61.2, May 2014

Book Reviews

WSINYE: White Space Is Not Your Enemy–A Beginner’s Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web & Multimedia Design

by Rebecca Hagen and Kim Golombisky

Loaded Words

by Marjorie Garber

The Project Management Tool Kit: 100 Tips and Techniques for Getting the Job Done Right

by Tom Kendrick, PMP

On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History

by Nicholas A. Basbanes

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes

by Alexandra Horowitz

Design for Information: An Introduction to the Histories, Theories, and Best Practices Behind Effective Information Visualizations

by Isabel Meirelles

Scenario-Based e-Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Online Workforce Learning

by Ruth Colvin Clark

Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less

by Joe Pulizzi

WordPress: The Missing Manual

by Matthew MacDonald

American Modernism: Graphic Design 1920 to 1960

by R. Roger Remington with Lisa Bodenstedt

Every Page is Page One: Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web

by Mark Baker

Design Thinking Research: Studying Co-Creation in Practice

by Hasso Plattner, Christoph Meinel, and Larry Leifer, Eds.

New Media Communication Skills for Engineers and IT Professionals: Trans-National and Trans-Cultural Demands

by Arun Patil, Henk Eijkman, and Ena Bhattacharyya, Eds.

UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design

by Laura Klein

Playing with Type: 50 Graphic Experiments for Exploring Typographic Design Principles

by Lara McCormick

Writing and Research for Graphic Designers: A Designer’s Manual to Strategic Communication and Presentation

by Steven Heller, Ed.

face2face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections

by David Lee King

ReaderCentric Writing for Digital Media: Theory and Practice

by David Hailey

The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence: How to Project Confidence, Conviction, and Authority

by John Baldoni

Designing Texts: Teaching Visual Communication

by Eva R. Brumberger and Kathryn M. Northcutt, Eds.

Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and People Can Triumph over Haters, Trolls, Bullies, and Other Jerks

by Andrea Weckerle

Visual Usability: Principles and Practices for Designing Digital Applications

by Tania Schlatter and Deborah Levinson

The Language of Content Strategy

by Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie

Oral Communication Excellence for Engineers and Scientists: Based on Executive Input

by Judith Shaul Norback


WSINYE: White Space Is Not Your Enemy–A Beginner’s Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web & Multimedia Design

Rebecca Hagen and Kim Golombisky. 2013. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. [ISBN 978-0-240-82414-7. 288 pages, including index. US$39.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.01.22 PMWSINYE: White Space Is Not Your Enemy is a “comprehensive introduction” to graphic design for “any communications major, track or sequence, across traditional and new media formats”—a “concise and practical source surveying the fundamentals for any platform for anybody” (p. xx). And indeed, Hagen and Golombisky succeed in these goals. This book is immediately useful for students or professionals who need to learn graphic design.

The text begins by reviewing basics of design such as “form follows function” and “design drives visual culture” (pp. 2-3). It then discusses how the computer has democratized graphic design, how the Web “changed everything for graphic designers,” and how designers should know the rules, but “break the rules if [they] have a reason” (pp. 5-7). A recurrent theme is that although computers appear to make everyone “a fluent multimedia and visual communication designer,” the “reality” is that only those who have developed some in-depth design skill—such as knowing not only the rules, but when to break them—will produce truly effective graphics (p. 260).

Subsequent chapters introduce specific skills “to begin executing assignments” (p. xix), such as those suggested in the “Try this” section ending each chapter. There is an implicit emphasis on the primacy of audience, as illustrated in the “works-every-time layout,” which shows how the designer should, for Western audiences who read left-to-right and top-to-bottom, develop the design in seven sequential steps—lay out generous margins, columns, positioning visuals at the top of the layout, the cutline directly underneath, the headline under that, then the copy in columns below that. This “no brainer” method can be used as a learning device or as a way for the harried and graphically untrained professional to create a “layout that never fails to communicate” (p. 27).
Copious illustrations and visual examples accompany the explanations and WSINYE follows its own advice by using lots of white space to surround, position, and focus the reader’s attention, much as students would do in designing their own graphics to complete an assignment.

The book purposely avoids the dry, academic presentation common to textbooks that students “don’t bother to read” (p. xviii). The look-and-feel is intensely visual, as expected, and highly colorful, illustrating its own principle that “21st century people want quick, handy chunks of visual communication” (p. 160) whether in print, online, or on mobile devices.
The tone is also “intentionally light-hearted and conversational,” unlike traditional textbooks (p. xviii), with expressions like “No need to go gonzo” (p. 165), “Sir Isaac Newton of falling-apple-equals-gravity fame” (p. 115), and “Glom onto a mentor” (p. 261). This approach generally avoids “talking down to anyone” (p. xviii), but the “fast, effortless read” intended actually introduces students to a substantial amount of technical detail in font design, printing, multimedia, storyboard, color, web design, and paper technology—all in less than 288 pages.
Instructors, students, and professionals will value WSINYE for its concision, lively tone, direct, practical advice, plethora of examples, and a helpful glossary. A companion Web site accompanies the book.

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.

Loaded Words

Marjorie Garber. 2012. New York, NY: Fordham University Press [ISBN 978-0-8232-4205-4. 234 pages, including index. US$26.00 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.01.37 PMThe title Loaded Words is slightly misleading because it is a collection of previously published essays. You learn this from the Acknowledgments, if you read them. And, this book has none of the traditional book elements as opposed to a collection: Preface, Introduction, and Conclusion. Adding “And Other Essays” would solve the confusion. But, once you realize this anomaly, you will find some interesting points about language.

Garber collects 15 of her essays from both academic and non-academic sources. The first essay—she calls the essays chapters—introduces what she sees as loaded words, what they are, how they are used, what they contain, and so forth. Loading refers for her to the narrow application of the word, and empty to a broadening of that usage. Empty words become dead modifiers (and she admits a prejudice against nouns as adjectives). One culprit she finds in converting loaded words to empty ones is advertising.

Beginning with essay/chapter 2, she discusses a wide range of topics, but always seems to return to her specialties: Shakespeare and the humanities. Each essay either overtly or subtly argues for the importance of the humanities in post-secondary education. So, if your background or interest is in Shakespeare or the humanities after your technical communication work, this collection should be enjoyable reading.

From a communication theory point of view, Garber’s argument reminds one of the Sapir/Whorf hypothesis that argues, in its strong form, that reality is defined and described by the language that a person uses. In an essay entitled “Our Genius Problem,” she says, “The words we use shape the way we think” (p. 139). As for the humanities and their importance, she tells us in “After the Humanities,” “What distinguishes the humanities is their methods of analysis, interpretation, and speculation—rather than a strictly empirical investigation” (p. 187).
The other chapters directly or indirectly address these two issues. For example, “A Tale of Three Hamlets; or, Repetition and Revenge” (3); “Shakespeare in Slow Motion” (4); “The Shakespeare Brand” (5); and “After the Humanities” (15).

Garber does not tell us her assumed reader, but one can easily infer it from the original sources of the essays: an academic, possibly an advanced undergraduate student, certainly graduate students, and a range of faculty members. Technical communicators would need a background in the humanities, especially literature, to be comfortable with the essays. Yet, technical communicators can find some interesting pieces relevant to their work. For example, the first essay on loaded words where Garber discusses how words become loaded and how the loaded meaning changes over time. Her examples include “knowledge,” “belief,” “wisdom,” “leadership,” “creativity,” “doubt,” “debate,” among others.

