61.1, February 2014

Book Reviews

Global Mobile: Applications and Innovations for the Worldwide Mobile Ecosystem

by Peter A. Bruck and Madanmohan Rao, eds.

The Elements of Graphic Design

by Alex W. White

A Unified Theory of Information Design: Visuals, Text & Ethics

by Nicole Amare and Alan Manning

Well Said! Presentations and Conversations that Get Results

by Darlene Price

Designing Information: Human Factors and Common Sense in Information Design

by Joel Katz

Be the Captain of Your Career: A New Approach to Career Planning and Advancement

by Jack Molisani

Microsoft Word 2010 for Medical and Technical Writers

by Peter Aitken and Maxine Okazaki

Visual Quickstart Guide: CSS3, 6th ed.

by Jason Cranford Teague

The Good Life in a Technological Age

by Philip Brey, Adam Briggle, and Edward Spence, eds.

Verbal Minds: Language and the Architecture of Cognition

by Antoni Gomila

158 Tips on mLearning: From Planning to Implementation

by the eLearning Guild

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

by Jeff Gothelf

Designing Web-Based Applications for 21st Century Writing Classrooms

by George Pullman and Baotong Gu, eds.

Saving the World: A Brief History of Communication for Development and Social Change

by Emile G. McAnany

Signs for Peace: An Impossible Visual Encyclopedia

by Ruedi Baur, Vera Baur Kockot, and the Institute2Context, eds.

Rhetorical Accessability: At the Intersection of Technical Communication and Disability Studies

by Lisa Meloncon, ed.

The Best of Brochure Design 12

by Public

Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them)

by Marcia Riefer Johnston

Design for Emotion

by Trevor van Gorp and Edie Adams

Foundation HTML5 with CSS3: A Modern Guide and Reference

by Craig Cook and Jason Garber

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations

by John Bartlett

MediaWriting: Print, Broadcast, and Public Relations, 4th ed.

by W. Richard Whitaker, Janet E. Ramsey, and Ronald D. Smith

The Mobile Frontier: A Guide for Designing Mobile Experiences

by Rachel Hinman

To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism

by Evgeny Morozov

The Web Designer’s Roadmap: Your Creative Process for Web Design Success

by Giovanni DiFeterici

Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire

by Bruce Nussbaum


Global Mobile: Applications and Innovations for the Worldwide Mobile Ecosystem

Peter A. Bruck and Madanmohan Rao, eds. 2013. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. [ISBN 978-1-57387-462-5. 620 pages, including index. US$49.50 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.06.23 PMA quotation from popular science author John Agar, “You can tell what a culture values by what it has in its bags and pockets,” draws the reader into Rao’s opening part, “A World Gone Mobile” (p. 1). Rao compares the pocket watch, a status symbol of the 17th century, with our mobile cell phones of today. He points out that “like watches, cell phones started off as expensive status symbols, …, but are now owned by billions of people worldwide” (p. 1).

From there, Rao fast forwards to the future with predictions as far into the22nd century as 2110. He predicts we will have the capability to read minds, photograph dreams, create new life forms, and use magnetic cars and trains for transportation. His other predictions, still within the lifetime of some of us, are DNA chips, driverless cars, and flexible electronic paper.

Editors Bruck and Rao invited more than 30 global media experts to share their insights about the foundations, impacts, and the road ahead for mobile technology. In the introduction, they highlight each contributor’s content. Bruck and Rao conclude their book by summarizing each contributor’s expertise in the mobile arena.

In Chapter 1, “Mobile and Megatrends,” former Nokia executive Tomi Ahonen jolts the reader awake stating, “The innovation in mobile is relentless, and some predict that the world will change more in the next 10 years than it has in the preceding 100 years” (p. 13).

I especially liked Chapter 7, “Mobile Web Design Strategies.” Contributor Janine Warner (creator of DigitalFamily.com) compares mobile Web applications and native applications. This discussion has immediate value for those readers considering mobile Web design. Warner walks through the American Airlines application and includes actual screen shots for comparison. Although Janine recommends using the actual device to test mobile sites, she mentions an online emulator, www.keynotedeviceanywhere.com.

Pavan Duggal discusses one area that will likely affect us in Chapter 30, “Mobiles and the Law.” There are new kinds of crimes emerging in the mobile world that include mobile hacking, mobile cyber defamation, identity theft, phone cloning, cyber stalking, virus dissemination, software piracy, credit card fraud, and phishing.

Other chapters deal with health, education, journalism, entertainment, workforce, social media in enterprises, small business, rural areas, government, and regulatory issues in the Internet. Each chapter is like a snapshot showing where and how mobile technology is used. However, I was hoping to find more about the societal effects similar to what Jan Van Dijk presents in his book, The Network Society (reviewed in Technical Communication, October 2013). Certainly, we know mobile technology is changing society. But, I would prefer to see more research presented by the writers of these chapters regarding the effects of mobile technology on society.

Rhonda Lunemann
Rhonda Lunemann is a technical writer with Siemens PLM Software, a senior member of STC’s Twin Cities Chapter, and a member and officer of the Hill Speakers Toastmasters Club (Club 4415).

The Elements of Graphic Design

Alex W. White. 2011. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Allworth Press. [ISBN 978-1-58115-762-8. 215 pages, including index. US$29.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.06.44 PMAs a design educator, I frequently encounter books introducing fundamental graphic design principles that are useful in my “Introduction to Graphic Design” course. Introductory design books are as numerous as typefaces as many professionals try to distill their experience into a holistic guide to the graphic design foundations. Books that effectively present the principles of design are essential to the education of students seeking to understand the design process and the principles that guide it.

White divided the subject of design principles and design elements into four sections: Space, Unity, Page Architecture, and Type. Using architectural design principles as a metaphor for page grids, he presents a unique interpretation of the design principles with a unique view of page design.

In the Space section, White discusses “space” in three-dimensional terms, a strong metaphor for the arrangement of visual elements in two-dimensional page design. He considers the development of writing, movable type, posters, logos, magazines, and Web design as part of “space”, where “space” becomes a series of image-supported timelines on graphic design history. In a milestones timeline of design history, the Bauhaus is surprisingly given a starting date of 1927. The school was founded in 1919 and moved twice (1925 and 1932) before its dissolution in 1933.

The Page Architecture section expands the analogy between page structure and three-dimensional architecture. Unfortunately, White presents most page-grid designs at postage-stamp size, which makes them difficult to experience as a guide for page design principles.

The Unity design principle is in a section by itself, with seven of the ten design principles discussed in a chapter within the section, continuing the use of the space metaphor in describing the design process for page architecture.

White defines “unity” as the overriding design principle governed by the Gestalt principle “…a German term coined at the Bauhaus…” (p. 83), rather than recognizing Gestalt as a branch of psychology that explained perception, the Bauhaus adopted to emphasize the overriding importance of unity in design.

The Type section is introduced in terms of “space” and “sound” to describe both readable and expressive thinking in designing with type. White presents six aspects of typographic readability and explains them clearly with illustrations of type designs that support his thesis. In the following sections, he discusses display type and text type each in clear terms of usage and expression in design.

The Elements of Graphic Design’s page design is a challenge to follow with most right-hand page grids containing a center column and narrow-hanging columns on the sides for image captions and quotes from design thinkers. At the top of these pages, White renders four images at postage-stamp size, which leaves the reader not knowing where to focus first or understanding the importance of the often, too-small images and logo designs.

This book provides ideas that stand as valuable input for explaining design principles, but beginners learning the design process are likely to be confused.

Stephen Goldstein
Stephen Goldstein owns a graphic design agency, is an assistant professor of communication media at Fitchburg State University, a guest lecturer, and a contributing writer to Meggs’ History of Graphic Design and an editorial committee member. He is a published author writing in Baseline Magazine, Novum, IdN, and other publications.

A Unified Theory of Information Design: Visuals, Text & Ethics

Nicole Amare and Alan Manning. 2013. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. [ISBN 978-0-89503-779-4. 216 pages, including index. US$47.55 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.07.16 PMA Unified Theory of Information Design: Visuals, Text & Ethics is an attempt by Nicole Amare and Alan Manning to take disparate elements of information design and unify their discussion under a single theoretical framework. The authors argue this is important because contemporary documents weave together visuals and texts, so using a common framework to discuss both lets designers operate “with more-focused and conscious awareness” and to produce “more-precise and reliable results” (p. 7).

