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!

Data Visualization: Communicating Effectively With Your Audience

By Payman Taei | Founder, Visme

Image Source

Make no mistake: it’s a data-based world, we’re just living in it. According to Forbes, data volumes are absolutely exploding – in the past two years alone, more data was created than in all of the previous years in human history COMBINED.

By as soon as 2020, there will be roughly 1.7 megabytes of new data created for every single person living on Earth every SECOND. This is due largely to the fact that nearly everything you buy is now connected to the Internet – from that great new smart TV to your toaster to your thermostat and everything in between. Everything is connected, creating and sharing data in an effort to make your life easier.

Unfortunately, this has also brought with it a powerful side effect: information overload. Data is everywhere, and people are having a hard time processing it all. According to one study from Texas A&M University, each daily edition of The New York Times now has more information in it than a person living in the 17th century would have processed in their entire LIFETIME.

This is particularly problematic in the world of marketing, where your ongoing success depends on your ability to take data and get it out to the widest possible audience in the most effective way.

These are just a few of the key reasons why data visualization isn’t just an important concept, but one that will become absolutely mission-critical in terms of communicating effectively to your audience moving forward. Data visualization (like using infographics and other storytelling techniques to re-frame your message in an easily digestible, visual way) doesn’t just help you stand out from your competitors and cut to the core of your message, but it also lets you harness the power of visual communication to your advantage.

Data Visualization and Infographics: A Powerful Combination

When it comes to the cross section between data visualization and marketing, it’s important to think of each piece of content you create less as a whole story and more as one small part in the larger, ongoing story that is your brand. Each piece of collateral you put out into the world doesn’t have to paint the complete picture – but it should have unlock yet another piece of a puzzle that people want to learn more about.

Infographics in particular, when constructed properly, check a lot of important boxes in terms of data visualization. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the data you’ve chosen to present to your audience is valuable – otherwise, you wouldn’t bother broadcasting it in the first place. But people aren’t going to take your word for it – they need more.

Thanks to the deep level of control over the visual design, the color selection, the layout, the font size and color and more, infographics instantly take ideas that are already valuable and present them in a much more appealing package.

They’re attention grabbing, too – according to a study conducted by Venngage, a stunning 41.5% of marketers said that original graphics such as infographics performed better than ANY other form of visual content.

They’re also responsible for significant benefits:

  • Infographics can take a complicated idea and make it easier to understand. This not only goes a long way towards decreasing the amount of boredom readers feel, but it also awakens the reader’s interest in the topic at the same time.
  • They’re something that people want more of. According to MDG, 67% of consumers who responded to a survey said that clear, detailed images were “very important” when it came to which content they consumed and how they chose to consume it.
  • Infographics are incredibly accessible. You don’t need a college education (or a high reading level, for that matter) to understand an infographic – even if it’s filled with complicated ideas. By taking data and presenting it in a visual way, you’re getting necessary ideas out there into the world in a form that everyone can enjoy.
  • Infographics are very persuasive. Remember that a full 30% of our brains are solely devoted to the task of processing visual data, according to Discover. This means that an argument, an idea or a thesis presented as an infographic will usually be better received than one presented as a wall of text in the form of a blog post.
  • Infographics are also inherently memorable, another core benefit of data visualization. According to a study conducted by Brain Rules, 65% of people are better at remembering a piece of information IF they learned it with a relevant paired image.

When you consider benefits like these, it’s no wonder why the use of infographics has increased an astounding 800% in the last two years alone, according to Unbounce. They don’t just work in terms of data visualization – they work incredibly well.

Never Tell, Always Show – Effective Immediately

Information overload is a very real concern and unfortunately it’s one that is only going to get worse as time goes on. People are being inundated with data from all angles – while that doesn’t make the data any less important, it DOES harm their ability to actually process that data and even pay attention to it in an appreciable way.

To that end, data visualization officially becomes more than just a marketing concept. It’s not just “another technique” that you use to get your message to the masses. It is one of the most important weapons in your arsenal. Data visualization is no longer just a part of marketing – it IS marketing, for now and forever.


Technical Communication Call for Covers

STC is pleased to announce the call for cover illustrations for the August and November 2017 issues of Technical Communication.  The deadline for submissions is 1 June 2017.

For the August 2017 issue, we invite cover illustrations on the blurring of technical communication, marketing communication, and content strategy.

For the November 2017 issue, we invite cover illustrations on the subject of new media and the changing nature of technical communication.

Cover illustrations might be diagrams, drawings, photographs, collages, infographics, cartoons, comic strips, or brief graphic narratives.  For either issue, please submit your cover illustration (approximately 20×20 cm or 8×8 inches) as a high-resolution (300 dpi) jpg file by 1 June 2017 to with a brief explanation (100-200 words) of how your illustration addresses the cover subject.  A five-member international jury of specialists will organize anonymous review of the submissions and choose each issue’s cover illustration.  Honorable mentions will be published inside the journal. To view previous winning cover illustrations, please visit

If you have questions, please e-mail or call:


Sam Dragga
Editor, Technical Communication

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

Can Changing Your Typeface Save Money and Help the Environment?

Last week, CNN reported a story about a 14-year-old who calculated that US government agencies could save $467 million per year—simply by selecting a different typeface! Incredible, isn’t it? Usually, cost-cutting measures involve using less paper, but this young prodigy figured out how to save millions of dollars in ink alone. By his calculations, changing the typeface from Times to Garamond would result in a 24% reduction in ink. When you consider the cost of commercial printer’s ink or even standard toner cartridges, that savings in ink really adds up. You can read the full CNN article here.

While calculating how much money the US government could save is a novel application, the idea of changing typefaces to save ink has been around a while and comes up every few years. In 2008, the Ecofont typeface was introduced to reduce ink, and thereby reduce the use of chemicals used in ink that are harmful to the environment. In 2010, the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay announced that it could save $10,000 per year in printing cost by changing the default font of campus email to Century Gothic.

Continue reading “Can Changing Your Typeface Save Money and Help the Environment?”