In summary, if your training is in the humanities or you have an interest in them, then you will find this collection interesting. If not, then only that first essay is of value, and is that enough to justify buying the book?

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 Project Management Tool Kit:100 Tips and Techniques for Getting the Job Done Right

Tom Kendrick, PMP. 2013. 3rd ed. New York, NY: AMACOM Books. [ISBN 978-0-8144-3345-4. 272 pages, including index. US$19.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.50.15 PMWith author Tom Kendrick, a program director for the project management curriculum at UC Berkeley Extension, my guess is that The Project Management Tool Kit is meant for both classroom and reference use and is effective for both. As an award-winning PMP-certified author and someone who taught and presented at conferences and universities and spent nearly 40 years in the field including 20 years with Hewlett Packard in project management-related roles, Kendrick has great credentials for writing the book.
What does Kendrick feel is worth noting in this third edition? He updates, as you would expect, to show the latest changes in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) as he goes through his 100 tips.

With roughly two sheets for each of the 100 tips, this format works for me. I like the short chunks. The alphabetical arrangement is also to my liking, as I could quickly find items of interest. The index helps with that also.

Communicating informally—one of the 100 topics—caught my eye as I often wonder if it is a good idea when dealing with a project. Should I chat informally with members of the team? Is structured communication that is clear the only way to be effective? According to Kendrick, communication that is informal and unstructured—“periodic person-to-person communication without a specific purpose” is a good idea. It results in “good team relationships, fewer misunderstandings, and early warning of potential problems” (p. 25).

These ideas drew me into the topic. The author continues by stating that too much of a good thing can be bad. “While overuse can reduce productivity and be annoying, judicious use of instant messaging and social media can enhance trust, overall relationships, and team cohesion” (p. 25).

This topic reflects the communication process category in the PMBOK. Other PMBOK topics—all covered in The Project Management Tool Kit—include general, leadership, teamwork, control, scope, time, cost, quality, human resource, risk, procurement, and stakeholder management. With other topics as interesting as the informal communication one, the book is a good reference either for someone familiar with project management topics or someone just starting out.

Agile—a topic of interest to many today—appears in a short, sweet entry showing it in a flow chart as an iterative type of life cycle. Short and sweet coverage appears in The Project Management Tool Kit: 100 Tips and Techniques for Getting the Job Done Right throughout.

Jeanette Evans
Associate Fellow Jeanette Evans is active in the NEO community, serving as a co-chair on the academic relations and newsletter committees. Holding an MS in technical communication management from Mercer University, she has published in Intercom with articles such as “What We Can Learn from Project Managers” and presented at various STC events.

On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History

Nicholas A. Basbanes. 2013. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. [ISBN 978-0-307-26642-2. 430 pages, including index. US $35.00.]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.50.29 PMTechnical communicators should be interested in Nicholas Basbanes’ On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History because it is a major feat of technical writing and because we owe such a debt to paper. Basbanes writes about the history of paper in such an interesting way, combining it with his own personal research stories. For example, when he talks about papermaking in Japan, Basbanes describes his trips to the mountainside villages, where small family papermaking mills exist because of the water purity.

Each chapter in On Paper covers a different part of the paper trail: its origination in China and development into a fine art in Japan; its history in the Arab world where Islamic calligraphy took full advantage of it; its back story in American history, where diarists such as John Adams documented the founding of our country; its status in current day industry, with such diverse uses as toilet paper and printing paper; the use of paper in the engineering of guns and the production of cigarettes; how lawyers used it to track down and convict criminals as in the Nuremberg trials; its importance for the creative genius of Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison; and its beautiful use in the art of origami.

Basbanes spends two special chapters on the role of paper in September 11th and on the future of paper. He demonstrates how the September 11th Memorial and Museum was heavily dependent upon the recovery of papers from our national tragedy.

His chapter on the future of paper leaves something to be desired. In his discussion with Harvard librarian and author Robert Darnton, Basbanes examines how the younger generation does not have the same love of libraries, preferring instead to spend their time online. I teach students who graduate from college without ever stepping foot into the library. Basbanes acknowledges the problem, yet he doesn’t really address it.

On Paper is summed up succinctly in the following sentence: “A refrain expressed often in these pages is that paper is plentiful, inexpensive, and portable; if made well, it resists tearing and can be creased into compact shapes that are useful for currency, correspondence, and cleverly conceived three-dimensional objects” (p. 300).

As much time as we spend with paper, even in our electronic systems that mimic it such as PDFs—even as I type this review, it is made to look like a piece of paper—technical communicators would do well to study its colorful history, and to ponder a future that is intent to get rid of it.

Charles R. Crawley
Charles R. Crawley spends his days creating electronic documents for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His debt to paper is enormous and he longs for the days when this journal was printed on paper.

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes

Alexandra Horowitz. 2013. New York, NY: Scribner. [ISBN 978-1-4391-9125-5. 310 pages, including index. US$27.00.]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.50.54 PMSight is so basic that when we have it, we take it for granted. Yet seeing is a learned skill that requires an ability to winnow one or a few signals from the visual chaff by knowing what deserves our focus. In On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, Alexandra Horowitz takes us to explore her New York neighborhood with expert seers (and one important non-expert) to reveal the ways that different people focus and their different focal priorities. Her guides: geologist, typographer, illustrator, naturalist, wildlife researcher, urban sociologist, doctor, blind woman, sound designer, and dog. The difficulty of perceiving any situation holistically without the benefit of multiple guides quickly becomes clear. Horowitz learns to draw inferences from environmental clues that go beyond literal sights, including clues derived from the absence of overt signs. She learns that everything we can see arrived somehow at its present state, but that it takes training to detect this history and the many events occurring behind the scenes of the main event we’re focusing on with untrained eyes.

Horowitz’s non-expert guide is her toddler, who’s just learning to walk and integrate what he sees into a worldview, and who teaches Mom the pleasure of seeing the world anew through a child’s eyes. Unexpectedly, this chapter provides powerful insights for technical communicators: that our audience, whatever their age, approach our subject with the naïve, untrained eyes of a toddler, and that our goal is to teach them to see what we’ve learned to see with our expert eyes. Each sees the world differently—our visual priorities differ—but with the right guide, anyone can learn to see clearly. Experts follow (often nonlinear) paths that are invisible to us, but can teach us to see and follow those paths. The sound designer and blind woman remind us how many unseen (literally “invisible”) paths we miss until someone reveals them.

As technical communicators, we must decide what to reveal and how. We become the audience’s expert guide in learning to see, and to succeed, we must first understand what they “do not see” so we can account for that untutored perspective. When we reach out to an audience, it’s like dealing with Horowitz’s toddler: we provide a safe framework in which to re-envision their world, whether by seeing in new ways or in old ways they’ve forgotten. Our communication prepares them to see by displaying what to expect, the context in which to expect it, and how to recognize when the unexpected occurs.

Horowitz’s writing is friendly, nontechnical, and as peripatetic as the wide-eyed author’s physical wanderings. As a scientist, she can’t resist delving into the science, but it’s unintimidating and an ironic reminder of how our preoccupations bias what we share with others. Besides being a pleasant travelogue, On Looking is a friendly reminder to periodically look at our world with fresh eyes.

Geoff Hart
Geoff Hart is an editor and information designer who cures his myopia through spectacles and periodically relearning how to see.

