Presentation on theme: "Graphics and visual information English 314 Technical communication Note: To hide or reveal these lecture notes, go to VIEW and click COMMENTS. This lecture."— Presentation transcript:
Graphics and visual information English 314 Technical communication Note: To hide or reveal these lecture notes, go to VIEW and click COMMENTS. This lecture is on graphics and visual information. Studies have shown that by presenting information in a variety of formats, a designer can boost his or her readers’ attention and comprehension. They make memorable impressions. Note: To hide or reveal these lecture notes, go to VIEW and click COMMENTS. This lecture is on graphics and visual information. Studies have shown that by presenting information in a variety of formats, a designer can boost his or her readers’ attention and comprehension. They make memorable impressions.
Backing up… Q: What is technical communication about? A: “To provide information a specific audience can use.” -- Page 4 Introduction / Review First, let’s review some fundamentals. What are we trying to do with technical communication? Our goal is is to provide information a specific audience can use.
Components of technical communication Graphic from Technical Communication by Jones and Lane, Page 4 You remember this from our text by Jones and Lane. You need to be aware of your audience, you need to make decisions about use of a specialized vocabulary. In a previous class we talked about useful design principles: CARP -- contrast, alignment, repetition, proximity.
Credit where credit is due … Eric K. Meyer Edward Tufte Edward Tufte Two writers I have found very useful regarding this topic are Eric Meyer and Edward Tufte. In addition to our textbook, I draw from their books throughout this lecture.
Chapter 9 … TablesGraphsChartsDiagramsMaps In your text, Chapter 9 is a great place to review some of the ideas I will be discussing. You may want to use some of these common types of graphics in your final report.
Part 1 When to use visuals When do we use visuals? There are several tip-offs that you have an opportunity to use a visual.
Graphics opportunities WhoWhatWhenWhereWhy How (and how much!) How (and how much!) What’s next WhenWhere How (and how much!) Report’s key questions Remember these key questions for developing a report? When you hit the questions WHEN, Where, and HOW, I would start thinking about visuals.
Addressing ‘when’ … Gantt charts Identify major steps in a project. Tell when steps will be performed. Timelines Provide history/context Provide reference points Can look forward If you are discussing a project schedule, perhaps in a proposal for a project that will take months, a Gantt chart is a great way to show you have thought through the work schedule. A timeline is another great tool. Say you are trying to provide background on a problem, or the chain of events. A timeline can help your audience see the context of your report.
Addressing ‘where’ … Maps Display physical layouts. Can show quantitative information. Diagrams Can show relationships. Images: Technical Communication, seventh edition, by Mike Markel. When the topic of “where” comes up, a map is a great information tool. Sometimes the “where” question is more about relationships: Where do things fit in relation to each other? How do things work with each other? A diagram is a great visual device for this. When the topic of “where” comes up, a map is a great information tool. Sometimes the “where” question is more about relationships: Where do things fit in relation to each other? How do things work with each other? A diagram is a great visual device for this.
Addressing ‘how’ … Bar or line graphs Show how quantities change over time. Pie charts Clearly depict proportions. When you start discussing how things are changing, or how things relate proportionally, a bar graph, line graph, or pie chart can be useful.
Using tables … Tables can compare several factors at once. They can be divided into formal and informal formats. In the sample informal report in our text, Page 610, the only visual presentation in the report is a table.
Formal tables … Most common format in reports. Elements include a number, title, and source note. The sample is a formal table. The main elements are a number, a title, and sources.
Informal tables … Appropriate for small amounts of information. Can break out supporting information, making report more usable to a wider audience. I think an informal table would work better for background information Here is a sample that is used to clarify some specialized vocabulary. Note: These are for small amounts of information!
Part 2 How to use visuals Okay, we’ve looked at when to use visuals. Now, how do we use them?
Tufte’s main idea … “Data graphics should draw the viewer’s attention to the sense and substance of the data, and not something else.” Image: www.edwardtufte.com This is where Edward Tufte, a statistician at Yale (I think) comes in. His point was: Keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing for charts is to move information.
Key concepts … “ Chartjunk”: Decorative elements that embellish a visual but convey little information, or even distract from the information provided. Source: Designing Infographics by Eric K. Meyer One of his big concerns was chartjunk, or decorations that don’t really move information.
Key concepts … Data-ink ratio The amount of ink that is representing data versus the total ink used to draw a graphic. The amount of ink that is representing data versus the total ink used to draw a graphic. A ‘highly inked’ graphic has a low data-ink ratio. A ‘highly inked’ graphic has a low data-ink ratio. High data-ink ratio Low data-ink ratio Images: Edward R. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Another of Tufte’s key ideas was data-ink ratio. Tufte compares the total amount of ink on a graphic to the amount that actually makes information clear. How much ink could be erased and the graphic still do its job?
Later research by Mario Garcia… Visual elements produce more memorable impressions than words alone. Visual elements command attention. Color, compelling design attract readers. Decorative, non-informative icons confuse readers, hurt comprehension. But there is a flip side. Graphics can capture attention, provide variety, and improve retention. Dr. Mario Garcia, one of today’s leading authorities on publication design, has done much research along this line. So there is a balancing act here. This is how I have struck the balance: Logos can be handy identifiers. Color can be handy for categorizing information. Clipart is usually chartjunk. These are judgment calls. My test is to ask, “What is the job of each element?” If an element is not providing a useful service, I remove it.
Part 3 Why to use visuals We’ve looked at when and how to use visuals. Now, why use them?
From Technical Communication by Jones and Lane… “People who must communicate technical information are challenged to make the information they portray as clear and concise as possible.” -- Page 296 To answer this, I go back to the fundamentals. What are you trying to do with your document? Move information efficiently. Graphics can help hold attention by offering an alternative means of understanding and refresh attention by breaking the reading routine.
Goals for visuals … Provide additional detail, not repetitive detail. Make images work, not decorate. Don’t be afraid of color or images if they command attention without interfering with message. So this is what I suggest: Give graphics a job of their own. Don’t just repeat visually what you spelled out in the report. Instead, let them embellish, or add deeper detail, to a general point you have made with words. This makes them key ingredients, not throwaways.