Visual Design

Sometimes in Technical Communications, it does need to look pretty. Articles on visual design and visually based content.

effective infographics

Effective Infographics: Telling Stories in the Technical Communication Context

The word infographic is a portmanteau created by jamming together two words: information that you want to convey in a graphic form. Bar graphs and their cousins primarily present numbers. An infographic informs—it helps the viewer to translate raw data into meaningful information, and the accuracy of the data is less important than the accuracy of the message. Continue reading ...

Ten Design Principles and When to Violate Them

Dieter Rams, a German industrial designer from the functionalist school, followed a philosophy that will sound familiar when I paraphrase it: “form follows function” and “usability is fitness for purpose.” You know his work if you've used any Braun products released from the 1960s to the 1990s, or if you've used recent Apple products, many of which were inspired by his design principles. Let’s look at what technical communicators can learn from these principles—and when we should consider violating them. Continue reading ...

pictorial instructions

Pictorial Instructions – What are they Good For?

Pictorial instructions are part of instructional design, which is related to technical writing. Studies have shown that most humans have a cognitive preference towards picture based instructions – pictures are easier to understand and remember. Unlike reading, which is a skill that is taught researchers assume that humans learn to understand and follow pictorial instructions through experience and exposure. Continue reading ...

TechWhirl: Technical Communications Recap for March 16, 2012

The TechWhirl gang has returned from a great WritersUA conference in Memphis, with pages and pages of notes that are already being turned into articles about the latest and greatest in user assistance, lots of photos on Pinterest, good memories of the home of the Blues, and newfound appreciation for the role of ducks in modern society. Continue reading ...

Technical Writer Tips & Tricks: Video Tutorials

It should come as a surprise to no one that we all hate to read technical documentation. Not just our end users, but us technical communicators too. So it should also come as no surprise that, over the last year or two, requests for video tutorials (standalone or as companions to written documentation) have been at an all-time high. The major leaders in this space (Google, Apple, Adobe, and Cisco) have already dedicated huge resources to video libraries. If you’re not making (or considering making) at least some video tutorials, then you’re about to be left behind. Continue reading ...

Developing a Departmental Style Guide

This article provides information that will help you in planning and developing a style guide. You'll find information about the purposes of a style guide and guidelines for what should (and should not) be included, whether to develop one or more style guides, and how detailed the style guide should be. Continue reading ...

Understanding Graphic File Formats

Identifying and fixing problems with graphics often comes down to a brief reminder of what the various kinds of graphic formats are and how to use each of them when they're the most appropriate--not merely most convenient--for the technical communications situation you're facing. Continue reading ...