Design for Information: An Introduction to the Histories, Theories, and Best Practices Behind Effective Information Visualizations

Isabel Meirelles. 2013. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers. [ISBN 978-1-59253-806-5. 224 pages, including index. US$40.00 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.51.21 PMOccasionally, technical communicators need to present large amounts of data visually to convey an impression rather than provide an archive. In these cases, such as data from the Census, the basic graphical forms are insufficient. That is when they need structures that can handle massive amounts of data.

Meirelles’ Design for Information: An Introduction to the Histories, Theories, and Best Practices Behind Effective Information Visualizations addresses such structures. In six chapters, she shows how to develop formats such as trees and hierarchies, networks and relational structures, maps and spatial structures, spatio-temporal structures, and text structures. Many structures are created by computer programs. Note that “structure” is the dominant word in chapter titles and text because that is what she calls the various forms.

Meirelles’ audience includes advanced students who have had at least one other course on visual representation of data. But, professionals can gain considerable insight in how these various structures are built, used, and interpreted.

Design for Information is well-prepared with clay-based paper and saddle stitching. One problem I had, though, was that the text font is Sans Serif, 8/9, and that quickly tires the eyes. Another issue is that Meirelles fully intends for the examples to create impressions rather than provide specific information. But, that could be positive when she wants to demonstrate the structures rather than the knowledge of what the visual contains. For those wanting the enlarged examples, she provides the URLs for many of the visuals and references for the rest.

One interesting aspect for readers is Meirelles’ discussion of the history of the structures, complete with samples. Students especially will get a good sense of how the structure has evolved.
All the chapters have relevance for technical communicators. But the chapter on text structures (chapter 6) might attract more attention than the others. To present text as visuals, it has to be treated as data that Meirelles calls “nominal data.” Some of the ideas on visualizing text might be familiar to those who have studied linguistics. For example, concordances and other word frequency measurements as maps or trees are common. But she expands text visualization to include not only words but syntactic structures, language models, and grammars. Most interesting is the visualization of semantic meaning. To demonstrate the different structures, Meirelles uses her Introduction and presents several visualizations of it, incorporating space, font, size, color, and other visual features to show relationships.

If she really intends a wider audience than students for another edition, I would suggest a glossary. Meirelles does define terms as she explains the structures, but gathering them, in one place would be a benefit. Also, a list of computer programs and how they may be obtained would also be appreciated. All in all, Design for Information is a bargain especially for the information it contains and the price.

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.

Scenario-Based e-Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Online Workforce Learning

Ruth Colvin Clark. 2013. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. [ISBN 978-1-118-12725-4. 248 pages, including index. US$75.00 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.51.39 PMHave you always wanted to design a training program where the learner can practice handling real-life work situations in an interactive, yet risk-free environment? If so, then Scenario-Based e-Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Online Workforce Learning provides the ideal blueprint for constructing such a course.

Clark defines scenario-based e-learning as “a preplanned guided inductive learning environment designed to accelerate expertise in which the learner assumes the role of an actor responding to a work-realistic assignment or challenge, which in turn responds to reflect the learner’s choices” (p. 5)—basically, an environment where learners can make mistakes and learn from them without causing real harm. According to Clark, scenario-based e-learning is best suited for “strategic tasks that require judgment and tailoring to each new workplace situation” (p. 18).

Each chapter discusses the steps to build such a course, including identifying tasks best suited for scenario-based e-learning; determining what media is best suited to convey the message; defining scenario outcomes, creating a guided discovery experience to avoid “unproductive trial-by-error explorations” (p.73); eliciting information from subject matter experts to help learners better understand the rationale behind the subject; and implementing a course.

Throughout Scenario-Based e-Learning, Clark includes several e-learning examples from a variety of companies. In doing so, she not only illustrates the course development process, but more importantly, demonstrates that scenario-based e-learning does not necessarily require costly or sophisticated elements. Indeed, one example is based on content from presentation software slides.
This book also contains several well-designed tables that summarize key concepts. Notable examples include definitions of Clark’s eight scenario-learning domains in workforce training, typical learning objectives by domain, and the six types of knowledge to elicit from subject matter experts.

Besides the rich examples and informational tables, Scenario-Based e-Learning most notably encourages active reader participation through thought-provoking questions and detailed worksheets. At the beginning of each chapter, Clark poses questions that invite readers to apply their own knowledge in understanding various characteristics of scenario-based e-learning. In Chapter 9, she presents five statements regarding evaluations and invites the reader to determine which statements are true. Clark also provides worksheets at the end of each chapter for readers to help define and develop their own scenario-based e-learning content.

This book is ideal for instructional designers at all levels of expertise, even those new to the field, since it explains basic tenets of instructional design. I recommend reading this book first cover-to-cover for those new to the field to understand the key concepts, and then return to specific chapters as needed. More-experienced instructional designers can skim this basic information and go directly to the abundant worksheets, tables, and examples.

Jamye Sagan
Jamye Sagan has over 10 years of technical communication experience. She is the pharmacy communications advisor for H-E-B Grocery Company in San Antonio, TX. A Senior Member, she is active with the Instructional Design & Learning SIG, where she has contributed several Summit session reviews for the SIG’s newsletter.

Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less

Joe Pulizzi. 2014. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. [ISBN 978-0-07-181989-3. 332 pages, including index. US$25.00.]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.51.51 PMEpic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less is a well-thought out book on content marketing, or creating a narrative for a brand. The book guides you both through the history of the concept through to present thoughts and industry leaders. Examples of every concept are supplied, including Web links, for every section. While it is not possible to cover every element of a good strategy for a specific business in this book, it does show the most important elements and even gives some tools on how to analyze your business and get what you need for a complete content marketing plan.

Pulizzi clearly believes in what he’s selling. Epic Content Marketing is enthusiastic and uses narratives where it can as examples. The Web links at the end of each chapter are current and stable (most of them are large and reliable companies), with each tying into the text itself.

Epic Content Marketing does have a few weak moments. Pulizzi is unnecessarily redundant and his logic does not seem particularly sound, particularly in the first chapter. Once the reader pushes past that, it opens up to a read that is both reliably informative and genuinely enjoyable.

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.

WordPress: The Missing Manual

Matthew MacDonald. 2013. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly. [ISBN 978-1-449-30984-8. 547 pages, including index. US$29.99 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 3.48.25 PMHave something to say? Need an online platform to reach a big audience—either with your thoughts and opinions or your product?

If you answered yes to those questions, you’re a good candidate to establish a WordPress blog or Web site. WordPress, according to its own Web site, is “web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.” [http://timepiecedemo.wordpress.com/] This cloud Web site software is appropriate for individuals or businesses.

Can you learn everything you need to know using the WordPress online reference pages? Probably—thousands have. But WordPress: The Missing Manual is the friendly, helpful, 550-page desktop resource that you want for a logically presented introduction to the software and that you need if you plan to take WordPress to a more advanced level.

MacDonald has added another outstanding volume to the O’Reilly missing manual series. He’s divided the book into five sections, each with two to five chapters: starting out, building a blog, supercharging your blog, from blog to Web site, and appendixes. The chapters offer easy-to-follow explanations on, for example, signing up; creating posts; selecting and editing a theme, pages and menus; allowing comments; and collaborating.

