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Subject:EPHALANTS... -Reply From:David Hailey <FAHAILEY -at- WPO -dot- HASS -dot- USU -dot- EDU> Date:Wed, 15 May 1996 16:28:45 -0600
I'm responding off the list because I don't want to be accused of beating
this topic to death. I agree with all of the things you have said below. I
got my BA from the University of Puget Sound in both art and writing, not
nearly as prestigious as RISD, but an art degree nonetheless. I also did a
Masters at the University of Oklahoma. But all I did then was watch my
field dry up. I worked in great jobs, but I found that every time I moved,
my writing skills were more demanded and my art skills less demanded
until in the 1980's I virtually never drew and wrote continuously.
Visually speaking, I am not a slouch; I have won two national awards
(not important awards, but national nonetheless), but to eat, I had to
Now, however, I am convinced that no editor of multimedia can possibly
survive without both skills, whole and in place (plus more than a passing
understanding of programming). You only have to look briefly at the MM
crap presently on the market to recognize that it is either being done by
programmers or writers or artists.
My wife is an engineer. To be good she has to be programmer /
mathematician / physical scientist. Nobody ever tells her that it is
impossible to be all three. I simply cannot understand why anybody
would tell me that I cannot be artist / writer / programmer. It represents a
much longer learning curve, but it is only harder, not impossible.
I teach my Technical Communications students graphic design along with
document management because I believe that they must have both of
those skills in place to survive the evolution communications is going
through. Interestingly, every one of my seniors is already has a job
waiting for their graduation. One got an editorial position from Novell at
$40K plus 200 shares of stock as a signing bonus--can you believe that?
It makes me wonder how much I really love research.
I agree with that a world where alphanumeric text predominates will,
indeed, be bleak, but I don't teach my students that. I teach an average
of no less than 50% visual image. Among other things, I teach how to
lead the eye, and how to present honest visuals (and to recognize
dishonest visuals). And, and most importantly, how to find illustrators,
photographers, and printers. Furthermore, we send them to the art
department for even more visual education.
In the end, the only place I find myself disagreeing with you is in your
assumption that it is not reasonable to simultaneously posses visual and
literary skills. Good writers are visual and good illustrators are masters
of metaphor--it seems a natural combination to me.
The computer quite literally knocked me out of a career, but that same
computer replaced it with one that is profoundly more exciting.
But of course Cogito ergo falsus sum or I think therefore I am wrong.
PS: If you aren't drawing anymore, what are you doing?
They've acquired this turf during the past decade. (Due in large part to
the new publishing tools and the persistent pressures to produce more
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
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.
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