Effective technical communication integrates textual and visual elements: Topics



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  • Dr. David Blakesley, Professor of English, Purdue University
  • Brought to you in cooperation with the Purdue Online Writing Lab
  • Effective technical communication integrates textual and visual elements:
  • Topics:
  • Document format and layout: Communicates document genre – a report, a letter, etc.
  • Document headings: Helps aid document navigation and introduce and describe ideas in document sections
  • Information graphics: Communicates technical information visually, ex. line graphs, bar graphs, pie charts, tables, flowcharts, diagrams, maps, etc.
  • Using Visuals to Inform and Persuade
  • Effective technical communication integrates textual and visual elements:
  • Topics, cont.:
  • Typography: Fonts, typefaces, and point size help enhance readability
  • Research posters: Good posters catch reader’s attention and make key information understandable
  • Using Visuals to Inform and Persuade
  • Format and layout choices communicate
  • information about the document’s genre
  • Different genres have different purposes and different reader expectations
  • Your format and layout choices begin communicating this message
  • Compare the following documents and think about how the format and layout affects the message being sent.
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Format & Layout
  • Sample 1
  • What kind of document is this?
  • Why do you think the author
  • wrote this document?
  • What kind of information is
  • communicated in a document
  • like this?
  • How do you think format and
  • layout affects a reader’s
  • Expectations and needs?
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Format & Layout
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Format & Layout
  • Sample 2
  • What kind of document is this?
  • Why do you think the author
  • wrote this document?
  • What kind of information is
  • communicated in a document
  • like this?
  • How do you think format and
  • layout affects a reader’s
  • Expectations and needs?
  • Headings help document navigation and
  • introduce and describe the ideas contained in each section.
    • Headings should work with the table of contents to help readers find information quickly and easily
    • Headings should be descriptive
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Headings
  • From The Thomson Handbook by David Blakesley and Jeffrey Hoogeveen.
  • Boston: Cengage/Wadsworth, 2008.
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Headings
  • Information graphics work with text to communicate technical information
  • Visual content correlates to the text but serves different functions
  • From The Thomson Handbook
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
  • From The Thomson Handbook
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
  • Line graphs show relationships between and among types of data
    • Data in line graphs are divided into logical units plotted along the vertical and horizontal axes
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
  • Example: The change in quantity (e.g. revenue) over time
  • Bar graphs show comparative relationships across a data set, correlated with a common reference point
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
  • Pie charts show the relative quantities of the components of something
    • Slices in any pie chart must add up to 100%
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
  • Flowcharts include visual illustrations and arrows to show how a process unfolds over time or how one idea or action leads to another.
  • Process
  • Data
  • Decision
  • Manual
  • Operation
  • Document
  • Terminator
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
  • Tables are visual displays of data and enable readers to compare information and quickly view findings.
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
  • Diagrams are illustrations of something that consists of parts (such as an engine)
    • These illustrations provide viewers with an idea of orientation and perspective.
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
  • Venn diagrams use circles or arcs to show how one thing intersects or overlaps with something else
  • From Learn NC: http://www.learnnc.org/reference/Venn+diagram
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
  • Maps are visual illustrations of a physical space (such as a state, city, or mall) and/or are used to associate a region or idea with an event, action, or other phenomenon.
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Information Graphics
    • Every image should serve specific function
      • Either as an illustration or as content for analysis
    • Always introduce and explain visuals
      • Images and infographics should be placed after they are first mentioned and as near as possible to the point of reference (exceptions for Transportation Research Board submission guides)
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Tips
  • How you use visuals is just as important as the textual content of a document:
  • Using Visuals, Tips (cont.):
  • Caption every photograph and illustration (exceptions for specific style guides and citation methods, ex. APA, MLA, etc.)
      • Captions for charts, graphs, and tables should summarize the content of the visual (follow Transportation Research Board submission guides)
  • Copyright and Permission information should accompany all images and be properly cited in the caption
  • Proofread all infographics to make sure the information they convey is correct and makes sense
  • Leave enough padding (white space) around the image so that the text doesn’t run up against it
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Tips
  • Basic Principles of Graphic Design
  • Proximity - a way to convey meaningful relationships between elements.
    • Try to put closely related images and text close to each other on the page
  • Alignment - the spatial layout of elements on a page; a discernible, visual pattern.
    • Try to align every object on a page with the edges of other elements to establish a pattern and relationship (unless your goal is to show discord).
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Tips
  • Basics of Graphic Design (cont).:
  • Repetition - a way to show meaningful connections among types of content, pages, or regions of a page.
    • Try to keep design elements (page numbers, colors) consistent to help readers navigate documents
  • Contrast - the sharp differences in color, typography, or other design elements used to highlight or prioritize information.
    • Try to use contrast (black font against white paper) to help convey a clear message and/or to establish close relationships between important elements
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Tips
  • Fonts, typefaces, and point size enhance readability
  • Typeface: fonts are classified as serif and sans serif
    • Serif fonts have small strokes at the ends of some lines: ex. Times New Roman
      • Works well as a body font
    • Sans serif fonts do not have these additional strokes: ex. Arial
      • Works well as a heading font
    • Normal typeface is best for body text while special typefaces (ex. bold, italics, etc.) should be reserved for headings, titles, and other special elements
  • Point size:
  • For the body text in paper documents use 10-, 11-, or 12-point fonts
  • For headings vary the point size modestly
  • For posters and other display documents choose point sizes that will make information stand out
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Typography
  • Research posters should catch a reader’s attention & make key information understandable.
  • Good posters:
    • Display important information at conferences
    • Summarize key findings of a research or lab project (etc.)
    • Tell the story of the project and provide a snapshot of its key points or features
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Research Posters
  • From The Thomson Handbook
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Research Posters
  • Poster Tips:
  • Do your research - make sure all information is accurate
  • Storyboard - create a mock-up of your poster
  • Grab attention - be assertive with design by using striking (but relevant) visual elements
  • Hold attention - provide useful, precise information that is legible from a short distance
  • Use graphical design principles:
    • Contrast
    • Repetition
    • Alignment
    • Proximity
    • Establish a color scheme that complements content
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Poster Tips
  • Poster Tips (cont.):
  • Revise and edit – ask at least one other person to read your poster
  • 7. Using durable materials – materials should be able to survive ordinary “bumps and bruises”
    • You may want to consider printing at home and assembling on site
    • If you can, scout out print shops near the location of your presentation – just in case!
  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Poster Tips
  • Cut out and use these textual and graphical elements to
  • create your own mock up on the “trifold” slide
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  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Results
  • Conclusions
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  • Using Visuals to Inform & Persuade: Poster Practice
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  • Poster Practice (cont.)
  • Use this blank page as your trifold
  • Here’s what I did. How did you do?
  • Purdue University Writing Lab
  • Heavilon 226
  • Web: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/
  • Phone: (765) 494-3723
  • Email: owl@owl.english.purdue.edu
  • Where to Go to Get More Help
  • The End
  • DOCUMENT DESIGN AND PRESENTATION
  • Adapted by Allen Brizee & Dr. David Blakesley from The Thomson Handbook by Dr. David Blakesley & Dr. Jeffrey L. Hoogeveen
  • Brought to you in cooperation with the Purdue Online Writing Lab


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