He writes in the second person so the book is all about you, the reader. The text is crisp and clear. MacDonald’s explanation, for example, of “high-quality” URLs takes eight pages (115-122), yet you come away with a complete understanding of how WordPress generates URLs, how to create permalinks (and why you’d want to), and how to make a URL even shorter.
Consistent with the volumes in the missing book series, the page layout is excellent, with many examples and with a welcome set of tips and tricks sprinkled throughout. They are labeled either as a note, “power users’ clinic,” “gem in the rough,” “plug-in power,” “up to speed,” or frequently asked questions. Each serves a slightly different function, naturally; in spite of how many are provided, none are superfluous.

O’Reilly does not package a CD full of examples or URLs with the book. In the page devoted to the lack of a CD, the publisher claims this saves you $5. Instead, all the reference materials are available online at missingmanuals.com. Handy, isn’t it?

For the price of this book, it is a bargain and then some. WordPress bloggers and Web site developers will save much time and energy by having this outstanding resource on their bookshelves.

Ginny Hudak-David
Ginny Hudak-David is the senior associate director in the Office for University Relations at the University of Illinois, the largest public university in Illinois with campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield. She works on a variety of communications projects.

American Modernism: Graphic Design 1920 to 1960

R. Roger Remington with Lisa Bodenstedt. 2013. London, England: Laurence King Publishing. [ISBN 978-1-78067-098-0. 192 pages, including index. US $19.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.52.43 PMRoger Remington’s revised version of American Modernism: Graphic Design 1920 to 1960 is a wonderful history of the importance and the impact of modernism on graphic design in America. Though the book’s subtitle states that the time frame covered is 1920-1960, it actually covers information from 1850 through the 1990s, but the most in-depth information is from 1920-1960. Other times are covered to set the background for the development of modernism in America or to explain its decline. The inclusion of background information helps to develop the story of the history of modernism in graphic design. The book also explains in detail the impact of the European modern movements and how they came to influence modernism in America.

Even if you are familiar with this time in American graphic design, you will likely learn about designers that you are unfamiliar with, or possibly learn more about the significant contributions that some of the lesser-known designers have made. Each chapter has examples of the work done by the designers covered and the captions that accompany the images are detailed descriptions that should not be overlooked. If you skip them, you will certainly miss out on some of the great information provided in the text.

There does appear to be a mistake in one of the image captions on page 64, where it describes Lester Beall’s involvement with the Rural Electrification Administration. The information in the caption indicates that he was involved with the project from 1939-1941. Then on page 66, the information is corrected stating that Beall’s involvement with the project was from 1937-1941. Despite this, the text contains detailed information about Beall’s importance and contribution to American graphic design.

American Modernism was an easy read and filled with great information and details about various designers who contributed to the Modern movement as well as the technologies that had an impact on the movement. It was fun to read, despite being a history book, and its short length made it feel less intimidating than most design history books. This book will be great for students and designers who want to know more about the impact of the modern movement on the history of graphic design in America.

Amanda Horton
Amanda Horton holds an MFA in Design and currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of Central Oklahoma in the areas of design technology, design studio and history of graphic design. She serves as a book reviewer for Technical Communication.

Every Page is Page One: Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web

Mark Baker. 2013. Laguna Hills, CA: XML Press. [ISBN 978-1-937434-29-8. 288 pages, including index. US$24.70 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.53.01 PMMark Baker’s book develops and promotes his concept of “Every Page is Page One” (EPPO) help topics. He argues that, because users expect to be able to search and navigate documentation as one resource, what he calls “information snacking behavior” (p. 3), technical communicators can no longer “create help systems and manuals the way they did before the Web” (p. viii). In fact, Web-based documentation, because of its nonlinear nature, may be introduced to the user at any topic. Therefore, you need to treat every page as page one, or as the potential starting point, and include more introductory and contextual information in your topics. He positions EPPO as “both an information design pattern and a content navigation pattern,” and the “dominant mode for finding and using information” (p. viii). He recommends organizing most content as if it is intended for the Web as this method will make it usable and navigable now and in the future.

The book is divided into three sections—1) Content In the Context of the Web, 2) Characteristics of Every Page is Page One Topics, and 3) Writing Every Page is Page One Topics. In section 1, Baker uses concepts like filtering, distribution, and information architecture to show how a help topic is a natural information format for the Web. Section 2 defines a topic and details the characteristics every good topic should have on the Web, including information mapping and DITA standards, self-containment, purpose, conformity, context, reader qualifications, and linking and findability. Section 3 explains how to use these characteristics in the writing process with the big picture in mind, available tool choices, and how to manage an EPPO project.

Although the book claims it is for a wide audience of “technical writers, information architects, content strategists, and anyone interested in designing information that will be consumed on the Web or in the context of the Web” (p. viii), it’s mostly a book for people writing online user assistance, which Baker acknowledges in his afterward. Overall, the book is very clear and well structured, and the concept of EPPO is easy to understand, but some experience in creating user assistance or technical authoring might be required to fully appreciate the book. However, it is an important contribution to the field and to the ongoing discussion about whether technical communicators focus enough on creating content that’s actually of value to their users.

Liz Pohland
Liz Pohland is an STC Senior Member, editor of Intercom magazine, and the director of communications for STC. She is pursuing her PhD in Texas Tech University’s Technical Communication and Rhetoric program. Her research interests include museum studies, new media, and digital humanities.

Design Thinking Research: Studying Co-Creation in Practice

Hasso Plattner, Christoph Meinel, and Larry Leifer, Eds. 2012. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag. [ISBN: 978-3-642-21642-8. 278 pages. US$139.00 (hardcover); US$109.00 (ebook).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.53.17 PMDesign Thinking Research: Studying Co-Creation in Practice is the second volume by researchers at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University and in Potsdam, Germany. The institute’s purpose, started in 2008, is to study ways of generating innovations through the process of design thinking. The 14 chapters report results of research on methods and tools of design thinking with an emphasis on “co-creation,” which presumes small, agile teams including both “hunters” and “gatherers,” often working at a distance.

Design thinking offers an alternative to the inductive and deductive reasoning of traditional scientific inquiry and is especially applicable to ill-defined problems. It is improvisational and values brainstorming, prototypes, experimentation, user involvement, and an iterative process. Design thinking as a concept and practice emerged in the 1980s and earlier, but the studies reported in this book aim to capture the interactions and moves and to optimize the practice, all in the pursuit of “ideas that sell.” A typical research question is “How do designers work?”

The studies are organized into four categories: road maps, creative tools and prototypes, distributed design collaboration and teamwork, and design thinking in information technology. Studies examine tools to encourage brainstorming and collaboration, team composition, prototyping, cultural concepts of creativity, and place. One study describes a “tele-board” for tracking design process history, useful for teams working asynchronously. Another studies how virtual collaboration behavior affects the quality of engineering processes. One repeated theme is that “communication within design teams and between design teams and reviewers is instrumental to successful design activity” (p. 90).

The circumstances of the projects on tools and prototypes are so particular to organizations or types of products that the results cannot yet be generalized. Still, some projects define concepts in innovation that could be useful to development teams reimagining documentation and the user experience. Several studies on the behavior and results of teams seem relevant. For example, one project researching how small teams make radical breaks contrasts “projective scoping” (framing the problem in terms of the contexts in which the original design is imagined) and “extractive scoping” (features of the original design are modified and improved). Teams that focus on contexts of use rather than product features are more likely to produce radical redesigns. Another study explores the role of cognitive style diversity among team members but finds that cognitive diversity has no clear-cut impact (positive or negative) on team performance.

