Category Archives: visual communication

Recording and slides for “Why users can’t find answers in help” presentation to STC Silicon Valley


I gave a presentation titled “Why users can’t find answers in help” to the Silicon Valley STC chapter yesterday. As promised, here’s a recording of the presentation: Audio recording If you just want the audio, here it is: Your browser does not support the audio element. Download MP3 (right-click, then Save Link As) The audio Continue Reading »

Recording of “Video Tutorials for User Assistance” (UA Europe Presentation)


Download MP3 (right-click, then Save Link As) PowerPoint Slides PDF version This is an audio recording of a presentation I gave at UA Europe in June 2013. Here’s the description: Next to Google, YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the web. The popularity of video, especially for how-to scenarios, suggests that it Continue Reading »

Do We Need a New Approach to Help? Why Are Users So Apathetic Towards Help after 50 Years of Innovation?


I’ve spent the last few days at UA Europe in Manchester, England, where I was invited to speak. I’ll shortly post recordings of my presentations — one on findability, and one on video tutorials. Both are important topics. But there’s an even more important topic I haven’t addressed much: the content of help itself. Conferences Continue Reading »

Book Review: A Practical Guide to Designing with Data, by Brian Suda

A Practical Guide to Designing with Data (Five Simple Steps, 2010), by Brian Suda, is a thorough exploration of best practices for graphs and charts. It’s somewhat similar to Edward Tufte’s Visualizing Information in focus, and both have a shared antipathy toward “chart junk” in the effort to tell the story of data. Suda explains, Continue Reading »

Does Translation Mean You Should Omit Illustrations?

One can hardly dismiss the power of visuals. One of the oldest truisms in communication is that a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Instead of lengthy text, we praise infographics, diagrams, workflows, and other visual illustrations that communicate ideas. (See this collection of New York Times infographics.) In Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century, Robert Continue Reading »

Podcast — Visual Composing: Document Design for Print and Digital Media, with Jo Mackiewicz

Download MP3 Length: 45 min. Recently Jo Mackiewicz (Auburn University) and Kathryn Riley (Illinois Institute of Technology) published Visual Composing: Document Design for Print and Digital Media with Pearson. This book covers the visual side of document design, including all the design decisions from the font you use to the colors you choose to the Continue Reading »

Adobe Illustrator and InDesign Integration with Layered Images [Visual Imagination #3]

Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign integrate in a cool way when it comes to images. Let’s say you have a layered image in Illustrator. When you insert that illustrator .ai file into InDesign, you can turn the layers on or off within InDesign itself. This control with the layers allows you to use the same image Continue Reading »

Seeing Before Reading: Messages Encoded in the Design of Information [Visual Imagination #2]

I stumbled across an essay called The Rhetoric of Text Design in Technical Communication, by Charles Kostelnick, a professor at Iowa State University, that discusses the meaning encoded in the visual arrangement of information. Kostelnick writes, We see documents before we read them: this initial encouter evokes an aesthetic response but one with immediate practical Continue Reading »

Visuals Engage Users — Why Aren’t There More Illustrations in Help Content? [Visual Imagination #1]

At the last STC Summit in Dallas, one of the most attended sessions was Don Moyer’s Building Visual Explanations: Practical Advice for Writers. I was recently listening to the recording of the session. I’ve been feeling more and more lately that I need to develop my visual imagination. Illustrating concepts isn’t difficult, Moyer said. The Continue Reading »