Amare and Manning frame this on an understanding of the semiotic categories of C. S. Peirce. The authors use the introduction to outline the Peircean typology and ethics that they apply throughout the book. Amare and Manning then use the chapters to describe how various design elements—whitespace, graphs, etc.—fall under Peirce’s 10 categories of signs and how designers may critique designs more precisely by using these categories.

For the book to succeed at the authors’ goal of moving the discussion of design beyond a list of prescriptions or best practices, understanding the Peircean logic of signs is key. However, the book’s sequencing makes this difficult. While the introduction gives a brief overview of the three dimensions of Peircean analysis—decoration, indication, and information—the overall system is unclear until near the end of the book. This is because the Amare and Manning have chosen not to include a thorough discussion of how the typology works in the introduction. Instead, they describe the typology piecemeal as they move through different design elements. Through careful reading (and re-reading), the logic begins to emerge. But many sections seem to hover just out of grasp because the authors are flip between Peircean jargon—firstness, secondness, thirdness—and their own vocabulary to describe the same—decoration, indication, information—and because the authors hint at relationships between these elements without fully explaining them until the final chapter.

A Unified Theory of Information Design’s examples can also be frustrating. Amare and Manning supply numerous examples of designs that work or do not work based on the Peircean system. But the text describing the examples and the examples themselves frequently appear on different pages, forcing the reader to flip around the book. Additionally, the examples are low resolution and in gray scale, which makes them less helpful when the authors are describing specifics or colors.

Ultimately, A Unified Theory of Information Design succeeds at presenting a framework for discussing all design elements. And careful readers are rewarded with a specific and logical typology for describing these elements. But the journey to understand that framework can be frustrating. And, while understanding this framework would be of use to a designer or instructor of design, because the framework is relatively obscure and filled with jargon, it will not make communicating about design easier unless or until more people adopt this framework.

Jay Kirby
Jay Kirby is pursuing a master’s degree in Professional Writing and Editing at West Virginia University. His research focuses on how rhetoric and technical communication operate in digital environments. He has experience teaching college composition and technical communication.

Well Said! Presentations and Conversations that Get Results

Darlene Price. 2012. New York, NY: AMACOM. [ISBN 978-0-8144-1787-4. 242 pages, including index. US$24.95.]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.07.29 PMCommunication, so the cliché says, is the path to success, and telling others what you do makes a long, successful career possible. Technical communicators have known this advice for years and help others be better communicators when asked. Writing advice, for example, may be found in hundreds of books with more appearing each year. Presentation advice likewise!

Targeting mainly executives who must communicate well, Price presents a range of communication genres in her Well Said! Presentations and Conversations that Get Results. Based on her consulting, workshops, and webinars, Price focuses on the oral aspects including not only those mentioned in the sub-title but also e-mails, meetings, telephone conversations, webinars, and leading team presentations.

Besides form and format, she addresses content for these genres. For example, she includes chapters on persuasion, body language, dress, and voice.

What seems for her to be a major news flash is that the real key to successful communication is what technical communicators have known about and practiced since the beginning: Know your audience. Each segment of the book addresses audience implications of the topic. It’s nice to see her recognize this fundamental principle because her intended audience frequently ignores who will receive the communication.

She opens each segment with a story about failed communication (following one of her suggestions for presentations to start with an interesting anecdote). From there, she smoothly moves into her main points. Each of the 17 chapters, divided into 4 sections, ends with an executive summary. The style is easy to read and accessible, so you should not hesitate to recommend the book to others. Even though her target audience is executives, anyone who communicates in non-written forms should gain from having read it.

One major flaw is that in the chapters dealing with presentation slides, there are no examples—good or bad. The reader has to dig into the text to find verbal examples for each of the principles she espouses.

A surprise in the book is the chapter on conversations. Readers rarely think about that aspect of oral communication. Following a familiar pattern, Price presents a section on preparing followed by suggestions on doing and ending with results. The chapter focuses on the numerous serious conversations held throughout the workday and not water-cooler chatting. If you are going to have a sales conversation, negotiation, strategy, recruitment, or one of the other conversation types, you prepare by clarifying in your mind your intention, the objective, and the expected results. You don’t find such advice in the available books on oral presentations.

In sum, Price offers what to technical communicators will be well-known advice on effective oral communication. Mainly, though, you can safely recommend this book to anyone who asks about improving his or her oral communication.

Tom Warren
Tom Warren is an STC Fellow, Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence recipient, and professor emeritus of English (technical writing) at Oklahoma State University, where he established the BA, MA, and PhD technical writing programs. Past president of INTECOM, he serves as guest professor at the University of Paderborn, Germany.

Designing Information: Human Factors and Common Sense in Information Design

Joel Katz. 2012. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. [ISBN 978-1-118-34197-1. 224 pages, including index. US$55.00 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.07.42 PMThis is one of the best information design books that I’ve read. Joel Katz practices what he advocates. The book’s relatively slim size belies the fact that it is very comprehensive and demonstrates the techniques.

Katz, a graphic designer for over 40 years, divides the book into five sections. The sections are delineated by colors introduced in the Table of Contents (TOC). The colors are a segment of a color wheel—green, aqua, blue in the center, violet, and deep fuchsia—thus showing that color is an information design tool. Orienting yourself to the book is simple because the page numbers are in thumb marks along the edge and color-coded to the TOC.

In the first section, Aspects of Information Design, Katz states, “Information is what you absolutely must clearly communicate” (p. 15). He describes numerous and easily comprehensible information features; examples he uses here and throughout the book include data, diagrams, maps, photos, and typefaces.

An interjection: The page layout is information design. Each chapter topic is a double-faced page spread that contains five elements. Katz’s explanation of the spread’s theme is in the top center of the right-hand page. You then can choose how to explore the spread. You can study the examples on the facing, left-hand page, which sometimes occupies the full page and sometimes includes several examples with captions. You can then read the related quotes in the upper right section. The references are easy to find and not relegated to traditional footnote format.

The four following sections are straightforward: Qualitative Issues (Section 2), about how people perceive information and data that are presented. Quantitative Issues (Section 3) show various ways to present quantitative information. Katz is especially helpful in showing good and not so good examples of ways to present numerical information.

Section 4, Structure, Organization, Type, is one of the most complete explanations of page layout and type that I’ve read, all in 40 pages. Katz shows a history of icons, so you’ll know what not to use and gain an appreciation of the work of earlier information designers.

Section 5, Finding Your Way?, helps designers consider how maps are used before creating one. For example, “Analogies in painting and sculpture” is a full-page illustrated table comparing a type of map or diagram to works of art (pp. 172-173). Don’t be surprised if you think about all the ways/maps/diagrams you use on your next trip.

Katz expands the bibliography into Section 6: Documents, which includes a bibliography, sorted by the five sections, that shows the breadth and depth of his experience. Additional examples expand on the major sections.

The only glitch is the typeface that Katz uses in the explanation portion of the page is a little thin. Yet, the use of a thicker typeface would unbalance the page spread components.

Beth Lisberg Najberg
Beth Lisberg Najberg has more than 25 years’ experience as an information and instructional design consultant, documenting systems, developing custom training solutions, and creating technical presentations for large corporations and public entities. She is principal of Beginnings (www.Beginnings-Design.com), an information design consulting firm.

Be the Captain of Your Career: A New Approach to Career Planning and Advancement

Jack Molisani. 2014. Pasadena, CA: Precision Wordage Press. [ISBN 978-0-9627090-2-9. 148 pages. US$16.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.07.56 PMIn Be the Captain of Your Career, Molisani states, “I am a firm believer that you not only choose the path you want in life, you create the path you walk in life” (p. 7). He breaks his book into three sections: “Think It,” “Do It,” and Have It.”

In “Think It,” Molisani relates how he consciously reversed his course after almost losing everything during the 2008 economic downturn. One thing Molisani learned was to “stop digging” when in a hole because “you can make things right.…Stay positive. Because you can’t fix what you can’t control” (pp. 10-11).

As you review your situation, “Stop. Breathe. Think. Then act” (p. 23). You can redirect your course, but you need to know where you want to go. Molisani recommends setting “an attainable goal that [you] can set, see, reach, and then set another one” (p. 34) to achieve your goals.

In “Do It,” Molisani gives resume tips like, “Never blindly follow anyone’s advice (even mine) without verifying for yourself that it works” (p. 37). He relates in seven tips what managers look for when reviewing resumes and concludes with five dirty resume secrets. Molisani humorously cites the top ten mistakes made when job hunting. For example, resumes should still include a cover letter. It should now be the first page of your resume with your experience written in a two-column table. The Job Requirement and My Experience table headers should showcase how your experience matches the requested skills.

