Technical Editing & Production



Book and long report design


Kimball & Hawkins -- Chap 4. The Whole Document

Kimball & Hawkins -- Chap 11. Production

Explicit Structure in Print and On-Screen Documents

Organization by Design: Some Implications for Structuring Information.

Universal principles of design

Scribus workshop

Scribus styles

Critical thinking paper

One of the samples (innovation 1 and innovation 2) give the developmental phases of a complex chart to show how the design evolved over time. I said that, "Many new designers seem to have the misconception that they can arrive at a great design on the first try or that their first thought is THE answer."  Then I recommend three to four "very different designs for a project before moving forward with a final idea." Article #3, "Paragraph Formatting" recommends, "When starting a new project, experiment with the amount of leading to find what works best."  Article #4, "Margins" states, "Establishing margins requires careful consideration."  Later it adds, "All we can offer is the recommendation that the margin be proportioned in a pleasing balance and that differences in height and breadth be obvious."

What do you think?  How should the three to four "very different designs" be different?  What elements should you alter?  Should each be isolated and changed, or should the designer have several independent/creative sessions and simply choose the best?  How do you determine the "best"?



Many designers recommend using storyboarding as a technique for organizing long documents. There you draw a sketch or a write a summary of the contents and hang them all on the wall. You could also use Post-it notes. This lets you rearrange them as you desire. It gives you a way of checking that the important knowledge is there without getting lost in the details.

wesk answer Storyboarding helps the designer to explore the different design options available and identify with any difficult situations that could delay the design process. Arranging a storyboard on the wall allows the design team to focus on only the organization of a document. Storyboarding can be created on a computer but then the designer might focus on other elements of the design, such as size, color or typography. Creating a storyboard first will help to generate a document plan that offers consistency and saves time on each page.


A design issue that often gets forgotten is that manuals undergo revision. You ship product version 1 and then start working on version 2. Most of the manual is the same, but some parts change. Without planning for maintenance from the beginning, the design can be very hand-tweaked and will break. (A trivial example is people who format papers with returns and put the header as the top line of text. Add one line and everything breaks from the rest of the document).

What issues do you have to consider to make sure the design can handle later changes? How do you enforce the initial design choices when later in the development it becomes "just fix it so we can get it to the printer."

weak answer Maintenance of documents is important. You have to plan for it from the beginning. The author needs a good system of tracking files so they can find them when it is time for making revisions.


You are working on the production of a relatively long technical manual 200-250 pages perfect bound and a couple thousand copy print run. The text is written and is being copyedited. The individual section writers will still review the the copyedits and the CRC.

a) What types of questions are you going to have to ask the printer. Your employer is paying for the printing and it ships with your product; issues such a royalties or distribution are not relevant (which, BTW, a printer doesn't handle anyway).

weak answer (these are all obvious) I would ask the printer what file formats he or she accepts (.pdf, .indd etc.). I would ask how they want us to manage the image and font files for easiest formatting.I would ask for a general estimate for the costs. I would also ask how the printer intends to deliver the proofs.

b) What guidance are you going to have to give to your manager and the other writers (who are engineer/programmer/business types with no technical writing training). In other words, they have no clue what book production involves; to them, printing means using a copy machine.

Thoughts to ponder


Recent research has found that headings should be written as declarative statements. Tell the person what is in the section using a phrase. Rather than saying Electrical System, say "Design of the Electrical System" They've also found that Power Point slide titles should be a full sentence ....basically, take what is typically the first sentence on the slide and make it the title.


Here's a scan of a bleed edge from a magazine. It was folded over, so it didn't get cut. It shows how a bleed edge is created.


Farkas says "Document structure remains implicit until it is made explicit." He then explains how both print and online documents tend to use hierarchies, since people naturally think of information this way. Yet, many web advocates seem to constantly claim the web is much better than print because of its use of links. (Interestingly, having a highly complex set of links is what causes people to get lost in hyperspace.) So, the question is: is information structuring really different for print and the web? Are the organizational schemes really different or are some people confused in thinking that flipping a page is totally different from clicking a link. As a follow-on question: what if the person must compare information at two different locations. One example is a physician looking at different test results that are stored in different places in your medical chart (I'm thinking of a person in the hospital , not a clinical setting.). Which works better paper or online? What are the advantages and disadvantages? And who benefits?

On page 62, Gribbons spends most of it talking about selective processing of information and information within a hierarchy. How does this actually translate to page or screen design? What methods and techniques can we use to exploit these factors? And how can the production level factors cause us trouble: different window sizes, not controlling the actually page layout, etc?



Design by Michael J. Albers Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
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