Re: Hot Topics

Subject: Re: Hot Topics
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 1997 09:12:41 -0600

At 08:25 PM 3/8/97 PST, you wrote:

>
>I don't know about video, but certainly illustration is under-used
>in most manuals. Every writer should take a technical illustration
>course, even if you have illustrators at your beck and call, so you
>understand the field well enough to integrate illustrations into
>your document design.
>
>I usually take a "pictures first, then words" approach to documents.
>
> -- Robert
>--
Me too. I once startled an illustrator by baldly telling her that her
"pitchers" would be of far more importance than my words could be. In fact,
I'm one of the few people I know who studies the little cards that airlines
put in the pockets of seats telling you where the exits are. I don't
memorize exit routes, I admit, but I'm fascinated by how well the card can
do its job without words. Some work for me, some don't. I'll often sit
looking at one for minutes at a time, trying to see what's effective and
what isn't. Then people sitting next to me start looking at theirs, too,
thinking that maybe I got a psychic reading before takeoff or something.

Here's a conundrum...I once read a hypothetical (I THINK it was a
hypothetical) situation in which a manual was reduced literally to nothing
more than a comic book without even thought balloons to interrupt the
graphical approach. Then, when a user was hurt by not following the
instructions closely, he/she sued on the basis that any instructions that
look like a comic book can't reasonably expect to be taken seriously, hence
is containing its own seeds for being ignored. In other words, the more
infantile we make our instructions, the more a user should be expected to
look at those instructions as Capain Marvel tripe and ignore them. Taken to
an extreme, a manual done in High Latin in an illuminated manuscript would
unconditionally shield the manufacturer from liability of having his manual
ignored. So, presumably, would a manual laid out to look like a 1040-A.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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