Regarding online applications and social media, Molisani says to “use your personal networks, check professional networking sites like LinkedIn … email your resume to someone in HR” (p. 73) to get your resume in the right hands. Finding job leads online requires “apply[ing] for them via a personal referral” (p. 74). For social media, employers are now doing Internet searches before asking for interviews, so be aware of what you post or tweet.

The interview is where you sell your “abilities,” not “you,” to the hiring manager. Molisani gives four critical objectives: understand the job requirements; establish that you are an expert at what you do; establish that you have done what you claim; and show how you can solve the problems they are experiencing.

In the final section, “Have It,” Molisani shows how to secure your future and attain your goals. He talks about recession-proofing your career, creating a public relations campaign, taking initiative, increasing your ability to work, and advancing your career through personal branding and progressive information disclosure.

Be the Captain of Your Career is a must-read for anyone looking for a career or wanting to change careers by setting your ship’s direct course to the ultimate destination: happiness! Molisani’s personal experiences, his STC chapter presentations on the subjects in this book, and his passion for helping technical communicators make his book worth owning.

Jackie Damrau
Jackie Damrau has more than 20 years of technical communication experience. She is a Fellow and member of the STC North Texas Lone Star chapter and the Instructional Design & Learning SIG. She serves as the book review editor for Technical Communication.

Microsoft Word 2010 for Medical and Technical Writers

Peter Aitken and Maxine Okazaki. 2013. 2nd ed. Chapel Hill, NC: Piedmont Medical Writers. [ISBN 978-1-890586-24-2. 202 pages, including index. US$44.95 (spiral-bound).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.08.11 PMMicrosoft Word 2010 for Medical and Technical Writers provides best practices when writing long, complex documents using Word. In this second edition updated to reflect usage with Word 2010, Aitken and Okazaki, founders of Piedmont Medical Writers, offer tips and techniques based on their combined 50 years’ experience in medical and technical writing. The text is hardly an exhaustive tome, but rather a focused discussion of the features (and problems) most relevant to medical and technical writers—features like styles, templates, fields, and tables.

The book itself is well-organized and easily navigable (and the printed version’s spiral binding is particularly convenient when using the text for troubleshooting or as a reference guide). Notably, the features themselves are often discussed in how they relate with other features, which helps provide a little logic behind some of the unintuitive behaviors and frustrating problems encountered. Although it does lack aesthetic flourishes, there are plenty of helpful screenshots to accompany the descriptions. In addition, the authors’ recommendations and tips are offered in text boxes, providing readers with a quick take-away from a given section’s content. Critical information and warnings are set apart in shaded text boxes, calling the reader’s attention to important concepts, bugs, or ways to avoid undesired features or actions.

Aitken and Okazaki have an obvious levity to their writing that makes the content interesting; for example, “…whoever came up with the Prompt to Update Style and Keep Track of Formatting options should be banished to a desert island with nothing but cereal boxes to read” (p.16). The occasional joke aside, the content is relevant and concise, making it a valuable reference tool. Aitken and Okazaki successfully refine Word 2010’s seemingly myriad options to those germane to technical and medical writers. Moreover, the content is consistently framed from the professional technical or medical writers’ perspective and the ways these writers actually use the program (discussions on styles and templates include challenges that arise when working with clients or collaborating with multiple authors).

Overall, Microsoft Word 2010 for Medical and Technical Writers is a useful reference for the target audience: authors of complex, long documents with at least intermediate-level Word knowledge. There are plenty of tips and recommendations that may be useful to novice users, yet the authors clearly intended this book for those who have a working familiarity with the program. Advanced-level users will find it a handy refresher and may learn from the authors’ suggested techniques. However, the authors quickly note that many advanced options, such as macros, are beyond the scope of this work. The bottom line, then, is this book is a useful, lucidly written desktop reference for most professional technical or medical writers who use Word on a daily basis and need to harness control of their documents.

Cory Bullinger
Cory Bullinger is an STC member and graduate student at University of Central Florida’s Technical Communication program. She is interested in the shift toward digital documentation in technical communication, including the new visual designs afforded by digital media and the rhetorical implications of these digital compositions.

Visual Quickstart Guide: CSS3

Jason Cranford Teague. 2012. 6th ed. San Francisco, CA: Peachpit Press. [ISBN: 978-0-321-88893-8. 443 pages, including index. US$34.99 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.08.29 PMVisual Quickstart Guide: CSS3 offers a professional, energetic look into the core of CSS3. The Visual Quickstart series has been around for over 20 years and regularly looks at formatting and graphic elements in computing, such as CSS3 and HTML5. Such elements as text, font, colors, background, and more are explored using easily accessible examples in both code and effect. While going over the CSS3 elements, Teague also encourages good design and forethought.

While no exercises exist in the traditional sense, there is plenty of example code, both in the book and on the companion site that can be modified easily by the curious to explore the concepts laid out in the text. The use of the multimedia accompaniments is encouraged to get the most out of your purchase. The e-book allows easy portability for those that don’t want to haul around the book itself.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) have become an important element of Web design that can modify any XML or HTML page and have become crucial to developing sites. Since CSS3 has not yet been fully implemented, this book can put the reader ahead in the field.

I especially appreciated sections on HTML5 and color design. Not only did this help out a novice in the field, but encouraged me to keep the book in hand for a while to use as a general resource. Teague encourages good code through commenting, something I haven’t seen in many related books. The enthusiasm and clarity of Visual Quickstart Guide: CSS3 makes it a pleasure to read.

Tomus Cone
Tom Cone is a student in the technical editing program at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. His fascination with the Internet goes back to 1994, where he worked as an analyst for the Air Force. Since then his studies have included journalism and Web design.

The Good Life in a Technological Age

Philip Brey, Adam Briggle, and Edward Spence, eds. 2012. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. [ISBN: 978-0-415-89126-4. 358 pages, including index. US$125.00.]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.08.40 PMA superb example of multidisciplinary scholarship, The Good Life in a Technological Age challenges your thoughts about technology’s role in our present and future lives. Written by scholars who combine studies in science, technology, economics, philosophy, and many other disciplines to explore if and how technology affords us a better life, this book encourages critical thinking and reflection about whether we are better off today than when life moved at a much slower pace and was not so full of distractions. While the editors mention that this volume would be beneficial for “those working in engineering design and in policy” (p. 4), I would add that this book is a valuable resource for educators in higher education and graduate students in science, engineering, technology, philosophy, economics, and professional writing programs to name just a few.

Two hallmarks are the breadth of topics covered and the integration of multiple disciplines in exploring the central question of what constitutes a good life today. For example, in the “Capabilities and Technology” chapter, J. Johnstone uses the work of two leading theorists, one who is a Nobel Prize winner for economics and the other a feminist philosopher, to explain the capability approach and its application in assessing inequality and policy. As I read this chapter, my eyes were opened immediately to the complexity of technology and its role in modern society, especially about deciding if someone is living a good life. At that point, I was intellectually captivated and devoured the other chapters that explored happiness, consumerism, ethics, medical technology, and technology design and policy. The editors mention that this book is beneficial for anyone involved in policy making, which my opinion is that it is a must read for public policy makers. Instead of relying only on monetary measures or statistics related to access, this book enlightens policy makers about the impact of their decisions on global, community, and individual levels that are worth considering. Each chapter in this book offers insight into the problematic measures policy makers often use in deciding what is best for others and introduce other crucial factors that are frequently ignored or left out of the decision-making process such as individual values and immeasurable and dynamic aspects of a person’s life.

Written in scholarly, yet accessible, language, the contributors to this volume do a thorough and exemplary job of clearly demonstrating the many complicated issues that advocate for a “process of public reasoning and social choice within a liberal commitment to value pluralism” (p. 82) when assessing technology’s value in our lives today. While the book price may be prohibitive in some situations, such as required reading in a graduate class where other books have to be purchased, the number of thought-provoking chapters makes it a worthwhile investment some students, educators, and practitioners may want to make.

Diane Martinez
Diane Martinez is an assistant professor of professional and technical communication at Western Carolina University. She previously worked as a technical writer in engineering, an online writing instructor, and an online writing center specialist. She has been with STC since 2005.

Verbal Minds: Language and the Architecture of Cognition

Antoni Gomila. 2012. Waltham, MA: Elsevier. [ISBN 978-0-12-385200-7. 142 pages. US$64.95.]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.09.06 PMIf you wrestle with localization, translation, or English for non-native speakers, Gomila’s Verbal Minds: Language and the Architecture of Cognition may make you even more cautious about assuming that the whole world thinks the way that we do.

