Graphic design use

Subject: Graphic design use
From: Tom Campbell <tomcampbell -at- EUDORAMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 07:49:40 -0700

I'm responding to your post on TECHWR-L regarding the online graphic design course you're planning for technical writers.

To me there is a big difference between "graphic design," "illustration," "layout," and "diagrams." I differentiate between these as follows:

Graphic design is what art directors and graphic artists do. This involves conceptualizing an overall visual framework--for a publication, website, ad, or billboard, for example--that conveys an impression consistent with the message.

I think of illustration as creating drawings or other images, work on a level that only a trained artist could be expected to produce. Some technical illustrations--for example,a detailed depiction of all the parts in an auto brake assembly--are beyond the scope of many graphic artists, and also beyond the scope of all but a few technical writers.

Diagrams are usually fairly simple compositions of boxes, arrows, clip art, and symbols, which the writer or other worker arranges.

The graphic work that most technical writers do is limited to three things: layout, diagrams, and manipulation of graphic elements.
- Layout involves arranging text and graphics so as to present the information most accurately and/or to convey the desired impression to the reader.
- Diagrams usually encompass flowcharts (including data flow diagrams) and depictions of system design. These are usually not extremely detailed, although they can be complex.
- Manipulation of graphic elements includes doing screen captures, resizing graphics, converting from one graphic format to another, creating and applying color palettes, controlling color depth, etc.

I use whatever application I'm working with to do layout--most commonly, Word. I have also used PageMaker, Adobe Acrobat Exchange, Interleaf, online help tools (RoboHelp), and HTML editors (FrontPage, WebEdit, etc.) If I were a FrameMaker user, I would use that for layout.

The main graphic tools I have used are:
- Visio for diagrams and flowcharts
- PaintShop Pro for screen captures and other manipulation of graphics listed above

I have also used RoboHelp's screen capture utility, and PM Camera (OS2 platform), although I prefer PaintShop Pro to either of those. Occasionally I have to use Microsoft Word's drawing tools, which is about as much fun as going to the dentist. (However, Word's drawing tools are not as bad as trying to do numbered lists in Word, which is about as much fun as a root canal.)

I never use Adobe Illustrator, PhotoShop, Freehand, or other tools that are more in the domain of graphic artists.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

Tom Campbell
tomcampbell -at- EUDORAMAIL -dot- COM
"It's as large as life
and twice as natural!"
--Lewis Carroll

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