Content & Complexity: Information Design in Technical Communication

Content & Complexity: Information Design in Technical Communication

Content & Complexity: Information Design in Technical Communication

Content & Complexity: Information Design in Technical Communication

Synopsis

Information design is an emerging area in technical communication, garnering increased attention in recent times as more information is presented through both old and new media. In this volume, editors Michael J. Albers and Beth Mazur bring together scholars and practitioners to explore the issues facing those in this exciting new field. Treating information as it applies to technical communication, with a special emphasis on computer-centric industries, this volume delves into the role of information design in assisting with concepts, such as usability, documenting procedures, and designing for users. Influential members in the technical communication field examine such issues as the application of information design in structuring technical material; innovative ways of integrating information design within development methodologies and social aspects of the workplace; and theoretical approaches that include a practical application of information design, emphasizing the intersection of information design theories and workplace reality. This collection approaches information design from the language-based technical communication side, emphasizing the role of content as it relates to complexity in information design. As such, it treats as paramount the rhetorical and contextual strategies required for the effective design and transmission of information. Content and Complexity: Information Design in Technical Communication explores both theoretical perspectives, as well as the practicalities of information design in areas relevant to technical communicators. This integration of theoretical and applied components make it a practical resource for students, educators, academic researchers, and practitioners in the technical communication and information design fields.

Excerpt

Information designers bring together words and images in ways that enable people to understand, take action, or make decisions. A good information design helps people to use the content in ways that suit their unique interests. Although information designers have long recognized the importance of developing good content, much of the literature in the field has focused on issues of graphic design and typography. This volume broadens our perspective with new ideas about creating information designs that speak to peoples' needs through the design of effective content in products familiar to technical communicators.

Since the 1990s, information designers have been preoccupied with shaping content in order to reduce information overload. The authors here challenge us to think strategically about content—its selection, organization, and integration. They show that well designed content can help people ferret out fact from fiction, main points from details, and “must read” from “optional read” information. In addition, the authors remind us that the content we generate not only communicates information to people but helps to build relationships among people.

Throughout the book, a number of themes emerge. Perhaps the most prominent is the need to hone our skills in analyzing the structure of information more deliberately than we have in the past. For any given information design task—whether a paper document, an online help system, or a multimedia project—information designers need to identify core (must have) information and distinguish this content from supplemental (nice to have) information. With a thorough understanding of the structure, information designers can highlight the content distinctions through careful design of text, graphics, photography, full-motion video, typography, or sound.

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