He summarizes (and disputes) the results of hundreds of studies in linguistic anthropology, comparative linguistics, and cognitive psychology, trying to tease out the ways in which our native language affects the way we understand and think about our experience.

Gomila shows how the language we grow up with may shape our conceptual framework, making it hard for us to understand “foreign” metaphors, phrases, and even syntax. Areas that are particularly likely to cause confusion:

  • Using subjunctive conditionals (“If you were to choose Option B…”)
  • Describing motion (“Moving the pointer to the menu bar…”)
  • Marking gender (“The screen…it; the ship…she…”)
  • Distinguishing and counting objects (“The two blue buttons…”)
  • Describing time with spatial metaphors (“Looking ahead…”)

In English, we think of time horizontally (the past is behind, the future is ahead) where Chinese people think of time vertically (the future is down, the past is up). So if we write “Looking ahead to the next phase,” we may create some confusion for a Chinese audience, who envision a timeline as descending, rather than racing past us. Better: “In the future.”

Unfortunately, Gomila does not give us practical guidelines for avoiding cross-cultural confusion. We have to mine them out of his elaborate academic argument. His prose does not make that easy.

To be fair, Gomila is aiming at solving much bigger problems that have bedeviled scholars since Chomsky.

  • Does language influence the way we think? If so, how?
  • Are there some forms of “thinking” that take place without language?
  • If so, can we say that there are two forms of cognition, one nonverbal, the other verbal?

He argues that we have two thinking modes.

  1. One set of processes is intuitive, fast, automatic, unconscious, implicit, parallel, and associative. Gomila considers this kind of “thinking” ancient, arising out of sensorimotor, bodily interactions with the world. He argues that these nonverbal cognitive abilities are very similar to what other primates have.
  2. The other set of processes involve language: these processes are slower, more purposeful, more conscious, inferential, and flexible. Gomila calls this form of thinking “the verbal mind.” This abstract, discrete, propositional form of cognition, he argues, depends on the mediation of language. Language lets us describe what we can imagine, going beyond what we see in front of us, and allows us to think about thinking, giving us more control over the ways that we think.

Without language, we can point something out, issue an imperious demand, or simply show what we want. But with words, we can “say” the same things with more flexibility, detail, and complexity. Hence, Gomila argues, “Language labels and transforms preverbal experience, in a way that allows for new forms of cognitive control” (p. 119)

Jonathan Price
Jonathan Price, an STC Fellow, has coached technical communication teams in an A to Z of high technology companies, focusing on online help, Web content, information architecture, and content management. He teaches Web writing and information architecture at UCSC.

158 Tips on mLearning: From Planning to Implementation

The eLearning Guild. 2013. Santa Rosa, CA: eLearning Guild. [ISBN 978-1-57387-462-5. 52 pages. Free at www.eLearningGuild.com.]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.09.24 PMAre you looking for ways to improve your educational offerings in your organization? Are your courses geared for computers in a classroom? How about thinking beyond the classroom setting and think about learning opportunities on mobile devices—mLearning?

Today’s trend is away from PCs and laptops. People are now using tablets and smartphones, which let them be more mobile and work away from the office environment. More companies now are starting to think about how to train employees in a mobile environment. mLearning is different than traditional classroom learning by being spontaneous, private, portable, and informal.

In the eLearning Guild’s free digital eBook, 158 Tips on mLearning, you’ll read tips from 23 different contributors working in the mLearning arena. The areas include topics about selling to stakeholders, managing projects, designing for mobile, selecting tools and platforms, working with media, managing and delivering content, and measuring success.

Having worked on mobile applications for my company, I found the following contributor tips to be good advice:

  • Ajay Pangarkar suggests showing how your mLearning piece will contribute to an overall business objective.
  • Megan McKee suggests always running a pilot before deploying. It is best to test your mLearning piece on an audience that is as close to your actual audience as possible. Have them provide you with feedback.
  • Chad Udell suggests keeping the team small and agile. In doing so, you can test the content often and make necessary changes quickly and easily. This also helps reduce the product’s cost.
  • Patti Shank suggests analyzing your audience up front. Keep in mind the age range of your audience and what a suitable content length should be for them.
  • Imogen Casebourne suggests using Quick Reponse (QR) codes. These codes are machine-readable labels that record information related to a particular item. You can use a QR code to deliver support, such as a document or a video, on a mobile device for how to operate a rarely used machine.

Check out the eLearning Guild Web site if you are interested in more eLearning resources. The Guild, a members-sharing-with-other-members group, produces conferences, has online forums, does research, has a job board, and does much more.

Rhonda Lunemann
Rhonda Lunemann is a technical writer with Siemens PLM Software, a senior member of STC’s Twin Cities Chapter, and a member and officer of the Hill Speakers Toastmasters Club (Club 4415).

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

Jeff Gothelf. 2013. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media. [ISBN 978-1-449-31165-0. 134 pages, including index. US$24.99.]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.09.37 PMIf you’re a writer who’s worked in the trenches of enterprise software development (but not at a global software company or some place that designs consumer products—places where author Jeff Gothelf could rightly proclaim “Agile methods are now mainstream” (p. 95)), then you are probably aware of two things. One, many people still don’t know what “Agile” means—even if it is “mainstream;” and two, once you find yourself on an Agile team, it’s difficult to know where a technical communicator fits in. Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience illuminates answers to these quandaries. For its primary audience (anyone doing software development, or particularly Web site design), the book explicitly addresses the first quandary, making real breakthroughs in demystifying the Lean Startup/Agile mystique. And for those reading it through the technical communication lens, Lean UX implicitly addresses the second quandary, pointing out specific ways that professional writers can become integral and valued members of user experience (UX) design teams that are mostly composed of IT professionals.

Gothelf has made this densely informative, though thin, volume useful by structuring it as simply as he does. Section I—Introduction and Principles (chapters 1 and 2) explains in very straightforward terms the basic rationale behind combining Lean Startup (and ostensibly Agile) product development principles with state-of-the-art UX design methods to produce great online content and applications. Section II—Process (chapters 3-6) details the entire (though never fully “done”) Lean UX process from initial conceptualization through post-deployment feedback. Then, Section III—Making it Work (chapters 7 and 8) does a superb job of showing what changes are needed in our individual mindsets and our organizations’ cultures for us to do more than give lip-service to cross-functional collaboration and make it part of the fabric of our work environments, let alone to make Lean UX work well with typical Scrum (Agile) sprint cycles.

Gothelf incisively drives home the dual mantra of the Lean Startup/Agile philosophy, which he shows is inseparable: more collaboration, less documentation. This is such a key concept—there’s no real-time shared understanding without it—and he does a very good job of articulating it.

“For many teams, collaboration is a single-discipline activity…working this way requires discipline-based teams to explain their work to one another…the result is a heavy reliance on detailed documentation” (p. 112).

However, for all of the talk about less documentation, technical communicators will love the discussion about “design studio”—the collective term for the informal collaboration sessions of Lean UX, which bear much similarity to collaborative writing sessions. Another pleasant surprise for those same readers will be the 10 pages that Gothelf devotes to elucidating how important “style guides” are to Lean UX. That’s a concept borrowed from the print publication world that technical writers can sink their teeth into.

Lean UX design (along with the content strategy associated with it) is all about communicating better and faster what a team is learning. Is there a writer in the house?

Steven Lemanski
Steve Lemanski, STC member and professional writer in information technology, regularly alternates between several genres—software documentation, feature articles, marketing white papers, and digital content. His BA in communication is from University of Colorado; and he is currently pursuing an MTC degree (master of technical communication) from Utah State University.

Designing Web-Based Applications for 21st Century Writing Classrooms

George Pullman and Baotong Gu, eds. 2013. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing. [ISBN 978-0-89503-797-8. 252 pages, including index. US$59.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.10.01 PMDesigning Web-Based Applications for 21st Century Writing Classrooms is an edited collection that addresses the problems that many writing instructors have faced in the classroom, such as having little or insufficient access to useful instructional technologies or being forced to use courseware that has little more functionality than an electronic gradebook. The editors, George Pullman and Baotong Gu, both have extensive experience with the writing classroom.

Each chapter in Designing Web-Based Applications for 21st Century Writing Classrooms covers the authors’ experience with implementing technology in the writing classroom. These uses range from practical and accessible applications that any writing instructor could implement, such as Chapter 12 which addresses using blogs as course management systems, to complex applications, such as Chapter 3, which covers Texas Tech’s home-grown course management program, TTOPIC, and its metamorphosis into Raider Writer, a course management system with expanded capabilities.

