Re: Who's Job is it to Layout a Book?

Subject: Re: Who's Job is it to Layout a Book?
From: Donald Le Vie <dlevie -at- VLINE -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1999 16:29:20 -0500


I don't think your perspective will rub people the wrong's just
another perspective. There's just so many ways of doing things because of
the different roles we each have within our respective organizations. I
"migrated" from the technical writer to consultant/independent contractor
(whatever put macaroni and cheese on the table) to information developer to
information development director. My role as an information developer was
far more encompassing than my role as a technical writer. In my previous
job, I was ID project manager. Not only did I supervise other TWs, I was
also involved with developing templates (with FrameMaker) for the 8
differnet document types the division produced, as well as helping engineers
write application notes, addendum, errata, and writing/editing content (with
FrameMaker) for user manuals and programmer reference manuals. I also served
as the division's Information Mapping and SGML contact.

Some companies make a distinction between TWs and IDs; some don't. In those
companies that do, some TWs want to stay TWs; some want to "move up" (their
words, not mine) and absorb more responsibility and skills. In my current
position as ID director, not only am I involved in all of the above, I'm
being pulled in to new business development on an increasing frequency...and
I like it. Finally, after 20+ years of toil, the depth and breadth of my
experience is being utilized to its fullest.

Perspectives are influenced by past history and what sounds like a practical
solution in one company may not be one in another. Larger companies are in a
better position to afford "specialists": one person writes, one person
designs, one person does layout; one person does HTML conversions, etc.
Smaller companies, on the other hand, can't afford that luxury and really
need the person who can do it all and then some...

Just goes to show you that there are more ways than one to get a book

Donn Le Vie
Director, Information Development
Integrated Concepts

> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Knopf [SMTP:david -at- KNOPF -dot- COM]
> Sent: Thursday, July 15, 1999 4:08 PM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Re: Who's Job is it to Layout a Book?
> David Hickey asked about who should do what in terms of designing the
> layout
> for a book.
> I can tell from some of the responses I've seen that my perspective will
> rub
> some people the wrong way. I think there's only one way to ensure the best
> possible results: recognize that book design is a collaborative effort. It
> involves the writer, a book designer, and a production specialist. Yes
> it's
> possible that one person can cover all three bases, but in 20 years in the
> business, I've never yet met one person who could cover all three of these
> bases well.
> In my opinion, these are the proper roles:
> 1. The writer identifies what elements need to be included the book. That
> is, how many levels of headings, how many levels in the index, what kind
> of
> information needs to be shown in the headers and footers, what types of
> lists will be used (numbered, bulleted, definition), and so forth. The
> writer creates a sample document that includes some of all of these
> elements
> and supplies that sample document to a book designer.
> 2. The book designer creates a design based on the input from the writer.
> (Notice I am not using the term "graphic designer." Lots of graphic
> designers have no clue how to design a book; a book designer is a graphic
> designer with specific book design experience). The book design, typically
> created in Quark XPress or Illustrator, shows what the book will look like
> when finished. The writer and the book designer normally have to go back
> and
> forth on this a bit until the information needs defined by the writer are
> fully met in the design created by the designer. Once the design is pretty
> much approved, the designer gives it to a production person.
> 3. The production person then creates appropriate templates (hopefully in
> FrameMaker, a tool which is actually designed for producing books) that
> implement the book design. Very few writers have enough depth of
> experience
> in template design to create high-quality, reusable templates; those who
> do
> invariably work at rates far higher than those commanded by production
> specialists. Sometimes, there needs to be some back and forth between the
> production person and the designer. It is possible to design things that
> make the production process much more difficult; the book designer can
> almost always modify the design slightly to make the production task run
> more smoothly. Having implemented the designer's layout as a set of
> templates in a suitable tool (again usually FrameMaker for us), the
> templates go back to the writer, who uses them to create books.
> This process allows each team member to do what he or she does best. Our
> approach allows writers to write, designers to design, and production
> specialists to handle production. Not only does this lead to better
> results,
> it also reduces costs. It makes no sense to pay a Senior Technical Writer
> to
> do production layout work. We ask our writers to write, our designer to
> design, and our production people to handle production. We also use
> illustrators and ask writers to produce only rough sketches of any
> illustrations that are needed. I know that some writers wouldn't enjoy
> working here because they wouldn't have the chance to apply their skills
> in
> all these different areas. However, in my experience, our process leads to
> the best possible results at a reasonable cost.
> Regards,
> David Knopf
> Knopf Online
> Tel: 415-820-2356
> E-mail: mailto:david -at- knopf -dot- com
> Web:
> RoboHELP Certified Trainer & Consultant
> WebWorks Publisher Certified Trainer
> Hands-on RoboHELP training classes
> every month in Chicago, Dallas & San Francisco
> From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=
> =

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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