What happened to information architecture and design: From: mbaker
RE: What happened to information architecture and design: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: What happened to information architecture and design: From: Lin Sims
RE: What happened to information architecture and design: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: What happened to information architecture and design: From: Jonathan Baker
RE: What happened to information architecture and design: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: What happened to information architecture and design: From: Robert Lauriston

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