Technical Editing & Production



Foundational concepts week 2


Kimball & Hawkins -- Chap 3. Theories of Design

Visual literacies--Taylor

Writing for the Web Versus Writing for Print

Consumer health information on the Web

Universal principles of design

Tools workshop

We're going to be learning how to use features of Word you might not know exist and we are going to learn how to use a tool named Scribus. Scribus is a layout program, not a word processor. In the past, I've used Adobe InDesign, but various licensing issues prevented that. On the other hand, Scribus is free and works similiar to InDesign. If you know one, you'll be able to pick up the other very quickly. InDesign is the leading workplace layout program.

Scribus getting started

Word formatting You're redoing the first Scribus exercise in Word.


Critical thinking paper

from Writing for the Web p. 280.

Readers are no more captive in print than they are on the Web. The decision to read is always a conscious one, and readers can decide to terminate their reading at any point—due to disinterest, inability to comprehend, boredom, lack of time, change of circumstance, or simply because they reach the end (Goodman 1985, p. 835). Authors such as Dervin (1983) recognize that information can’t be pushed onto captive audiences. Instead, readers will access what information interests them (or answers their questions) at the time that is most convenient to them and use the medium that they choose.


The users, not the information designer, decide how much time and effort to spend trying to find and understand the information they need.

How does these relate to the design of the information? Explain what these mean as it relates to how a reader perceives a text? Consider the writer who has produced what they consider a perfect text...it contains accurate and complete information and is grammatically perfect. Many manuals and reports fit these criteria, yet are considered unreadable. What's the problem?



Where do the issues of visual literacy, which Taylor discusses, enter into this overall discussion? How do both the designer and the reader require some level of visual literacy in order to make the mental integrations of the information and use it in a situation?

weak answer The designer must have a strong enough understanding of the client’s content to accurately design a document that conveys the information in the correct nomenclature. In the same vein, the user must have a strong understanding of the terminology used in a specific document to access the information they need. The issue of intercultural communication, addressed in Document Design, also shares a close relationship with visual literacy. If a designer is creating a document to be used across multiple cultural barriers, the designer must take into account the varying understanding of the different cultures


Attracting users to a document is half the battle in effective communication. Robins, Holmes, and Stansbury suggested that "it is possible that if a user first impression is a positive one, that he simply likes the look of the site, that he may be more disposed to believing the information on the site".  Which design elements do you think are most impactful in drawing attention? Which (if any) of those elements do you believe can be counterproductive by diminishing the credibility of the information? What suggestions would you offer for 'finding a happy medium'?

weak answer Robins, Holmes and Stansbury define credibility as the extent of which a user perceives information as trustworthy and believable. The authors’ study indicates that visual design plays a significant role in a user’s perception of credibility. First impressions count in document design. A user must be attracted to the document in order to spend enough time with it to find that the information is useful and accurate. Organized content is a design element that I think is very impactful in drawing a user’s attention. I think it’s important to use a readable and consistent font. Also, the use of titles, headings and paragraphs contribute to well-organized content. A well-organized content makes it easier for a user to follow the flow of information or find information that is important to them.


Thoughts to ponder


I define three levels (data, information and knowledge). Be careful in discussions with people because they will often be using data and information interchangeably. If you are mentally separating them and the other person is not, it can make for confusion about how to present stuff. What do they mean?


Here's a comment about the green on traffic lights and the use of green turn arrows. And this allow feeds into the recent use of flashing yellow turn arrows around town. The bold font is mine and it creates issues that will haunt you for the entire course (and your career).

That's a great example of a common design problem I see non-trained interaction designers (graphic artists, developers, web designers, and other wannabe designers) make all too often. They base many of their designs on what THEY know not what the USER is likely to know. In this case, THEY knew that a green disc, at this type of intersection, meant proceed on your own judgment. THEY knew that there was also a green arrow that was used. Most users unfamiliar with that type of intersect might rightly assume that green means go, and thus upon seeing the green light might assume that the other direction has a red light. And why not? After all that's how it works at all other intersections right? Moreover, how were they to know that there was also a green arrow? If it's not lit, its invisible.

Situational deviations from a common standard are often not expected by users and consequently create usability issues. Too many designs are dependent on what users DON'T know instead of what they do know. Users have expectations and any design that fails to meet or even violates those expectations is prone to fail and it's the designer's fault, never the users. This is what we mean by the psychology of interaction design, understanding the cognitive expectations of users so that we can design for them and avoid violating them.


From a CNN blog that appeared soon after Steve Jobs’ death.

One of the oft-quoted Jobs-isms deals with focus groups.  In BusinessWeek (May 25, 1998), Jobs said, "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

I want to dispel the myth that Apple and Jobs did not consider the experience of their users, however.  I think that what Jobs intended in this quote was that users usually can't verbalize what they want when you ask them, especially when you ask them to imagine a future product that doesn't yet exist.

Underlying misconception that really urks me here is the idea that user research simply means asking what users they want and giving it to them. Preliminary user research (and the beginning phases of user-centered design) are more about understanding the user’s pain points.

Your comment about user research not being “ask users what they want, then give it to them” reminds me of the session at Product Camp where we talked about the Model T.

You should ask users what they need / want to DO, then use your expertise to figure out the best way to help them do it. The WHAT is their job, the HOW is yours.


When I first read Spool's article from last week The Flexibility of the Four Stages of Competence, I thought for a while about how too many design courses and designers treat design as a cargo cult (a term he doesn't use). Rather than understanding how to do it, it involves the simply repeating what has been observed or quoting mantras without knowing the logic behind them. Many of the five point how-to-design articles operate at close to this level; they don't have the space to explain the WHY, so the point is simply stated as DO IT and the reader is expected to adhere to it.

Likewise, corporate xecutives in other companies often instruct their design teams to copy the work of big and famous companies under the assumption that the big boys must be right. But are they right? Should a website look like Amazons or should your documents look like Microsoft or IBM.   They don't know why the design was done the way it was, so they can't change it rather than just copy it.  And by not understanding the assumptions, they can't make informed decisions about whether any changes will improve the design.

Poor design might be a cargo cult, but good design is not. You need to gain the skills to understand the why. This course is not in-depth enough to full explain the concepts, but it will give you the knowledge to find it yourself.


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