One of my favorite parts of writing isn't actually the writing, but the process and needs analysis necessary before I begin. This extends beyond writing, but into the overall best practices of the business itself and its entire work flow, because work flow in a business is all about how the knowledge and information moves from one part of the company to another, whether it's a small shop making wigs to a large technology consulting practice. And writing is simply the process of documenting that information, getting that information into a form in which people can share it and use it when, where, and how they need it.
Fortunately, one of my clients, longtime favorite Vocollect, has given me permission to share some analysis reports I prepared for them in conjunction with documenting installation, administration, and usage of a software package:
- User Documentation Proposal is the most complete, as it was my first proposal for them after leaving to go freelance, and most typical of what I would do as a proposal and analysis report for a client.
- I delivered this abbreviated proposal following a request to help Vocollect improve upon its existing technical product description.
- When I had nearly finished the user documentation for this same product, Vocollect asked me to submit a proposal for documenting what its system engineers would need to do to install and configure the product at customer sites.
Most of my technical writing has been for companies as work for hire, so it belongs to them. But some companies have been kind enough to give me permission to use their work as samples.
- I wrote a design document for a data warehousing project for a major financial-services company.
- This is an excerpt of some online help I wrote for Vocollect.
Between projects, I try to help out with some open-source projects.
- I wrote these installation instructions for an open-source instant-messaging application called phpIM, and these usage instructions for the same application.
- I wrote these installation instructions for an open-source HTML editor called FCKeditor. I'm still finishing the usage instructions, which will allow the user the click an image map of the interface and get information on any feature (basically HTML-based What's-This help) or get help the more traditional way (clicking a topic in a list). I'll post those as soon as they're finished.
I have written probably hundreds of courses to teach adults software, hardware, or networking, including lecture and hands-on courses, even a complete continuing education program on networking with Microsoft Windows NT for McGraw-Hill, a leader in educational publishing.
Like my technical writing, most of my curriculum development has been for companies as work for hire and therefore belongs to them. Fortunately, I have a few samples I have done for myself. I wrote this in preparation for an interview where I was to present an advanced technique in Adobe InDesign. Nothing fancy, as it was on pretty short notice.
My Master's thesis, Learning About the Holocaust, was an educational program for high school students. My goal in writing this was to provide a direct learning experience, as opposed to a lecture style, that would take advantage of existing classroom goals for critical thinking and better writing skills. The original package included reproductions of primary sources, including correspondence, photographs, and memoirs. The objects and documents came from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. I originally wrote it in WordPerfect for Windows, and have scanned it and reformatted it in Microsoft Word.
educational & museum theory
I wrote these papers for classes while working on my master's degree in museum education at the College of William and Mary: African-American History and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation | Boorstin & Knowledge | Censorship & Education in a Postmodern Society | Feminism in the Museum | Museum Theory final exam | philosophical critique | Use of Media in History Museums. (I received As on all of them.) I wrote them using WordPerfect for Windows and a pile of books on museums and education.
I wrote the highlighted article on page three of this newsletter for my neighborhood civic association's monthly newsletter as part of a series of articles of interest to neighborhood dog owners.
I wrote this essay on my concept of PretendWorld as a serial article idea. I'm still looking for the right market for it. I originally jotted it in an e-mail, expanded upon it in Microsoft Word for Windows, and laid it out for this portfolio using Adobe InDesign for Windows.
During law school at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, I took a culminating seminar on the First Amendment, for which I wrote this paper titled What is Religion? I wrote it using Microsoft Word for Windows (and lots and lots of books of legal cases).
While in graduate school, I did an independent study with Professor John Stanfield of William and Mary's American Studies department on African-American women in media. I wrote the following papers as part of that independent study: African-American Women in the Film & Television Industries | African-American Women in the Movies | White Supremacist Groups, African Americans, and the Creation of Images | Womanism in Film. I wrote all of them using WordPerfect for Windows (and lots and lots of books, videos, and microfiche).
After college, I took some graduate classes at the American University in its School of Public Affairs' Department of Justice, Law, and Society. My paper on woman and politics in America made it into my advisor's book later that year. I also wrote a paper on public policies regarding prostitution. I wrote both using WordPerfect for DOS, books, microfiche, and lots of Gallup polls and US Census data.
Some of these I did for classes, some for my own businesses, and some for friends.