Each chapter is relatively short and contains many screen shots to help explain the course management system being addressed. Unlike many similar edited collections that concern technology and the writing classroom, the language is accessible, and although the relevant literature is discussed in each chapter, the content avoids being overly theoretical. These characteristics are likely to make the book appealing to writing instructors who are looking for useful solutions for their course management issues as well as professors who are interested in the theoretical underpinnings of using one particular technology over another.

The greatest strength of Designing Web-Based Applications for 21st Century Writing Classrooms is how it asks the readers to rethink their method of teaching writing. Before I read this text, I was satisfied with my institution’s course management system for teaching my technical writing, professional writing, and composition courses. However, after reading this edited collection, I have started imagining how I might augment this software with other technologies to better facilitate peer review, collaborative writing, and other writing process aspects that our system does not currently support.

One minor criticism that I had concerns the book’s cover. The small, thin, blue type on a black background is almost impossible to read, especially on the back cover. This is probably a small detail for most readers, but because the book is about technology and writing, the publisher should make sure that all aspects of the text practice the tenets of good writing and design.

Nicole Dilts
Nicole Dilts is an assistant professor in the Technical and Business Writing Program at Angelo State University. Her research interests include technical communication for a Mexican-American audience and technical communication in the health fields.

Saving the World: A Brief History of Communication for Development and Social Change

Emile G. McAnany. 2012. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. [ISBN 978-0-252-07844-6. 186 pages, including index. US$25.00 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.10.11 PMThe title is no misnomer; this book really is a history of communication for development and social change. The initial words in the title—“saving the world” convey the enthusiasm and sense of possibility early adopters of this concept felt regarding its potential to alter the course of developing countries. The idea behind the concept is that communication technologies can be used to bring content to people around the globe and that the content—be it educational material or news—can change lives. What is interesting about this text is that it explains the roots of this concept, which came about long before the Internet and social media existed. McAnany writes, “Communication technologies bring content that has consequences for people everywhere….Thus, there is a long history of creating change with the help of the emerging information and communication technologies” (p. 3). Anyone who observed the Internet/social media fueled Arab Spring would concur, but even more so when they realize that this idea was developed in a time when television and radio were the emerging information and communication technologies.

Saving the World is a fascinating examination of how earlier technologies were applied to foster social change. It addresses the underpinnings of the movement; for instance, President Truman’s efforts to help developing countries as a way to stave off communism and make headway in the cold war. But it is, as McAnany asserts, biased. “This book is a biased account in that I have my own perspective and experience that limit the scope of the contents” (p. 4). His viewpoint is decidedly on the side of using emerging technologies to bring about social change. Anyone interested in a capitalist application might not find this narrative useful.

However, those who are interested in the concept of emerging technologies, communication, and social change would find Saving the World both interesting and helpful. It addresses the scholarly underpinnings of the concept and how it was applied. In other words, it gives much of what we take for granted based on communication application context. It addresses multiple paradigms and explores ideas such as whether communication for development works, participatory communication, and social entrepreneurship. Saving the World also includes a list of potential challenges for the future, which include finding funding, assessing success, harnessing innovation, and the changing human technology interface.

This book is an easy-to-read, well-organized document; while McAnany carefully relays theory, he does it in a concise way that anyone will find accessible. Those who work in academia will certainly find Saving the World helpful, but practitioners who work with emerging communication technologies will also find the book’s context and insight helpful.

Carolyn Dunn
Carolyn Kusbit Dunn is an assistant professor at East Carolina University and an STC member. She teaches technical writing and her research interests are the use of technology in communication, risk and crisis communication, and discourse and power. She has worked in marketing and television journalism.

Signs for Peace: An Impossible Visual Encyclopedia

Ruedi Baur, Vera Baur Kockot, and the Institute2Context, eds. 2013. Zürich, Switzerland: Lars Müller Publishers. [ISBN 978-3-03778-243-9. 598 pages. US$55.00 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.10.31 PMDo you ever find yourself looking for images or symbols for a project? Recently I was looking for an image to accompany the text for a poster on climate change. I finally found a pictograph for water pollution from the Globally Harmonized System published by OSHA.

Imagine a whole source of images on the subject of peace. That’s what you get with this “impossible” visual encyclopedia, which shows images for peace from around the world, organized by a variety of categories. These categories include countries, such as Afghanistan; concepts, such as alter-globalization; and history, such as Tiananmen.

Why is this visual encyclopedia impossible? The editors, in their introductory essay, explain that it is easier to be against war than for peace, and that it is much easier to find images “for” peace than images “of” peace.

But Signs for Peace: An Impossible Visual Encyclopedia shows that it can be done, and that it has been done, when people are filled with passion for something, such as peace. The book aims to lead us to a “more aware treatment of images” (p. 36). Though it is difficult to a review a book of images, let me describe a few of them that stood out for me.

One image of “agreement” shows workers at the Paris Peace Conference in 1946 collating documents.  Though the digital era has moved us away from this kind of activity, technical communicators still spend time organizing documents online.

Another image reveals African children superimposed upon the stock pages of the newspaper—a stark contrast which needs no words of explanation, the best kind of graphic.

Amnesty International had two good images, one with a revolver made up of arrows that pointed in every conceivable direction, showing the never-ending effects of violence. And of course, there is the iconic image of the lit candle surrounded by barbed wire.

In the category of “Bombs,” one simple image shows a barrel of artillery with a shell coming out of it, but the shell is turned around as if going back into the artillery. It is a cartoon of hope.

One of the most powerful images shows the corpses of women and children on a road through rice fields. At the top it says “Q. And babies?” and at the bottom: “A. And babies.”

One of my favorites shows three stacked boxes: two contain the words “Hiroshima” and “Nagasaki,” and the third is empty.

One final image of Iraq: It shows the Nike swoosh with a bomber and the words: “DON’T DO IT. Stop the war.”

Signs for Peace is a useful reference for any activist or technical communicator whose creative well has gone dry. If you’d like to see some of the images yourself, go to http://peace.civic-city.org.

I have nothing critical to say about it. All images are referenced and translated into English. It is beautiful.

Charles R. Crawley
Charles R. Crawley is a part-time activist and full-time technical writer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His passions include peace, justice, the environment, and a well-written sentence.

Rhetorical Accessability: At the Intersection of Technical Communication and Disability Studies

Lisa Meloncon, ed. 2013. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. [ISBN 978-0-89503-789-3. 240 pages, including index. US$59.45 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.10.55 PMThe American with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) focused on making life’s activities accessible to those with disabilities. Subsequent legislation added to that requirement accessibility to information with a focus on Web page design. Unfortunately, designing information products for those with disabilities rarely appears in classes or parts of classes in technical communication curricula. Meloncon’s Rhetorical Accessability: At the Intersection of Technical Communication and Disability Studies hopes to change that.

Rhetorical Accessability contains an Introduction and 11 chapters that address these issues as they apply to technical communications. Because of that approach, the book is primarily for teachers and students, although practicing technical communicators can benefit from it, especially Chapter 11, Resources. Other chapters review current research and point toward needed research.

While most chapters are for academics, some are for practitioners. Nonetheless, those for practitioners can be useful for academics and vice versa. What happens or should happen in the workplace when practitioners design information products for those with disabilities? Students need to know that before their internships. Meloncon wants the collection to start a scholarly conversation on this issue and then bring the ongoing results into the classroom.

The essays address disability issues from autism, poor reading, diabetes, and the visually impaired to Web design, Web standards, writing in corporations, and E-content.

The “rhetorical” of the title focuses on a communication theory called the “social construction of reality.” Directly addressed in Gretsell and Hulgin’s “Supercrips Don’t Fly” (Chapter 4), it forms the basis for the other essays. The key is that meaning, deriving from the social context, leads to expectations, and if users are restricted because of a disability, they are not participating fully in social experiences.

Chapter 5, “The Care and Feeding of the D-Beast,” continues this discussion by evaluating the two metaphors associated with diabetes: those reflecting military operations and those equating diabetes with “the beast.”

Subsequent chapters discuss Web design and accessibility (Chapter 6), accessibility of online instruction (Chapter 7), international standards for Web design for persons with disabilities (Chapter 8), Web accessibility documents (Chapter 9), and the legal and policy drivers for E-content (Chapter 10). The volume concludes with an annotated list of resources.

