Subject: EPHALANTS...
From: Michael J Maloney <mmaloney -at- EPIC-ISTI -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 May 1996 16:27:10 -0400

Peter Gold suggests:

>The number and variety of responses to this thread indicate that there's
>no consensus on something central. The elephant is not visible, but all
>responders have a sure grip on a piece or two of its anatomy.

You're correct. The elephant is not visible. In fact, it's not even an
elephant. However, there IS a tug of war taking place - using an invisible
rope. The battle is over a trend and turf. From my point of view, a bad
trend and common ground.

See, the writers have the upper hand. They have the turf. You can actually
feel the tightness of the grip as you suggest that technical documentation
(in general) does not include sufficient (who rates sufficient) quantities
of illustrations. (I must sound like an illustrator begging for food.) You
know, if money goes to illustration, less of the total budget remains for

They've aquired this turf during the past decade. (Due in large part to the
new publishing tools and the persistent pressures to produce more for less.)
The decisions to use or not to use illustrations (regardless of the skills
of the writer) depends on the writers DESIRE to use them. I know many
writers who couldn't draw a pail of water from a well using a two handled
bucket. Therefore, useful illustrations don't magically appear in their
minds eye as they begin mentally designing their documents.

This scares me. Not as an illustrator. Heck, I haven't drawn anything other
than a bath in years. It scares me because of what it does to technical
communication / documentation.

The writers are in the drivers seat here. If the next maintenance manual you
receive is 99% words and 1% graphics, you can bet it was produced by a
writer without an illustration "mind-set", working with a small budget.

All I'm asking is to keep an open mind. Consider for a moment that if the
trend continues, we as technical communicators will have allowed external
forces to creap in and dictate the content of our documents.

The combination of quality writing, editing, document design, illustration
and reproduction is the key to successful technical documentation. Is this
not our common goal?

And for all you out there thinking I'm trying to unionize technical
publishing or demanding that only CERTIFIED illustrators be used, you're all
wet. You couldn't be further from the truth. I generally don't believe in
unions, and generally don't agree with the idea of certification. This is
strictly a campaign for the betterment of a trade which has traditionally
depended on a balance of two arts (writing and illustrating) for its success.

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

President, ISTI (International Society for Technical Illustrators)
Business Phone: 1-704-523-6907
Business Fax: 1-704-522-7504
Home Phone: 1-803-366-6763

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