My inaugural Quill submission for this year wouldn't be appropriate without first congratulating Debbie Kerr for her great work last year, and Margie Yundt for taking on the job with such enthusiasm this year. It's already been a decade since Lisa Bater and I first held the reins of Newsletter Editor, and itís utterly remarkable how the world has evolved since—in terms of our roles as technical communicators and our adoption of new technologies, let alone the fantastic transformation of The Quill itself.
My History with The Quill
If I remember correctly, Lisa and I began our Quill editorship without email or internet access at home, without mobile telephones, and, egads, without a printer. Gone are the days of retyping hardcopy submissions into Aldus PageMaker, of printing our hardcopy proofs at Kinko's at 3:30 am, and of waiting for three days for our freshly published copies at M&T Instaprint. Not only has The Quill evolved to become an online newsletter, it has blossomed into a far more comprehensive and interactive source of information for our chapter.
My Career Path
Itís marvelously coincidental then, that the transformation of The Quill seems to parallel that of my career. At the same time as starting as Quill co-editor, I was hired as a technical illustrator at Quintext Information Engineering—now the Interaction Design team at Quarry Integrated Communications. As technology expanded and our customers' needs grew, my role as technical illustrator of hardcopy documentation evolved into that of interaction designer and usability consultant—of digital information. What a blessing that was! Instead of having to compensate for a product's design weaknesses in my technical documentation (usually by adding more complexity and content to the docs), I became more actively involved in building userfriendliness, instinctiveness, or inherent instruction into the product itself—making the instructions way easier to document, if they were even needed.
My Addiction to Visual Design
It has been a busy but glorious journey ever since. My addiction to visual language and usability has granted me many opportunities both here and overseas. Last November, I was invited by a university in Christchurch, New Zealand to develop a post-graduate Information Design curriculum for one of their online diplomas. I must confess, I was initially overwhelmed. How do I take the basic principles of my seven-hour visualization workshops and stretch it across a 16-week course curriculum?
My Epiphany, My Goal
What resulted was an epiphany: an opportunity to take ample time to provide an exhaustive ‘brain-dump’ of everything trapped inside my head. From this activity, I experienced what was perhaps the greatest creative spurt of my life. It made me realize that transcribing my thoughts, experiences, and opinions was similar to starting a documentation project from scratch—identifying audiences, outlining objectives, developing structures, grouping areas, organizing information, and so on.
This activity also resurfaced an unfulfilled goal of mine: to write a book about ‘writing without words’. It's something I began outlining in the UK back in 2000, yet I never had the time or focus to complete it since then.
My Journey to the Land Down Under
So, five years later, I decided to sit down with my bosses and my peers at Quarry, and share with them my new objectives. In April, after nearly a full decade at Quarry, I asked them if I could embark on a new career path, continue the creative spurt I enjoyed in New Zealand, finish my book (now numbering three, it seems), and keep up-to-snuff by consulting independently. They were 110% supportive, and I'm now actively on my way to achieve these goals.
Over the next seven months, I'll be New Zealand and Australia, continuing my work in Christchurch and setting up in Sydney as my base for some R&R = research and (w)riting. I'll try to keep in touch during this time, and keep you informed of how my book is growing and how my life is evolving. Here's to growth and evolution, and to a happy year for both our chapter and The Quill!
About Patrick Hofmann
Though evidently a speaker who can never stop, Patrick's reputed to be a “man of few words” as he teaches the virtues of visual language and graphic instruction to technical communicators around the world. While he continues his solo consulting, book writing, and other global exploits, he's eager to receive your favourite visual guffaws: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this issue:
Contents | President's Message | General Meeting Announcements | Council Meeting Minutes | Evolution of an Editor: From Quill to Quarry to Qantas | Director Sponsor's Message: The Seasons and the STC are a Changin' | Freelance 101: Chronicles for the Self-Employed | Council Spotlight: Student Awards & Volunteer Coordinator | Membership Update | Information Architecture and Content Management | View from the Other Side: What I Did on My Summer Holidays... | Launch of the STC Training Program