The goal with the whole Foodophilia project was to convey a sort of mid-20th century aesthetic, evoking that optimistic, comfort-seeking, homey spirit we often associate with the post-World War II era. I created the cards in QuarkXpress 4.1 for Windows, using a typeface called French Script that I think looks very 1940s/1950s; in conjunction with Twentieth Century (the sans serif used for the main text), it reminds me of a 1950s diner menu. The business cards, like the rest of the corporate identity, use a cutlery graphic that's simply a piece of Havana Street clip art.
Here is my wrinklybrain business card as well. The type and text are identical to that found on the letterhead, web site, and other communications, down to the spacing. These I did in Adobe InDesign, using Frutiger Linotype (tracked at 130 percent) in black and Pantone 2726.
One of the challenges of being a new business, but especially a new sole proprietorship, is conveying seriousness, that you'll be around for the client's next need, and that you know what you're doing. When I started Foodophilia, an in-home catering and party planning service, I certainly faced that challenge. One of the easiest yet most powerful ways of overcoming that challenge is a cohesive corporate identity that really conveys who you are and what you can do for your clients. So everything a potential client (or anyone else) sees that relates to one of my businesses (freelance writing and graphic design obviously being the other) reinforces that corporate identity. The web site, correspondence, business cards, contracts, and handouts (for when I do a cooking class) all carry exactly the same corporate identity.
The best way, of course, to see my other favorite corporate identity project is by looking at my wrinklybrain stuff, which uses Georgia for body text, Frutiger Linotype for headings, Pantone colors 2706, 2716, 2726, and 2736 for accents, and plenty of white space for a simple, clean look. My emphasis with the web site has been on simple, fast-loading design that requires no scripts.
This lost cat flyer is just a simple example of powerful yet simple design. (She was hiding in the dark recesses of my bedroom closet, but for a while there it was really scary. My fiancÚ got points for walking around the neighborhood and stapling them wherever he could so that I could continue looking for her and calling local animal shelters. He got even more for taking them all down without complaint when she finally emerged safely from underneath my sweaters.)
I laid it out (in a hurry) in QuarkXpress for Windows. I used Impact for the headings and Trebuchet for the rest of the text. My fiancÚ took the photograph. (Kuan Yin was, my friend explained when he named her in 1990, the bodhisattva of compassion or goddess of mercy in Chinese Buddhism. My take: she's awfully big on the goddess part, and not so much on the mercy part.)
As part of an assignment for my digital illustration class at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, I drew several apples: apple one, apple two, apple three, and apple four (yes, I know the file is called apple5.pdf--that's because apple4.pdf used copyrighted poetry overlaid on my drawing, so I won't post that one). A similar piece I did in the same line as the first apple, expanding on that idea, was this still life. (For that matter, if you really like this bunch, I did several individual pieces of fruit as well.) I did all of the apple illustrations and the still life using Adobe Illustrator for Windows. The Art Institute contacted me after the class ended to ask if they could use some of them as examples in their curricula.
While learning to draw using Adobe Illustrator's bezier tool, I drew this eye. Notice that every eyelash is a separate curve. I was pretty proud of it, for my first class at the Art Institute (I think it was called Computer Fundamentals), using Adobe Illustrator for the Macintosh and a regular old mouse.
When I first got my Wacom Graphire drawing tablet, I tried drawing the first thing that came to mind: a US flag. Funny now that I drew this almost two years before The Event That Made Everyone In The United States Fly U.S. Flags. I drew this also using Adobe Illustrator for Windows.
In keeping with the Foodophilia corporate identity, the letterhead needed to reflect the same back-to-basics nostalgic view of food and home as the web site and business cards. The text, always in that same Twentieth Century font, has a two-inch margin on all sides. Plenty of white space makes for easy readability and an unintimidating, friendly approach. The headings, in French Script, lend a playful 1950s feel. The clip art is from Havana Street's Food collection. I laid this out in QuarkXpress for Windows.
My wrinklybrain letterhead also takes advantage of wide margins to ease readability and increase approachability. I did this layout in Adobe InDesign, using Georgia for body text and Frutiger Linotype (in Pantone 2726 for the name accent color) for headings and other text. Name and address are tracked at 130 percent for a more interesting look and greater legibility at smaller sizes.
I drew these simple maps of our wedding location to send with save-the-date cards to give guests an idea of where the wedding will be. The other cities on the overview map are those from which our guests will come. The more detailed map indicates locations cited on the travel and activities inserts of the packet. I drew both in Adobe Illustrator for Windows and incorporated them into a layout on the save-the-date mailers later in QuarkXpress.
