Click for a printer-friendly version of this article From Writer to Illustrator

Applying Technical Writing Theory to Visual Information

by Patrick Hofmann

For technical authors, writers, and developers of hardcopy and online information, one persistent challenge is to augment and balance the textual information with meaningful visuals. Unfortunately, not all technical writers have a graphic artist or technical illustrator on their teams. If they do, the artist or illustrator is often either:

  • a draftsperson or engineer who produces complex technical illustrations, schematics, or exact representations of physical objects
  • a graphic artist who produces stylized conceptual graphics that meet the requirements of the corporate style guide.

Either way, the result is often the same: the visuals do not meet the requirements of the user or reader. As technical authors, writers, we invest considerable time and effort in crafting instructions and information so that they are meaningful and memorable to the reader. Why do we not do the same for visual information?

To address this question, one could recruit a technical illustrator or graphic artist and teach them the values and virtues of technical writing: to optimise the visual information so that finding, reading, absorbing, digesting, and learning is maximised. Conversely, as technical authors and writers, we could learn the skills of basic illustration and visual design.

Whatever the approach, the mission is identical: by applying our values and virtues to visuals, we become the architects of both the textual and visual information in our documents.

But what values and virtues of technical writing can we apply to visuals? To find out more, plan on attending the following workshop.

A One-day Workshop with Patrick Hofmann
Polishing Your Pictures: Getting Graphic with Technical Information

by Elaine Ruddock, Education Manager


Wednesday, October 29, 2003


The Pines Banquet Facility (formerly the Knotty Pine Restaurant)
115 Fountain Street, South
Cambridge, ON
Check out The Pines at


Continental Breakfast -- 8:30 a.m.
Workshop -- 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (lunch included)


$165.00/ members
$225.00/ non-members

Contact Information:

For more information, please contact Elaine Ruddock at 519-239-3382 or

To register, please contact Carol Lawless at 519-888-3900 ext. 3776 or , with:

  • Name
  • Mailing address
  • Member/non-member
  • Phone/Fax numbers
  • Email address

About the Presenter:

As a Visual Interaction Designer, Patrick Hofmann is "a man of few words." At Quarry Integrated Communications in Waterloo, he builds award-winning visual design strategies to improve online, hardcopy, and interface information.

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