Re: Am I an illustrator or a writer?

Subject: Re: Am I an illustrator or a writer?
From: "Robert E. Garland" <robert -at- JTAN -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 1999 20:11:18 -0500

> Moore, Tracey wrote:
> > The goal of a tech writer is to make the documentation usable, right? If
> > engineering isn't providing graphics that meet that goal, and you're
> > doing a better job. . . .
> Very good point. Very good point indeed.
> Certainly there are times I feel a graphic
> illustration of someone plugging a cable into a
> port would do the job a thousand times better than
> yet another tedious written procedure,
> particularly if I am writing for a non-technical
> audience or one that does not use English as a
> first language.
> And I have to admit, along with others who have
> posted here, that I just plain LIKE to do
> graphics; it is a nice change of pace. I am
> worried about the amount of time it takes,
> however, as I am not sure my employer is aware of
> how long it takes me to do a complex illustration.
> I don't want to fall behind schedule because I
> have to re-draw an illustration or touch up a
> marginal one. I suppose then that *that* is where
> I should "draw a line" and ask for help.
> At any rate, it appears from postings here that I
> am not alone in being asked to do extensive
> illustrations, and it is not an unusual demand.
> Apparently I should not expect to have access to a
> technical illustrator for most projects. I will
> factor this into future estimates of work on a
> highly illustrated project. Thanks, all.
> --
> Sarah Stegall || Senior Technical
> Writer
> Terayon Communication Systems ||
> stegall -at- terayon -dot- com
> 2952 Bunker Hill Lane || voice
> 408-919-5893
> Santa Clara, CA 95054 || fax 408-727-6204

Normally I edit things down for my reply. This time I'll let things
In a previous position, the department had a full-time illustrator
supporting a staff of four writers. It was a fine arrangement.
Although the first illustrator was by training a watercolor artist, and
often had to be coached through what the writer wanted, the second
illustrator had started out with an aircraft firm straight out of art
school, and was most adept. One could take the device to her, along
with the necessary tools for disassembly, and say, "Bert, I need to have
a view from this angle to show all the items I'm describing." Next day,
you had you drawing. It was usually perfect on the first pass. In
another employ, I had to do my own art work. I am quite bad as an
artist, but got excellent results by taking a photo, scanning it, using
appropriate tools to convert edit the drawing, and reconverting it to
the necessary form. This always took much more time than the previous
scenario of having the professional illustrator do it.

The message: every good pubs department deserves a fine technical
illustrator. The appropriate mix of words and pictures makes for a
better pub -- on paper, or online.

Robert Garland
Pennsylvania USA
robert -at- jtan -dot- com

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