Design and Testing Sessions to Give You the Edge

By Michael Opsteegh | Design & Testing Track Manager

As you plan your STC Summit schedule, I highly encourage you to check out the variety of sessions offered in the design and testing track. These sessions were hand-picked from many excellent proposals for the Summit, and they were selected specifically to help you “Gain the Edge to Get Results.” The design and testing track offers sessions that target new technical communicators, as well as sessions intended to advance seasoned professionals. Here’s a sample of sessions that are on my must-see list:

  • Walk in Your Customer’s Shoes—Learn the Art of Journey Mapping. Journey maps help us clarify the needs of users, identify their pain points, create targeted content, and advocate for interface improvements. This interactive session will teach you how to create journey maps—either with your product team or on your own. You will also learn how to apply the journey map process to targeted content. Read more.
  • Gamification of Instructional Design. This session focuses on the role of “play” in online learning by exploring design-thinking methods and tools that you can use to engage your learning communities in “play.” Participants will be able to experiment with these methods and tools, and actualize “play” using Learning Battle Cards—a deck of playing cards designed to inspire and facilitate a variety of instructional design and development methods. Read more.
  • Prototypes of Use: Adapting Content to the Usability Expectations of Different Contexts. This session discusses how the cognitive psychology concept of prototypes can be used as a method to understand expectations of usability in different contexts and adapt content to user needs across a range of settings. In so doing, the presenter will walk attendees through applications of this approach in different settings. Read more.

You can find the complete list of sessions and start building your schedule by going to

See you in DC!

Come to the Summit to Gain a Technical Edge

Technology & Development Track

By Marta Rauch (@martarauch)

Here is your guide to a few of the exciting technology and development topics at STC’s Summit- including the Internet of Things, API documentation, video strategies, content for mobile devices and augmented reality, analytics for big data, tools like Jekyll and GitHub, and code samples for Java, PHP, Python, and Ruby.

And it’s not just about tech. Take advantage of sessions on leadership, design, strategy, and trends as well as receptions, speed networking, a tech comm throwdown, and expos. Afterwards, check out the local attractions – enjoy a baseball game with the Los Angeles Angels and visit Disneyland with a discount exclusively for Summit attendees.

There are too many sessions to mention in one article, so be sure to check the schedule, and then head on over to register. To wet your whistle, here’s a quick sampling of Technology & Development track sessions:

Don’t forget to check the full schedule for additional topics and speakers. See you in Anaheim! #stc16

Discourse by Design: The Joy of Kerning

I was reading a menu last year that said, “Heal thy Choice.” Perplexed, I couldn’t understand what that was supposed to mean. Finally, it occurred to me: “Healthy Choice.” How did I come to misinterpret what the menu was saying? The answer is bad letter spacing.

Last month, we examined the importance of the space between lines of text and how setting lines too closely together or too far apart makes your text more difficult to read. Likewise, bad letter spacing interferes with how the eye perceives word shapes. This month we’re discussing how the interstitial spaces between letters affects legibility. There are two types of letter spacing:

  • Tracking. Tracking affects the spacing between a range of letters. If, for example, you were designing a logo or title page, you might set the type so that all of the letters were spaced equidistant (usually very tight or very open) regardless of letter shape. While tracking can be a useful design gimmick, it’s not our focus today.

  • Kerning. Kerning addresses the space between individual letter pairs. The objective is to give the appearance of equal space between each letter. Often, this means fitting letters together like puzzle pieces. As you can see in the image the T and the y in the kerned type are scooched closer together to make the space between letters more even.

Continue reading “Discourse by Design: The Joy of Kerning”

Discourse by Design: Getting the Lead Out

Perhaps the trickiest aspect of typography isn’t so much selecting the correct typeface as knowing what to do with it and how to make your type look great without distracting from your message. As Alex White writes in Thinking in Type, “typography is 10 percent letter management and 90 percent space management.” In other words, the space within and around the letterforms is more significant than the letters themselves. Based on this design theory, I’m focusing my next few installments of this column on various aspects of space in typography. First up: leading and line length.

Have you had the experience of reading the same line twice in a piece of text? I have. This is usually caused by poor leading or unusually long line lengths.

Leading is the space between lines of type. Its peculiar name stems from the strips of lead that typesetters inserted between rows of type on the printing press to add space between lines of printed text. Text with no leading are said to be “set solid,” because the block on which the letters were cast are set adjacent to each other.

Continue reading “Discourse by Design: Getting the Lead Out”

Discourse by Design: Choosing a Typeface to Suit the Occasion

This post is a reprise of my recent lightning talk at the Technical Communication Summit in Atlanta. For those who weren’t able to attend the Summit, I’m sorry this article can’t be more visual. For those who were able to attend, this article might better explain what I was trying to say during that five-minute train wreck.

Typography is one of my favorite aspects of design. The shapes of the letters, the angles, and the curves give visual form to your content. Despite my long love affair with typography, I still hesitate whenever I need to choose a typeface or, worse still, combine typefaces.  To me, this is like getting dressed. I’m never sure how to mix patterns or colors, how to accommodate changes in the weather, or how to plan for consecutive events of varying degrees of formality. There are so many choices when selecting a typeface or getting dressed. The following questions may help you sort through some of the most common typefaces.

Designer or Knockoff?

Arial may look like Helvetica, but most designers can tell the difference. If critical eyes can tell that your handbag is a knockoff, would you carry it around?

Classy or Anachronistic?

Typefaces like Georgia and Caslon are evocative of bygone eras. Like a bow tie, they can seem either formal or old fashioned.

Powerful or Clunky?

Continue reading “Discourse by Design: Choosing a Typeface to Suit the Occasion”