The value of this collection lies in it starting a scholarly conversation among scholars and practitioners of technical communication and scholars of disability studies. Readers not used to academic prose may be put off by the academic language and the number of references. But if they produce accessible information products—especially for the Web—they will find a lot of value to help them in their work. For practitioners, a copy in the company library would be valuable; for academics and theory students, personal copies would expand their education. However, the price-to-value received may be a determining factor.

Tom Warren
Tom Warren is an STC Fellow, Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence recipient, and professor emeritus of English (technical writing) at Oklahoma State University, where he established the BA, MA, and PhD technical writing programs. Past president of INTECOM, he serves as guest professor at the University of Paderborn, Germany.

The Best of Brochure Design 12

Public. 2013. Beverly, MA: Rockport. [ISBN 978-1-59253-833-1. 224 pages. US$45.00.]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.11.04 PMIt often seems as though design keeps moving away from print and toward digital due to a wide range of reasons. Then books like this one come along to challenge that notion directly. Well-designed and executed brochures are still being printed and distributed. The Best of Brochure Design 12 is an impressive, if small, collection of these printed brochures. The authors and editors of this collection, design studio Public, indicate in the introduction that they “should really have called this book The Best of Brochure Design Sent to Public” (p. 3), as what appears in the book is just a slice of the whole industry. In that sense, the book is an exciting, instant-photo snapshot of what is happening with brochure design.

The book is divided by the size of the brochures and they range from very small, pocket-sized books to ”brochures” with the same size and folds as a regular newspaper. Each brochure gets at least one page with several pictures. Often, hands appear in the photos holding the brochure open, helping to give readers a sense of scale. It is evident that with some of these projects, the designers at Public really wanted to photograph every single page of the brochure. Those instances are naturally more compelling than others as readers get a better feel for the brochure, an important element in a book like this one. Make no mistake, it is designer eye candy from beginning to end.

It is interesting to see how the designers of each brochure rethought what counts as a brochure, expanding the definition to include a wider range of formats. However, I found it somewhat disappointing to see that rethinking ”brochure” meant jumping to a different format (like ”book” or ”newspaper”) and calling it a brochure. I came to the book with the expectation of seeing brochures that began with what we typically think of as a brochure and then pushed up against those boundaries into new and interesting territory.

The Best of Brochure Design 12 itself is as well designed as the examples it showcases. It is evident that Public tried to capture the essence of each brochure they included. They did well in giving readers an idea of each brochure. However, in the introduction, the authors refer to the experience of a printed brochure and I completely agree. There is something about holding a printed piece in hand. I hoped to have that connection to the examples in the book, but that got lost in translation. For example, one of the ”brochures” is a book of about 500 pages produced by a design firm to show 147 of their best projects. There are 10 photos of this book. Granted, it would have been impossible to include photos of every page of every brochure. Nevertheless, I had difficulty not feeling like I had missed out on something when I flipped the last page.

Spencer Gee
Spencer Gee holds a master’s degree in Composition and Rhetoric and teaches Freshman Composition at the University of Central Oklahoma. He also is working toward a degree in graphic design.

Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them)

Marcia Riefer Johnston. 2012. Portland, OR: Northwest Brainstorms Publishing. [ISBN 978-0-985-8203-0-5. 270 pages, including index. US$15.95 (softcover) US$7.55 (Kindle).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.11.23 PMOne barrier to effective technical writing today is time. Time to find relevant information. Time for consumers to “connect” with content from an SME. Time for those who create content to read yet another “how to” book on good writing skills.

Marcia Riefer Johnston has conquered time on all these levels. She has written Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them) in bite-sized chunks that you can master in brief “sittings.” Johnston has condensed the topic content from 23 pages into 2-3 pages, while still making her book fun to read!

Word Up! is definitely a “must have/must read” addition to your reference library. If you do buy the paperback, I doubt that it will remain on your bookshelf for long. I am on my second paperback version because the first one looks like a thermal map, due to my endless multi-colored highlights and clouds of marginal notes. I also have Word Up! on Kindle, where I frequently refer to it while on the road.

Why? Johnston clears up many English language ambiguities and gives excellent examples on how to reduce word count, get to the point, and simplify your English content. As Scott Abel, Ann Rockley, Rahel Baille and countless other experts have made clear, Simplified English is essential to Machine Translation (MT). Our future career success depends upon how effectively MT can convey our intent for non-English speaking audiences.

Your first reading will also jolt you into realizing just how ambiguous and “context sensitive” our normal use of English is. Although Johnston doesn’t focus on this issue as a chapter-titled topic, each page of Word Up! meets the challenges of overcoming ambiguity.

Although I am a big fan of eBooks, I prefer the paper version of Word Up! because I can leaf through it and visually spot relevant prescriptions from catchy subheads and boxed maxims. A striking feature of this book is its relatively infrequent use of bulleted or numbered lists. Let’s face it, we all are prone to overusing “stair step” nested lists. Johnston does effectively use striking (and humorous) “before and after” examples.

Three of my favorite sections deal with commas, hyphens, and “How Not to Do How-To.” Since we all inhabit a world of rapidly diminishing attention spans among our readers, we couldn’t receive too much advice on the last topic.

Although I’ve written this review with technical communicators in mind, Word Up! is an ideal word/sentence/paragraph guide for anyone who does any type of writing. Even your Tweets and Facebook postings could benefit from Johnston’s prescriptions. Word Up! has frequently hit the “Top 10” technical communication list on Amazon. You will know why once you have read twenty pages of this book.

Maxwell Hoffmann
Maxwell Hoffmann is an STC member with the Willamette Valley chapter. He has more than 30 years of technical communication experience and is best known to many for his role as a technical communication product evangelist at Adobe Systems.

Design for Emotion

Trevor van Gorp and Edie Adams. 2012. Waltham, MA: Morgan Kaufmann. [ISBN 978-0-12-386531-1. 218 pages, including index. US$34.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.12.45 PMTrevor van Gorp and Edie Adams’ Design for Emotion intends to be a primer on consumer psychology for designers of both physical and digital products. The book does offer some valuable insights for technical communicators interested in design and usability, but overall, its advice may be more applicable for marketing professionals.

The authors’ aim to enable you to “encourage the formation of relationships between people and the products you design” (p. xv). The book’s six chapters can be loosely grouped into two parts: emotional psychology and practical application. In the first chapter, “Why Design for Emotion?,” the authors assert that emotion shapes experience and decision making; because emotional reaction from a consumer is inevitable, “All design is emotional design” (p. 8). Effectively, they argue that since your consumers will have an emotional reaction to your product, you ought to give your product an engaging design personality that will help consumers form a relationship with the product.

Chapters 2, 3, and 4 provide background models of emotional psychology. van Gorp and Adams employ a range of not particularly helpful diagrams of the brain and charts about affective states, but there are some practical tidbits in this section as well provided on pages 28 and 40. Specifically, the authors discuss “flow,” or pleasurably focused attention to a task, and explain that it occurs when the users face challenges appropriate to their skill levels; they suggest that “[b]ecause skill levels differ from one user to the next, interfaces should be very user-friendly for novices, but also allow more advanced users to find challenges appropriate for their skill level” to keep them from becoming bored (p. 43).

Chapter 5 introduces the authors’ core design model: Attract, Converse, and Transact, or A.C.T. Your product must attract users aesthetically, but it must also engage them in a “conversation” of user action and product feedback (p. 138). The authors use the example of predictive typing: the product responds to the user action of typing by anticipating what the user intends. On a Web site, “visual hierarchy,” “consistent navigation structure,” and graphic elements like color and movement all contribute to interactive dialogue between user and product (p. 150). Finally, if trust has been established through conversation, the relationship between product and user ends in a transaction.

The authors conclude with a chapter that includes interviews from several designers who have used emotional design principles in their products. Although interesting, this portion of the book does not provide as much practical advice as Chapter 5.

I would recommend Design for Emotion to technical communicators who have an active role in product design and want to learn more about the emotional psychology of consumers. The authors’ A.C.T. model could prove useful to anyone who shares responsibility for the information architecture and visual design of a Web site, software, or promotional materials.

Bonnie J. Shamp Winstel
Bonnie J. Shamp Winstel is a technical writer for a small software company in Huntsville, Alabama. She received her master’s degree in English and Technical Communication at the University of Alabama-Huntsville in May 2013 and is now a New TC Professional member of STC.