My conclusion is that design thinking is highly relevant to technical communication and has already been incorporated through adaptations of human-centered design, collaboration, and multidisciplinary teams. Because Design Thinking Research’s focus is on research rather than practice, other publications will offer a more practical introduction for now to the processes and tools of design thinking at work.

Carolyn Rude
Carolyn Rude is an STC Fellow, a retired professor of technical communication (Virginia Tech, Texas Tech), and author of the textbook, Technical Editing.

New Media Communication Skills for Engineers and IT Professionals: Trans-National and Trans-Cultural Demands

Arun Patil, Henk Eijkman, and Ena Bhattacharyya, Eds. 2012. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. [ISBN 978-1-4666-0243-4. 272 pages, including index. US$175.00.]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.53.34 PMNew Media Communication Skills for Engineers and IT Professionals: Trans-National and Trans-Cultural Demands is designed to give engineers, information technology (IT) professionals, and scholars an overview of characteristics and skills that are now or will become important in the coming years. In the current economy, one cannot assume that working in the USA translates into working only with Americans, for instance, because clients and business partners may reside in other countries, and being able to communicate and work with those people is integral to success.

Patil’s book is divided into twelve chapters, each addressing a different communication topic for the engineer and information technology audience. The authors themselves differ between chapters, and all seem to be academic scholars in Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Greece. The topics covered include the importance of communication skills for successful IT and engineering professionals, the nuances of linguistic and cultural differences in the workplace, technology literacy, digital teaching tools available and even an examination of writing across the curriculum (WAC) initiatives and how they apply to this specific subset of students. Each chapter is arranged much like an individual journal article, with extensive bibliographies at the end and a list of key terms and their definitions. The book’s arrangement makes it read much like a collection of separate articles, which may hinder the overall usefulness in the sense that readers may not find each chapter helpful or useful. The chapter that examines English as a global business language (Chapter 5), for instance, is extremely interesting as a study of how one language becomes dominant over others in a global marketplace. Other chapters seem to be very basic conceptual overviews (Chapter 2, for instance on education technology) better suited to a journal article than a hardcover text.

Which brings up the next salient point; the text has numerous mistakes in punctuation and sentence structure. The first chapter, designed to give an overview of the rest of the chapters, seems haphazard in its structure, almost as if the abstracts from each chapter were strung together with very little editing. The overall effect leaves the reader confused and disappointed and unfortunately, questioning the professionalism of the text that comes after. The same types of errors appear in other chapters, although not all. Many of the graphics in the various chapters are poorly produced, with faded lines and text too small to read. The book itself is also physically unwieldy—it measures 8-1/2by 11-1/2 inches, which makes it difficult to transport, and the hardcover exacerbates that. Put together with the rather hefty price, New Media Communication Skills for Engineers and IT Professionals does not seem a sound investment. Those interested in these topics would be better off seeking a less-expensive, better-produced source.

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.

UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design

Laura Klein. 2013. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media. [ISBN 978-1-449-33491-8. 206 pages, including index. US$24.99.]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.53.48 PMLaura Klein’s UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design is a crash course in usability and user experience (UX) for entrepreneurs and designers, but is also applicable to technical communicators. Her humorous tone engages the reader without distracting from the content.

Like other Lean UX proponents, Klein’s core advice is to engage in an iterative design process: product developers should hypothesize, test, and redesign—and then begin the whole process over again. The Lean UX process focuses heavily on testing hypotheses: “Instead of thinking of a product as a series of features to be built, Lean UX looks at a product as a set of hypotheses to be validated” (p. xvii). Klein divides her book into three major sections: validation, design, and production with each chapter having a summary at the beginning and a clear call to action at the end making it easy to follow.

Klein talks about validating the problem, the market, and the product. She emphasizes the importance of testing early in the design process before wasting resources on unnecessary features. First, she argues, you should use hypothesis testing to prove that a clear problem exists for a specific market of consumers; then, you build a product to solve that specific problem. One simple validation method is to create several landing pages (one-page dummy sites) for the product you want to sell; then use Google Analytics to see how many people click a buy or pre-order button or enter their e-mail address, which then gives you a clearer idea of whether you have a feasible market.

The second part of Klein’s book focuses on the design process. Keep the users’ problem in mind as you plan, test, and iterate. Every stage involves validating your hypotheses about how users will interact with your product. Klein recommends creating wireframes and interactive prototypes before creating a costly full-scale version of your product. Wireframes contain the basic layout and navigation options of the product so you can see how users respond to them, while prototypes are more involved, “interactive enough for users to make mistakes and recover from them” (p. 78). Testing with wireframes and prototypes helps you catch design flaws early and minimize wasted time and resources.

Finally, Klein explains the concept of a Minimal Viable Product (MVP), or releasing a product that has enough features to solve the user problem but to which you can still add features after iterative testing with early users. Once you’ve released an MVP, you should test one small change at a time to see where you can improve the product.

Overall, Klein’s book introduces UX research. Although not highly theoretical, it brims with practical instructions, anecdotal case studies, and useful illustrations. I would recommend UX for Lean Startups to technical communicators who want simple, straightforward advice for integrating UX research into their design process.

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.

Playing with Type: 50 Graphic Experiments for Exploring Typographic Design Principles

Lara McCormick. 2013. Beverly, MA: Rockport. [ISBN 978-1-59253-817-1. 192 pages, including index. US$40.00 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.54.05 PMIf you think playing with type means scrolling through the library of fonts on your computer, get ready to think again. The experiments in Playing with Type: 50 Graphic Experiments for Exploring Typographic Design Principles don’t even require the use of a computer. The experiments do ask readers to explore what type can do and what can be done with it.

The book’s undercurrent is the idea that type, the letterforms themselves, is capable of communicating something beyond the words they make up. This is a familiar concept to typographers and designers, but may be new to someone outside of those fields. McCormick reinforces that idea in every experiment without ever saying, “I want you to understand type is more than just words.” Instead, she puts readers into the position where they will make this discovery on their own.

McCormick takes no time in getting readers away from the idea that type is just words on a page or screen. The first experiment is designing a ransom note using type clipped from numerous printed materials. The experiment requires readers to consider the content of their message and the qualities of the type used to communicate that message. The medium is as important as the message. Ideally, both will work together, but the book doesn’t dwell on that. The point for now is in trying things out and seeing what happens.

One way where Playing with Type shines is how McCormick includes type experiment examples that are used as a product, logo, or brand. This detail emphasizes the idea that these approaches to typography aren’t only fun, but also yield solutions strong enough for real world use. The experiments also show readers that this isn’t a case where the layperson gets to tinker with type in one way while design professionals do something completely different. Rather, readers are asked to think about and use type in the same way designers and typographers do every day.

I have already recommended this book to design students struggling to figure out typography. I fit into that category myself. For me the experiments in Playing with Type were incredibly inspiring because they are typographic approaches that actually work and I can see working examples. The experiments are a low-stakes way to learn the concepts of effective typography and have fun doing it.

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.

Writing and Research for Graphic Designers: A Designer’s Manual to Strategic Communication and Presentation

Steven Heller, Ed. 2012. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers. [ISBN: 978-1-59253-804-1. 176 pages, including index. US$40.00.]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.54.29 PMAs someone who spans the boundaries of academics and practice, Steven Heller has a unique perspective on what graphic designers do. He lectures and oversees graduate programs at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Heller has authored, co-authored, and edited more than 100 books on graphic design, typography, and popular culture (including several for Rockport).