Like most graphic designers, I've done a zillion invitations and things. They're fun, relatively quick projects. But they also show off versatility, creativity, and aesthetic. I did this baby shower invitation for a shower I helped plan for a friend at work. I did the layout in QuarkXpress, using Papyrus for the text and a free clip art daisy (source forgotten--ArtToday, maybe?) I designed this to be slightly smaller than a fourth of a page, so that the co-host in charge of invitations could mount it on a dark piece of card stock with a piece of ribbon.
When my best friend, who's nuts about 1940s and 1950s design, wanted to plan a swingin' party for her friend Teresa's 40th birthday, I suggested a Las Vegas look. Inspired by casino signage, I used QuarkXpress to lay it out, and two Font Diner fonts called Leisure Script Marquee and Hamburger Menu Marquee, both part of their Casino Buffet font collection. This postcard birthday party invitation was a hit with host and guests alike, and the host could print it on card stock on on her color printer, cut each page into fourths, and send them out very economically.
When family friend Everette was graduating from college with an information technology degree, and his wife, Handan, who was planning his graduation party, sent me an e-mail with a mid-20th century match book, I had my inspiration for his graduation party invitation. Using another Font Diner called Mister Television, I created this trifold invitation and sent it off to Handan's nearest Kinko's. They printed it on 8.5 x 14" paper, cut each in half, and accordion-folded each. Handan put each in a small envelope she'd purchased at a stationery stop, and said they were just perfect.
In planning my wedding, I wanted to be sure everyone knew where they were coming, what there was to do, and where they could stay, so they could plan their trip. In my save-the-date mailer, I put together all of that information for my guests. Sure, I'll do it all on my web site, too (www.andrewandlisa.net, still under construction), but some people just don't want to go to a web site. So I'll cut the page into thirds, and attach them to a piece of blue card stock (I'm still deciding how) and put them in an open-ended envelope. I used Frutiger again and the colors we plan to use for the wedding--Blue Ridge blue and Granny Smith apple green. I laid it out in QuarkXpress for Windows, drawing the maps in Adobe Illustrator for Windows. The text on the "travel" panel is heavily borrowed from the Battletown Inn's web site; my plan is to get permission to quote directly or to rewrite before I actually send these out next year.
I've also included a refrigerator magnet for our guests that actually tells them the date; I haven't settled on a design for it, but the original design inspiration for the whole package began with the pop-arty daisy (done in Adobe Photoshop from a Corbis photograph). I'd planned to do everything in a pop art style (I even bought Andy Warhol stamps), which led me to the clean, simple lines in the mailer. But I recently discovered another typeface I like a lot, called Brandywine, from Fontcraft's Arts and Crafts collection. As the flavor of the wedding is evolving as well, from a modern art idea inspired by possibly marrying at the Andy Warhol Museum (where we've spent many afternoons) here in Pittsburgh to a farm bed and breakfast site inspired by Weatherbury Farm, where we spent the weekend after Andrew proposed. As the design evolves, so will the samples here.
I've done oodles of web sites, including this one and one for my catering and party planning business, which you can see here in screen shots or at the live web site. I did both web sites in Microsoft FrontPage, though I've done other iterations of wrinklybrain.com in Macromedia Dreamweaver.
My goal with the wrinklybrain web site was to maximize usability. The first page states exactly who I am and what I do. The title of each window begins with "wrinklybrain" and adds a simple one- or two-word name of the page, to make bookmarks easy to identify. The "about" page includes a biography of me and who I am, as well as a link to my resume. The first page offers the three main top-level tasks visitors can do: view my portfolio, learn more about my services, or learn more about me. All hyperlinks are within a context that I hope makes sense to the reader. I don't feature any particular content on the home page, allowing each visitor to experience the web site in the way that's most meaningful to him or her. I kept graphics to a minimum, using simple colored backgrounds to table cells to create the colored boxes, which serve as visual cues to location within the site as well as decoration. The only graphics files are top-level headings for which I wanted to preserve typefaces, and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of portfolio pieces. This makes for very fast-loading pages, with visitors only waiting for things to load that they actively seek to view (like those portfolio pieces). Every graphic also has alternative text, which will appear visually when a visitor either hovers a mouse over a graphic or its placeholder or browses without graphics, and be read aloud to those visitors using screen readers.
One usability feature I chose not to include was a search function; the site just didn't strike me as having so much search-likely content as to require one. I may add one later.
Another usability I skipped on this site was having a sample appear to cue visitors as to what they would see if they clicked a particular link on the home page (popularly done with rollovers, but possible with button/icons as well). I made a design choice in favor of simplicity and hoped that my visitors would be able to discern what was what. I may add something like that in the future, though, as Jakob Nielsen is right: specifics beat abstraction any day.