Foundation HTML5 with CSS3:A Modern Guide and Reference

Craig Cook and Jason Garber. 2012. New York, NY: Springer. [ISBN: 978-1-4302-3876-8. 412 pages, including index. US$34.99 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.13.15 PMFoundation HTML5 with CSS3: A Modern Guide and Reference is directly geared toward benefiting the technical writer; however, it is a great book for the beginning Web page creator. The information is clearly laid out, making it extremely easy to find a section right away. In the Introduction, Cook and Garber list certain downloads that would also be helpful for learning computer languages for Web publishing.

Chapter 1 is for the beginning Web publisher. It introduces the basics of the World Wide Web. “The Web is fundamentally a text-based medium, and that text is usually encoded in HTML” (p. 2). There are several definitions listed so that the beginning Web page creator can understand the terms for the job being conducted, which is crucial to the Web designer. The authors then explain what exactly HTML is and how it has progressed to HTML5.

With learning any new language, it is highly beneficial to first learn the basics. The same goes with computer languages, such as HTML and CSS. Chapter 2 dives into the basics of these languages. Each section thoroughly explains the parts of CSS and how the outcome should be. It even provides correct and incorrect examples. This is extremely helpful to get a better idea of how the language should look to properly create a Web page.

Each chapter explains the purpose of the language, how to interpret it, and how to use it to create well-planned and designed Web pages. There are in-depth examples throughout each chapter and boxes of useful information and helpful hints.

Foundation HTML5 with CSS3: A Modern Guide and Reference is an asset to any technical writer, especially if you are trying to break into writing Web content. Knowing HTML is a vital part of writing Web content. Cook and Garber have done an excellent job creating a book about HTML for all levels to understand and use.

Margaret Wagner
Margaret Wagner is a student in the University of Houston-Downtown majoring in professional writing with a minor in digital media. She is providing book reviews and performing other intern-related tasks for the STC Book Reviews Editor of the Technical Communication journal.

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations

John Bartlett. 2012. 18th ed. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company. [ISBN: 978-0-316-01759-6]. 1438 pages, including index. US$50.00.]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.13.38 PMMassachusetts bookseller John Bartlett was a collector of thoughts, jotting down “passages, phrases, and proverbs” (p. vii) he deemed familiar and worthy of collecting. The Bible, Shakespeare and other British writers heavily influenced Bartlett’s first edition of Familiar Quotations, printed in 1855.

But what he judged important and familiar in the nineteenth century, and worth noting for future generations, has changed. Indeed, it changes with each edition, as entries appear and disappear. Since the earlier editions, Mae West, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, astronauts, computer wizards and Harry Potter have joined the ranks of the quotable. Others have dropped by the wayside.

Today, we have the 18th edition, which, as editor Geoffrey O’Brien notes, “has opened itself to…mass journalism, recording, movies, radio and television broadcasting, and now the Internet” (p. viii). Barack Obama and South Park appear for the first time as do Weng Wei, Warren Buffett, and Sarah Palin. The last entry in this edition is Justin Timberlake’s immortal words about a well-known wardrobe malfunction.

Along with the selection of entries, the arrangement, layout and added features of Bartlett’s change at the discretion of the editor. The current page layout is clean, and author names stand out boldly on the page, making them easy to distinguish from the quoted matter. A useful feature is the guide to using Bartlett’s, which helps readers understand the chronological arrangement that provides the book’s underlying structure. It also gives specific guidance on using the index of authors and the all-important main index, arranged by keywords, which facilitates the search for quotations if the author is unknown.

I have never read Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations “straight through,” as O’Brien claims in his introduction would make for interesting reading. Like many people, I am more likely to use it simply to find the source of a familiar quotation. But, as I examined it more closely, Bartlett’s did present a fascinating arc of what O’Brien calls the “history of thought and expression, a way for a reader to sail rapidly over centuries and pass them in review” (p. vii). The quotations reveal what was on the minds of those worthy of being quoted in any given time, from ancient Egypt to the present day, as well as their styles of expression. For a writer who must often convey content succinctly, these quotations also provided me examples of thoughts rendered clearly in a few choice words.

Much like a dictionary, in which entries come and go based on their general usage, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations holds up a mirror to society. As I noted the recent additions, particularly the many song lyrics, I was curious about the selection process. How are quotations deemed worthy of occupying the volume’s limited space? The editor could make Bartlett’s even more interesting by discussing the process, even briefly, somewhere in the book.

Linda Davis
Linda M. Davis is an independent communications practitioner in the Los Angeles area. She holds an MA in Communication Management and has specialized in strategic communication planning, publication management, writing, and editing for more than 25 years. Linda is active in the STC Los Angeles chapter.

MediaWriting: Print, Broadcast, and Public Relations

W. Richard Whitaker, Janet E. Ramsey, and Ronald D. Smith. 2011. 4th ed. New York, NY: Routledge. [ISBN 978-0-415-88803-5. 380 pages, including index. US$64.01 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.13.48 PMThe 4th edition of MediaWriting: Print, Broadcast, and Public Relations presents itself as “an introductory, hands-on textbook for students preparing to write in the current multimedia environment” (p. i). I do have to agree. This textbook encompasses every detail a student will need in media writing. It also connects communication history, media theory, and business to the student’s potential role in our changing communication and media existence by in-depth examination of what media writing is, the legalities and ethics, and how to accurately accomplish the media writing task in the respective working environment. The Information and It Happened to Me boxes provide real-time relevance. The chapter questions and exercises are engaging and strengthen the foundation of the text. The additional reading provides clear sources for further consideration. A companion Web site accompanies the textbook as a supplementary resource.

MediaWriting claims to reference “the hows” and “the whys” of media writing, yet this textbook goes beyond by answering the basics of the lead: who, what, where, when, and why. The chapters reference many important concepts to student learning: communication theory relevance, the lead, writing legally and ethically, proper writing, topic/subject analysis, gathering information and sources, the process and tools needed to formulate a story accurately, different forms of media writing, audience analysis, correct language skills, reporting types and locations, the New New Media age and platforms, other writing areas, the public relations role, writing in support of or on behalf of an organization, influencing the audience, the current communications field, and potential career choices and opportunities.

If these topics, which merely give quick insight into the enriching sections found from cover to cover, are ones you would like your students to address, then this is the right textbook for you. MediaWriting: Print, Broadcast, and Public Relations presents crucial information that covers three media related areas in broad context yet with narrow methods, presents factual information, and proposes questions and exercises to make the student’s learning a practical application process.

C. Danielle Hart
C. Danielle Hart is the editor of 256 Magazine, a North Alabama publication. She received her BA in English from Georgia Southern University in 2003. Currently, she is pursuing a graduate certificate in Technical Communication and master’s degree in English from The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

The Mobile Frontier: A Guide for Designing Mobile Experiences

Rachel Hinman. 2012. Brooklyn, NY: Rosenfeld Media. [ISBN: 978-1-933820-55-2. 264 pages, including index. US$39.00 (softcover), US$22.00 (PDF, EPUB, MOBI).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.14.01 PMRachel Hinman’s The Mobile Frontier: A Guide for Designing Mobile Experiences provides a wide variety of techniques you can use to meet the needs of your mobile users. She draws on her extensive expertise in mobile design to present valuable information in an engaging manner.

Hinman points out that it’s essential to consider the user’s mobile context. For example, mobile users will have interruptions from the environment, so make mobile content easy to scan. Plan for partial attention, enable users to easily exit and return to tasks, and provide a seamless transition between multiple mobile devices.

It’s also important to optimize the way that users access mobile content. To address this, Hinman discusses three ways of delivering mobile user experience: a mobile-optimized Web site; a native app that users can download onto a mobile device; and a mobile Web app that users can access from a mobile browser. Hinman also provides insights on responsive Web design.

Hinman provides a useful summary of common mobile user experience patterns, including examples, illustrations, and screenshots of actual mobile content. She also shares key mobile considerations, such as design for the cloud, progressive disclosure, content as the interface, and mobile input. Hinman also looks at best practices for motion and animation, and key strategies for optimizing mobile touch, gestures, voice input, and sound.

The author asserts that mobile prototyping is a key strategy for ensuring a positive mobile user experience. She details a variety of mobile prototype tools and methods, and provides suggestions for when to use each technique.

Throughout, case studies of mobile design experts show how principles discussed in the book are used in actual mobile products. The book’s appealing layout, ample illustrations, and chapter summaries make it engaging as well as informative. The Mobile Frontier: A Guide for Designing Mobile Experiences gives you the big picture to help you meet the needs of your audience on mobile devices.

Marta Rauch
Marta Rauch is an STC Associate Fellow with over 20 years of experience in technical communication and mobile app content strategy. Marta is the mobile content track manager for STC Summit 2014, and Vice President for the STC Silicon Valley chapter. She holds a BA from Stanford University.