Heller begins by challenging a stereotype: that certain people become graphic designers specifically to avoid reading and writing. Not only is this stereotype grossly untrue, says Heller, but it crumbles amid the demands of contemporary design practice. “With increasing multimedia communication platforms opening all the time, reading and writing and, more than ever, research (a third imperative skill), are the designer’s essential three R’s” (p. 9). Heller’s career, beginning at 24 as the art director of the New York Times op-ed page, shows how writing, reading, and research complement graphic design practice.

Writing and Research for Graphic Designers: A Designer’s Manual to Strategic Communication and Presentation has five sections. The first section contains Heller’s advice on reading, writing, and research. For reading, Heller recommends that designers supplement recreational reading and news reading with writing on design. He exhorts readers to take notes and read carefully. Heller then suggests how designers can find their voices as writers. He lampoons the formulaic promotional copy used by many businesses and encourages writers to develop copy that is more musical, more poetic. Heller then describes how designers might conduct and benefit from both primary and secondary research. He includes two conversations with specialists in archival research on design.

In the second section, Heller provides an overview of areas where designers might want and need to write. These include journalism, criticism, public relations, blogging, academic writing, and writing in and about the design business. Heller incorporates pieces written by other designers, and he frequently follows these with brief reflections by their authors.

The third section is “How to Edit and Be Edited.” Heller explains what editors do and why writers need them. Heller interviews several experienced editors and provides visual and verbal examples to review. He also shows an article he wrote as it changed through editorial review.

Section four is “Writers Discuss Their Writing.” Heller again provides samples of design writing and author reflections. Section five provides examples of art and design that prominently incorporate text with images.

In his epilogue, Heller writes that writers face a readers’ market. Readers are discerning and they have many options, so writers must provide valuable content. A selected bibliography of design and writing books follows the epilogue.

Writing and Research for Graphic Designers is not a how-to manual in the style of most writing guides. Instead, it is more of a sourcebook that designers can use to get inspiration, generate ideas, and gain perspectives shared by design-writing experts.

Russell Willerton
Russell Willerton is a tenured member of the English faculty at Boise State University. He is writing a book on ethics and plain language for Routledge.

face2face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections

David Lee King. 2012. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. [ISBN 978-0-910965-99-6. 198 pages, including index. US$24.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.54.47 PMThe evolution of social media from the personal realm into the business world has made it imperative for businesses to understand how to use them to communicate with customers. David Lee King says in face2face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections, that many organizations not only have yet to learn how to use social media but have to learn also how to use it as two-way communication tools to deepen connections with their customers.

He advocates the importance of “being human” in a digital world by applying age-old human techniques such as communicating, listening, and sharing. Drawing from King’s experience with blogging about social media and emerging trends, he provides specific, practical techniques and real-world examples for an organization to transform itself into a “face2face” organization.

King says organizational blogs and social networks are a great way to connect with customers. He uses real blog examples to demonstrate how they appear more interactive and human by using a conversational writing style and by encouraging and enhancing participation. King even shows ways to handle ugly or offhand situations.

Besides text-based communication, King strongly recommends using pictures and videos to create the human online presence. He offers practical tips from techniques for capturing quality pictures and videos to where and how to post them.

face2face also discusses the benefits of creating an online community presence, especially when promoting a cause or an action. King describes the tools that are available as well as shows ways to organize and sustain the mission. He devotes an entire chapter to listening and responding to online conversations and the tools that facilitate good listening practice.

King recommends using the informality of social media to let an organization establish a personal customer relationship. Again, he provides examples from the real world and their proven techniques, and shows how human-centered design can bring in customers. King then gets into details with specific tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to create this interactive relationship. The last few chapters outline ways to get the process started, how to measure success, and how to deal with critics.

Pick up face2face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections if you are new to social media and looking for ways to learn how to use them to create deep, rewarding customer relations. However, don’t wait too long—in the fast-changing world of social media, some of the recommendations and tools might get outdated!

Preeti Mathur
Preeti Mathur is an STC Associate Fellow and co-manager for the STC Instructional Design & Learning SIG (IDL SIG). She works as an independent consultant, where she develops technical training and documentation for several industries.

ReaderCentric Writing for Digital Media: Theory and Practice

David Hailey. 2014. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing. [ISBN 978-0-89503-814-2. 288 pages, including index. US$59.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.55.01 PMUsability studies experts have conducted extensive research on the navigability of Web sites. However, few have approached it with a concern for content quality like David Hailey does. Writing quality problems abound on the Internet and they become more complicated when involving complex, complicated information systems. Earlier usability gurus such as Nielsen, Redish, and Krug focused on the importance of assisting users to find the information they need quickly and efficiently. Hailey argues that this is only one style of Internet writing, which he calls user-centric writing. The other two styles are quality-centric, for people who want to be entertained and learn, and persuasion-centric, for those who need to be moved to action or sold on a product or idea.

In ReaderCentric Writing for Digital Media: Theory and Practice, Hailey discusses the difficulties and opportunities facing writers created by introducing complex, complicated information systems to the Internet. Many writing jobs are potentially at risk since computers can assemble many texts that once required humans. Writers are in the best position to conduct quality control on these machine-assembled texts, which some Web sites are currently producing with embarrassingly poor quality. Hailey uses several Web examples to demonstrate that both excellent writing and terrible writing exists on the Internet. One need only briefly analyze these texts with the correct tools to realize what the issues are.

Hailey argues that each Web site has multiple genres. Our traditional genre model as applied to novels doesn’t work as well with Web sites because they contain a greater variety of genres and subgenres in their content. I don’t entirely agree with Hailey on his assertions that each object and paragraph on a given Web page can be a different genre, since to me this defeats the purpose of genres, which is to categorize information into neat boxes. Sure, these boxes are artificial and malleable, but why even bother with them if they can be altered from paragraph to paragraph? Regardless, Hailey’s points on genre theory as applied to Web sites is food for thought, and his advice to look at the exigencies, urgencies, audiences, purposes, rhetorical stances, and structures of Web sites rather than focusing so much on their genres is invaluable. He presents several rubrics for analyzing these Web site aspects, which may be the most important tools ReaderCentric Writing for Digital Media offers.

Hailey’s writing style is relaxed and conversational, which makes the material approachable and engaging. Although the need for writers to engage the code, non-alphanumeric content, search engine optimization, and metadata of Web sites can often be intimidating, Hailey approaches such topics in a friendly manner that makes these initially difficult concepts more inviting.

ReaderCentric Writing for Digital Media is an excellent read for any Internet writing or user experience student, as well as any practitioners seeking guidance on how to make themselves more marketable and valuable.

Tom Ballard
Tom Ballard is a PhD student in rhetoric and professional communication at Iowa State University (starting August 2014). He worked as a technical writer for three and a half years while earning his master’s degree in English with an emphasis in technical writing from Utah State University (USU). He was the editor of Synopsis, the journal of the STC USU chapter.

The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence: How to Project Confidence, Conviction, and Authority

John Baldoni. 2014. New York, NY: AMACOM. [ISBN 978-0-8144-3379-9. 68 pages, including index. US$6.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.55.19 PMWhen technical writing changed to technical communication, practitioners and academics recognized that more was involved in communicating needed information than written texts. Oral presentations were part of the process—from impromptu talks to small groups to informal presentations to small groups to formal presentations at corporate meetings and national conferences.

