Who lays out the books?

Subject: Who lays out the books?
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1999 14:06:32 -0400

David Hickey wondered <<whose job is it to design the
layout of the documentation? Does the technical writer
design this or is it the Graphic Design department's job?>>

Bad news, David: the answer is "it depends". I've worked at a
variety of jobs and with a variety of clients, and the various
possibilities are pretty much infinite. At different times I've:
- written the text, designed the book, and done the layout
without so much as a glimpse of the graphics people
- edited the text, had no say in the book design, and never
saw the layout or even proofs.
- done something between these extremes.

Currently, I do very occasional layouts, but primarily write
and edit. On the plus side, I work directly with the graphics
people (graphic artist and layout person) to ensure that the
graphics and layout support what I'm trying to say with the
text; to a certain extent, each of us has veto power over the
others, but it hasn't yet come to a confrontation. I also just
participated in the redesign of some relatively ineffective old
publications formats into a new standard that I hope will work
much better (and that I won't bitch about nearly so much).
We did this in a three-way collaboration, which is the way to
go if you can swing it. You get some decent synergies, and
everyone feels respected and needed.

<<I've just had my wings clipped at my new client... "You are
a writer, so focus on the writing. Layout, fonts, font styles,
and the like are a questions of graphics and are to be handled
by the Graphics department. You are not a Graphic Artist.">>

People sometimes get fairly proprietary about their territory,
so it's always best to find out what they will and won't accept
_before_ you tread on sensitive toes. In my experience, the
best bet is to establish a relationship of mutual trust and
respect with the graphics people so you can collaborate on
these things, rather than fighting over them. If you can show
them you know how to talk the talk and walk the walk, you're
no longer just an upstart graphiste-wannabe: suddenly, you're
a fellow professional who knows the problems they face. That
gives you a chance to discuss your design with them and sell
them on it. Of course, if you can't make the sale, it may turn
out that they too know something about design and their
design is every bit as effective as yours.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Though the editor is the author's ally, she should never forget that
she is also the reader's first line of defense."--Shoshanna Green

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