To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism

Evgeny Morozov. 2013. New York, NY: Public Affairs. [ISBN 978-1-61039-138-2. 416 pages, including index. US$28.99.]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.14.15 PMEvgeny Morozov’s To Save Everything, Click Here critiques the “solutionism” and “Internet-centrism” that dominate conventional wisdom about the “Internet.” Morozov argues that rather than a new conceptual domain that “ruptures” (p. 44) and redefines our traditional modes of communication and value formation, the “Internet” is actually a set of technologies that can be used as a more efficient way of achieving traditional ends, good or bad.

The “Internet” is not, as proponents claim, the cause of our value formation—something our behavior and institutions need to conform to—but the consequence of it, and needs to be treated as such. To think otherwise is to succumb to “solutionism,” the technocratic notion that all problems are amenable to technical solution; and “Internet-centrism,” the view that social and cultural reality should be revised to fit the template of the “Internet,” rather than the other way around.

Mozorov reveals the inner contradictions of many Internet-centric assumptions. Algorithms are considered “objective” but actually represent some selection of inputs (pp. 143-144). “Nudging,” pretending to offer objective menu choices, subtly and insidiously guides decision-making by prompting certain options (pp. 198-201). “Disintermediation” technology appears to eliminate middlemen yet also creates new ones, resulting in “hyperintermediation” (p. 165). The goal of total transparency—such as outing all contributors to a political cause to allow for informed voting—actually “can be used to suppress virtually any kind of political cause” (p. 64). And the unforeseen result of “predictive policing,” making arrests before the crime is committed, can lead to totalitarianism (p. 182).

No Luddite, Morozov recommends revising, not eliminating, the Internet by rethinking usability. Instead of eliminating “friction”—the human interaction necessary to operate a product or system—and surrendering individual choice to automated systems operating invisibly and controlled by others, we should design products and systems with enough friction that individuals can decide for themselves whether to continue using the product.

The Forget Me Not reading lamp reminds users of their energy consumption by gradually dimming unless touched. Classical technocratic solutions automatically shut off the lamp or “nudge” users to choose a pre-determined option. Here individuals can decide on their own whether to continue using the lamp, based on increased awareness of their resource usage. Moral judgment returns to the user, but in an informed way. Used this way, technology “can highlight complex issues that are very hard to see in a frictionless world” (p. 327). It can raise consciousness without denying authentic individual freedom.

Though needing some editing and condensation, and sometimes tendentious, Mozorov’s argument remains cogent and necessary, especially considering the ubiquitous Internet-centrism of most commentary. Dreams of technocratic utopia falter when specifics are examined, and a more grounded and thoughtful re-evaluation is needed to achieve the authentic liberation of the self-promised, but thus far compromised, by naïve visions of “the Internet.” Mozorov proves that.

Donald R. Riccomini
Donald R. Riccomini is a member of STC and a lecturer in English at Santa Clara University, where he specializes in teaching engineering and technical communications. He previously spent twenty-three years in high technology as a technical writer, engineer, and manager in semiconductors, instrumentation, and server development.

The Web Designer’s Roadmap: Your Creative Process for Web Design Success

Giovanni DiFeterici. 2012. Collingwood, Australia: O’Reilly Media. [ISBN 978-0-9872478-5-8. 174 pages, including index. US$39.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.14.26 PMGiovanni DiFeterici’s The Web Designer’s Roadmap: Your Creative Process for Web Design Success is a nice resource for technical communicators, both experienced and early in their careers, who find themselves needing to integrate the creative side of Web design into their workflow. In a very short, information-packed 174 pages, including index, DiFeterici strives to allow his readers “to be able to communicate [their] ideas so that [they] can interact effectively with clients and the rest of [their] team” (p. xi).

DiFeterici, who has spent his career as an illustrator, designer, and front-end developer, regularly speaks at conferences about creativity, interface design, and art. Besides the typical aspects of Web design, he provides information about art history before exploring the phases of the design process and incorporating them into your workflow.

In the book’s seven chapters, you’ll go on a journey that starts with learning why the creative aspect of design is important, continuing through history, form, function, tried-and-true patterns, and concludes with a look at tools and applications that will make your designing life easier. As with many Sitepoint titles, this book offers a quick and understandable read that many can complete in the span of a cross-country flight.

The information in Chapter 3 about gathering your resources alone justifies the book’s cost. As important as providing insight into setting up the workflow of designing a Web site, DiFeterici provides caveats throughout the book that will prevent you from falling into pitfalls that can be catastrophic to your project’s success.

The Web Designer’s Roadmap structure is perfect for the busy person who is looking for a book that is effectively organized and can be pulled as a quick reference right off the shelf. If you prefer a tome of detailed (and often outdated) information, this isn’t the book for you.

As a consultant who has worked with small businesses as they have developed their Web presences, I was a little concerned that The Web Designer’s Roadmap would be a bit introductory for my needs. I was delighted to find that along with principles of sound Web design, I found new and effective ways to work with my clients to ensure we take them on a logical journey from needs analysis to publication. By the time I finished the book, I had a list of several things I will integrate into our processes as we work with our clients as we design or redesign their Web sites.

In a field of numerous other books of its nature, The Web Designer’s Roadmap delivers exactly what it promises and helps its readers integrate the creative Web design processes in a successful manner.  It’s a good book to refer to before embarking on any Web design project. I’m looking forward to applying things I learned in my next site redesign project.

Louellen Coker
Louellen S. Coker has more than 15 years in public relations, marketing, Web and instructional design, and technical writing/editing. She has an MA in Professional and Technical Communication, is founder of Content Solutions, STC Associate Fellow, and past Lone Star Community president. She conducts workshops about effective use of social media and portfolios.

Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire

Bruce Nussbaum. 2013. New York, NY: Harper Business. [ISBN 978-0-06-208842-0. 352 pages, including index. US$28.99.]

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 3.14.40 PMIn a constantly changing world of science, business and technology, there is much speculation over what drives innovation, intelligence, and entrepreneurship. Is there a way to assess someone’s ability to create a successful business, as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg did? Nussbaum argues throughout his book Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire, that although the abilities of Jobs and Zuckerberg are hard to measure objectively, there are concrete skills associated with their success. These skills are not gems of a genius; we can practice them in our daily life. Nussbaum argues that they are the heart of entrepreneurialism and that creativity is the backbone of a new emerging theory of Indie Capitalism—an economy based on the idea that creativity drives capitalism. Overall, he argues that although we think geniuses are born with innate abilities, many of their eureka moments were the result of years of hard work.

Nussbaum, himself an expert in design and innovation, had a career quest to tie together a common trait of successful companies like Facebook and Apple. Was it the number of patents awarded or the amount of money spent on research that resulted in such powerful and transformative companies? He determined “creativity” to be their common component.

He identified five competencies of creativity:

  • Knowledge Mining: Steve Jobs’ integration of calligraphy into the Apple computer is based on his having audited a class on calligraphy for fun during college.
  • Framing: Crowdfunding on the Internet changed fiscal sponsorship from a practice of the wealthy to a community endeavor open to anyone with Internet access. Many small donations now compete with the National Endowment for the Arts in the amount of money raised.
  • Playing:  SimCity (video game) teaches people city planning by turning it into a game.
  • Making: Web sites for marketing products online have allowed “homegrown” to become mainstream and accessible to everybody.
  • Pivoting: The creation of Instagram illustrates the most basic pivoting. Burbn was a location check-in app that was not successful. The photo app within the program, however, received a lot of traffic. The founders ditched their original business and eventually sold Instagram to Facebook for billions.

All are fluid skills that we can practice, hone, and perfect. Many of Nussbaum’s arguments advocate a liberal arts education where specialization does not occur. He argues that it is the person’s passion for a topic that unleashes creativity. Although idealistic, Nussbaum’s arguments are unrealistic. A liberal arts education, while considered a well-rounded survey of subjects, cannot be tied to an increase in salary or any kind of promotability within the business world.

Overall, Nussbaum believes we are moving toward a more creative economy. Indie Capitalism is the new wave. In August 2012, Apple became the most valuable company in history based on its capability to create and rewrite the ecology of computers. Nussbaum argues that the skills of creativity will birth more Apples in society and drive our economy to new heights of excellence.

Julie Kinyoun
Julie Kinyoun teaches chemistry at local community colleges in southern California. As a freelance writer, she writes about biological, physical and chemical sciences for local and national publications. Julie holds an MA in chemistry from San Diego State University.