Involving much more than mechanically presenting information, successful presentations also involve credibility. Impressions of leadership are often formed based on the leader’s presentations. Baldoni, in The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence: How to Project Confidence, Conviction, and Authority, offers advice on, among other topics, presenting as a leader; making your audience feel welcome; leading your presentation rather than having it lead you; mastering the art of meeting and mingling; and avoiding nuance when speaking. Most of the 12 short chapters include action steps as questions for you to answer when planning. The “Handbook on Communicating Leadership Presence” summarizes the questions leading to a positive image of the speaker, which leads to the speaker’s credibility and leadership. Baldoni’s point, then, is to help you develop the credibility that demonstrates your leadership qualities.

Details, however, are in short supply, mainly because this type of book is meant to be sold at the author’s workshops and consultations. Yet, for the price and based on its purpose, everyone can learn something from it. For example, Baldoni discusses topics not normally found in traditional speech books such as how to mingle after the speech and recognize a room’s dynamics.

Baldoni’s assumed readers are those in leadership positions as well as those called on for temporary leadership. The shortness of the chapters makes The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence a fast read—easily finished by the end of an airline flight. Once accepted that the book is an overview that requires the reader to apply the action steps to his or her situation, it is well worth the price.

One problem with it is the lack of specific examples. In the chapters devoted to PowerPoint elements of the presentation, for example, there are no actual examples of good or bad slides as well as analysis of how the well-designed slide contributes to the impression of leadership. What you’ll find in the chapter on PowerPoint is text that sets forth his guidelines for PowerPoint.

For those who want suggestions for improving the impression they make when giving a presentation, this book could be the answer. Likewise, academics can use the planning questions when teaching oral presentation in their technical communication classes.

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 Texts: Teaching Visual Communication

Eva R. Brumberger and Kathryn M. Northcutt, Eds. 2013. Amityville, NY: Baywood. [ISBN 978-0-89503-785-5. 336 pages, including index. US$69.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.55.34 PMTeaching technical communication courses used to be fairly straightforward. The traditional technical report writing course used sample technical reports to provide teachers and students with models to follow.

Then, in the late 1960s, things changed as composition research made its way into the report writing course. No longer were the students imitating models, but examining the process for creating the document. The result was that a process approach replaced the model approach.

You can find similar changes in other elements in course curricula, such as oral communication and visuals, to name two. The problem faced by technical communication teachers and technical communication programs is that textbooks rarely go beyond the surface: consider your audience, adapt your material to that audience, etc.

A topic in a traditional textbook that usually received superficial attention was visuals used to support the text. Students were taught some fundamentals of visuals design, but not much else. Now, technical communication scholars are turning their attention to the deeper meanings of visuals—for example, visuals can make an argument that can be analyzed using rhetorical principles.

Brumberger and Northcutt have assembled 14 essays in their Designing Text: Teaching Visual Communication that address teaching visual communication. Roughly following the same basic pattern, the essays present theory followed by classroom application. The authors of the essays have presented an invaluable resource for teachers (and to some extent, trainers) who want their students to delve as deeply into developing visuals as they do during audience analysis. Also, there may be programs that want to develop one or more courses in visuals. This anthology should prove extremely helpful.

Make no mistake; this anthology is a scholarly book with all the scholarly apparatus and not a book that is easy reading. Hence, the primary audience is teachers in technical communication programs.

Brumberger and Northcutt divide the essays into four groups with a fifth being their overall conclusion. Topics covered include visual thinking and problem solving (Part 1), the context for teaching and learning (Part 2), evaluation and assessment (Part 3), and tools and technologies (Part 4). Parts 2 through 4 contain three essays each, while Part 1 has four and Part 5 has one essay. Academics will recognize many of the essays’ authors, which adds to the authoritative judgment of the essays. Most of the essays also include a possible syllabus and exercises, and, in Part 3, the authors provide suggestions and forms for evaluating student projects.

While trainers will certainly find the scholarly theory difficult, they can benefit from the suggestions of topics, exercises, and evaluations. That makes Designing Text worthwhile for both audiences.

If I were planning a course in effective visual communication, I would want this book available. Thus, I recommend these essays to both academics and trainers.

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.

Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and People Can Triumph over Haters, Trolls, Bullies, and Other Jerks

Andrea Weckerle. 2013. Indianapolis, IN: Que. [ISBN: 978-0-7897-5024-2. 304 pages, including index. US$24.99 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.56.59 PMThe digital world is a wild and wooly place where communication is easy, inexpensive, instantaneous, public, and permanent. It offers great benefits, but also contains threats to your reputation, and conflict situations for which you may be ill prepared.

In Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and People Can Triumph over Haters, Trolls, Bullies, and Other Jerks, Andrea Weckerle draws on her experience as an attorney with a background in mediation and conflict resolution to provide the information you need to manage and defend your reputation, and to resolve conflicts when they occur.

Defending your reputation starts with not doing things yourself that you will come to regret. Nothing online stays private, and it is easy for an ill-considered tweet to come back to haunt you. But assuming you avoid self-sabotage, you may still find yourself embroiled in conflicts and under attack.

To ward off and handle attacks, you must first discover and understand what you are dealing with, which is not always easy. Personalities and misinformation often play a part, and the contesting parties may not even agree on what the conflict is about.

To help, Weckerle describes many factors you should consider. Conflicts can range in size from limited private disputes, to full-blown lynch mobs, and issues of content, personalities, power, and identity may come into play. Troublemakers also come in many types, including trolls, sockpuppets (who hide behind false identities), cyberbullies, and just plain difficult people. And to further complicate things, people have preferred conflict handling styles; Warriors enjoy a good fight, Bulldozers coerce, Dodgers evade, and so on.

Weckerle covers the basics of anger management—important for preventing yourself from “flying off the handle” and making things worse. She also devotes chapters to digital literacy—the critical thinking skills you need in a hyperconnected world, where biases and beliefs, gossip and rumors, abound, and determining the credibility and quality of people and information is often difficult. Weckerle devotes a chapter to the legal aspects of online disputes, including free speech, defamation, privacy, decency, and the importance of having strong social media policies.

Having laid solid groundwork, she discusses in-the-trenches conflict resolution issues, including determining if, when, and how to respond. Civility in the Digital Age outlines the dispute management process, and discusses various approaches—negotiation, facilitation, mediation, arbitration, litigation—you may need to consider. If you need to clean up a past reputation, Weckerle points to resources that can help.

Finally, because it is best to be prepared before a conflict starts, or your reputation is damaged, Weckerle brings it all together with a 30-day plan for better conflict management online, in which she lays out a comprehensive series of steps for securing and defending your online reputation.

Patrick Lufkin
Patrick Lufkin is an STC Associate Fellow with experience in computer documentation, newsletter production, and public relations. He reads widely in science, history, and current affairs, as well as on writing and editing. He chairs the Gordon Scholarship for technical communication and co-chairs the Northern California technical communication competition.

Visual Usability: Principles and Practices for Designing Digital Applications

Tania Schlatter and Deborah Levinson. 2013. New York, NY: Morgan Kaufmann. [ISBN 978-0-12-398536-1. 322 pages, including index. US$44.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.57.26 PMVisual Usability: Principles and Practices for Designing Digital Applications is an excellent choice for the instructor looking for a textbook detailing the major principles and practices of designing Web site or mobile device interfaces. The first three chapters present the “meta-principles” of application design—consistency, hierarchy, and personality. Subsequent chapters demonstrate how specific design practices, such as layout, color, typeface, and images are effective only if used within the parameters represented by the meta-principles.

