Re: Doing your own graphics (an illustrators perspective)

Subject: Re: Doing your own graphics (an illustrators perspective)
From: David Jones/KSBEISD <David_Jones/KSBEISD -dot- KSBEISD -at- DATAHUB -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 13 May 1996 11:13:45 HST

Someone claiming to be mmaloney @ EPIC-ISTI.COM (Michael J Maloney) recently
recently drew a verbal picture on the subject of Doing your own graphics (an
illustrators perspective):

>Technical writers never cease to amaze me.
Can you imagine the absurdity of a technical illustration group getting
together and talking about "Doing Your Own Writing / Editing". The writers
would have a cow.<
No, I can't imagine the absurdity, because I don't consider it absurd. I'm
all for it! I encourage others on staff to do their own writing. It gets the
technical content of my docs done faster. It stretches their minds a bit. It
encourages them to think beyond their area of expertise. They don't consider me
disposable, either, becayse I haven't found a single one yet who was willing to
let his or her writing become public until I had polished it up for them!
Personally, I think any writer or illustrator who is bound and determined to
be *only* a writer or *only* an illustrator is putting his or herself out on a
very thin limb when company cost-cutters come around.
Such a person also cuts him or herself off from the powerful synergy
possible when doing both as a unified process.

>It's bad enough that you (some of you) do your own (our own) trade
(technical communication) a tremendous disservice by under-utilizing high
quality, professionally produced technical illustrations, but you've
completely lost site of the document structure and the publishing process.

Technical writing (prepared by a professional writer) should be edited by an
editor, place into a document designed by a publishing specialist and should
be accompanied by professionally produced technical illustrations. Sure, the
writer can decide the content of the illustrations, but if the writers
intend to produce the illustrations themselves, they will limit the
technical complexity to their own skill level and therefore possibly produce
a less effective document.<
Well, I disagree with that. First, I have yet to "limit the technical
complexity" to my own skill level when I do illustrations (but then, I'm weird
-- if I don't already know how to do something, I'm willing to learn). Second,
I think that the effectiveness of a document is not a simple linear equation
(quality writing + quality illustration = quality document) but a complex
product of many dimensions. Third, I've had professional writers and
professional illustrators produce lousy text and illustrations, and they
usually do it in an unimaginative way. Professional is as professional does.

>If our combined trade skills are supposed produce the optimum in technical
communications, we must each go with our strengths and training. Please get
off the "do it yourself" bandwagon and leave the illustrations to
illustrators. In return, the illustrators will continue to resist the
temptation to write, edit and publish.<
Pleasant dreams! When you wake up, try fitting both a writer and an
illustrator into a budget that has room for only half of one or the other, but
not a whole one of either.

>If executed properly, a picture can be worth a thousand words. Just try to
describe how to build a LEGO Santa Clause using words alone. Then, imagine
trying the same with images alone.<
Agreed, illustrations and text each have their purpose, and work together
better than either does alone. But I think you would have better illustrations
if you first made the illustrator sit down and write out the instructions, and
you would have better writing if you first made the writer sit down and
illustrate the process. In both cases, the people involved would really be
thinking about what they're documenting, rather than focussing on the
"professional" way of doing it in their area of expertise.

>All I'm asking is for "some" writers to consider the design, development and
production of technical documentation as a team process. IMHO, this approach
will strengthen our trade and produce better products for our consumers.<
Writing and illustration are just screwdrivers and hammers in our toolboxes.
If I'm a writer and say, "The best way to communicate this is to write it out,"
or if I'm an illustrator and say, "They best way to communicate this is to draw
it," I always need to make sure I'm not choosing to use the hammer simply
because I'm most familiar with it. I also need to make sure I'm not refusing to
use the screwdriver simply because I'm not as good with it as I am with the
hammer.
Also, no matter what you call it, a group of people, each of which is
focussed on keeping the others out of "his" or "her" turf, is not a team.

>Note: This communication is not intended to upset anyone. If you are
offended, I apologize in advance. If this communication does not apply to
you, there's no need to be offended. If you would like to comment to me, or
the list, fine. If your impulse is to "flame the illustrator", please
refrain. Thank you.<
I'm not offended. Besides, I never flame on only "impulse" power! I always
use Warp for that!<G>

>Michael J. Maloney
President, EPIC Creative Services
2230 Lyndhurst Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28203 USA

President, ISTI (International Society for Technical Illustrators)<
Well, I won't hold it against you! <G>

So what do other folk think of all this?

JFOA. NOI. HAND!

David Jones, Technical Writer
David_Jones/KSBEISD -dot- KSBEISD -at- Datahub -dot- com
Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate

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