A key point is that “digital applications are designed for use” (p. xi), and need to be usable—that is, they must compel user engagement in a way that meets the user’s expectations of the tool. Usability achieves such engagement by integrating form (esthetics) with function (utility) through a textual and graphical “visible language” that elicits in the user a productive interaction with the tool (pp. xii-xiii). Users must be attracted to the site and find it useful on their terms.

Usability involves arousing and fulfilling the user’s expectations. The design must convert promises of utility (the affordance of the tool, its intended purpose as perceived by the user) into usability (the user’s engagement with the tool, the realization of its intended purpose). If the application’s purpose lies not in itself, but in its usability, good design must proceed from an understanding of how the user cognitively processes the visible language presented by the interface.

The most important meta-principle for achieving usability is consistency, the repetition of framing elements from screen to screen that arouses and fulfills expectations of continuity and repetition. Consistency is reinforced by two other meta-principles, hierarchy (visually displaying the relative importance of concepts) and personality (concrete, visual attributes unique to the application). Combined with consistency, these principles provide the conceptual context for optimizing design practices such as layout or typeface. Design uninformed by such meta-principles results in a sense of unpredictability or incompleteness that frustrates the user.

Visual Usability teaches this approach through its own organization. It is laid out visually and conceptually as if it were itself an application, with chapters focused on applying specific design techniques like layout, color, and imagery according to the meta-principles. The chapters also provide general advice such as making informed decisions by considering the intended audience carefully; elevating the ordinary by presenting common information in unusual ways; and avoiding common mistakes by ensuring consistency among major design elements. Particularly effective is the authors’ running critique of the USDA Web site, SuperTracker, for its strengths and weaknesses in visual usability.

Continually emphasizing meta-principles inculcates fundamental knowledge applicable to any design. Students can be original in developing the application’s personality, but always in terms of enduring aesthetic and functional properties mindful of the tool, the user, and the experience of usability. This emphasis on principle and practice, rather than just practice, makes Visual Usability particularly valuable in the classroom.

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 Language of Content Strategy

Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie. 2014. Laguna Hills, CA: XML Press. [ISBN: 978-1-937434-34-2. 136 pages, including index. US$19.95 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.57.47 PM“Today’s companies need people who think about information strategically, people who speak the language of content strategy” (p. 5). This language results in terminology like governance, taxonomy, content audit, which will make you “straighten your spine, square your shoulders, and steel your gaze.” These words help bring unity, break boundaries, and provide a big picture vision to our field.
Content strategy (CS) appeared in 2009 as an offshoot of the information architecture (IA) discipline. IA had its own terminology, and now CS has its own “common vocabulary, an accepted lexicon” that is just beginning to gain notoriety (p. 7).

The Language of Content Strategy, its authors, and the 52 contributors have only touched the CS iceberg. Future offerings will continue expanding upon the discipline. The book contains five chapters: “Core Concepts,” “Core Deliverables,” “Technical Concepts,” “Extended Deliverables,” and “Global Content.”

The Core Concept terms include content, content strategy, content lifecycle, content standards, accessibility, content optimization, content quality assurance, findability, metadata, search engine optimization (SEO), and personalization. Bailie explains “content strategy” as one you will use to “assess an organization’s current state, understand the ideal future state, recognize where the gaps are, and develop an implementation roadmap” (p. 15). Discussing SEO, Trager talks about spamdexing, how sites like Google write algorithms to fight the search for spam.

“Core Deliverables” covers terms like requirements matrix, content inventory, content matrix, content model, content scorecard, and taxonomy.

“Technical Concepts” defines content reuse, modular content, transclusion, document engineering, adaptive content, intelligent content, and augmented reality. Day concludes his “structured content” with, “By structuring content appropriately, you can more easily turn information into knowledge, instructions into automation, concepts into lesson units, and more, thereby increasing its value to the business” (p. 63).

“Extended Deliverables” extends the terms from Chapter 2 with message architecture, information visualization, editorial calendar, transactional content map, and folksonomy. A “transactional map,” according to Francis, helps “ensure that copy displayed to users of an application, whether in an interface, an error, or a feedback message, is on-brand, produced in a streamlined way, and contributes to a positive user experience” (p. 95).

Finally, Chapter 5 looks at global content with terms translation, localization, globalization, internationalization, terminology management, and multilingual search engine optimization. Romano shares that localization is “about producing aha in any language, culture, or medium.” An aha occurs when the strategy for a localization approach comes together with the content strategy messaging, technologies, and audience resulting in a “dynamic, creative process” (p.111).

You can now see the tip of the CS iceberg. Abel and Bailie have a good start in The Language of Content Strategy. This book helps those new to content strategy get a grasp of the terminology. Our profession fosters the CS field, to which we need to continue adding new words and disciplines. I look forward to the next book in The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Series.

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.

Oral Communication Excellence for Engineers and Scientists: Based on Executive Input

Judith Shaul Norback. 2013. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool. [ISBN-13: 978-1-62705-127-9. 136 pages. US$40.00 (softcover).]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.58.10 PMI want to love Oral Communication Excellence for Engineers and Scientists, but I do not. There is some helpful information, but, for someone who is new to oral communication in a professional environment, this information is not easy to identify. If a second edition of the book is published, Ms. Norback could partner with a practitioner to revise.

For example, the “Background Preparation” chapter talks about audience by answering a series of questions. These questions are too simplistic. With the level of education completed by the engineers and scientists who are reading this book, more thoughtful scenarios can be provided. For example, if you are tasked with setting up the meeting, how to scope the audience? If you’re told to present at a scheduled meeting, explain how to complete an audience analysis.

Oral Communication Excellence for Engineers and Scientists spends quite a few pages describing how to prepare charts or posters, and suggests that the communicator not rely on notes. I find this guidance inappropriate. There is a huge movement away from charts and I do not know anyone who uses a poster. It’s difficult to trust the author is a reliable source when she seems so out of touch with the work environment.

Audiences are engaged if the content being communicated is interactive. Whether it is a demo or video (without audio) related to the topic, the presenter needs to focus on engaging the audience. How the presenter prepares to be engaging depends on the presenter. While some presenters might not need to rely on notes, some people might need those notes to bolster a sense of preparedness.

This book does not spend enough time encouraging the engineer or scientist to think about how to prepare based on their past experiences. Perhaps the reader gets stage fright or notices irregular breathing patterns when presenting. Suggestions like recording a test presentation and listening to a replay would be useful. At the end of the chapter, the reader needs to know that one size does not fit all when it comes to preparing for oral communication experiences. Failing to identify that different people need different routines is a weakness in Oral Communication Excellence for Engineers and Scientists.

A chapter about tools is also needed. The engineer or scientist reading this book needs to allocate time to test the tools that will be used during the meeting. For example, if a recording is required, test the recording tool. If an online meeting is going to be used, make sure you can share your screen and others can view your system.

As a technical communicator who has worked with hardware and software development teams for over 15 years, the book is not applicable in today’s business environment.

Angela Robertson
Angela Robertson is a technical communicator at IBM in Research Triangle Park, NC. She has a Master of Science degree in technical communication from North Carolina State University