Tag Archives: information design

For Smarters

3 Feb

Ever had to read something immensely complex and then try to explain it, whether orally or in a loathsome paper?

This basically defines technical and professional communication. A technical and professional communicator is much like a filter, working between two or among several different subject matter experts and audiences. This can get a little crazy. Handling information for various groups of people can be a lot like handling a bunch of out-of-control children on sugar highs. College gave me some courses that embraced this kind of responsibility and taught me how to deal with information mentally–how to receive it, understand it, sift through it, organize it, and communicate it.

One of my literature classes  focused on topics of medicine in literature. After the first day, I was sure the class was going to be interesting, but I also thought it was going to be just another class. I had no idea what was ahead for me.

Aside from the…I don’t know–1 million (give or take)–articles we had to read…here are a few of the novels we were required to read for the class:

The Hot Zone

The Emperor of All Maladies

Mountains Beyond Mountains


All of theses books are outstanding, by the way! I especially loved The Emperor of All Maladies. :)

Unfortunately, there was so much reading to do for just this one class (and I was taking several literature classes during that fully loaded semester), so I didn’t actually get to finish reading all of them on time. However, they all made a huge impact on my understanding of the medical industry–from its history, to it’s connection with other fields, to its influence on people’s personal lives and even the shaping of entire cultures.

For example, I had no idea that pharmacists and chemists have had a history of being at odds with one another and that there are political implications as well which have had the potential to create shifts among professionals to the point that science as we know it can be altered. These are the kinds of things that are not talked about freely, especially if it means an entire country can be at stake. Not that there are any conspiracies, but after learning about the webs of communication and involvement within the medical industry and field of science as a whole, I certainly believe there are dirty under-the-table kinds of things that occur in our medical world today that (medically related or not) have significant consequences for people all over the world.

In other words, this class totally blew my mind. And so did the introduction to Elaine Scarry’s book The Body in Pain. I was assigned to write an 8-10-page-long paper with three concentrations on this introduction–a critical précis (which I’d never even heard of before!), an analysis, and a discussion.

It was so hard!

But in the end, I learned a lot about pain–from its contributing factors to its nature and its consequences. I was overwhelmed with insight just from reading and understanding Scarry’s introduction, so it was a powerful experience to be able to write a paper which regurgitated the things she had proposed in her writing in a way that could be easily understood by someone who was not a professional–someone who was not the doctor or a philosopher that she was. I felt honored!

So no wonder technical communicators don’t get much credit for what they do…because it’s already a major reward to just be the technical communicator!


Designers’ Dilemma

30 Jan

About this time last year, I watched this video in my Capstone course on Technical and Professional Communication. It perfectly illustrates the real life nightmare that designers and other various types of freelancers often encounter.

Having had experience as a piano teacher for a few years, I could already relate to challenges with clients. It’s easy for enthusiasm to drown our reality when people become motivated to send their children to learn to play the piano. Remarkable weekly progress is expected, or the teacher is to blame and the child gets moved on to another teacher. Unfortunately, as exciting as it is to begin piano lessons, a child doesn’t become the next Mozart after a 30-minute lesson introducing the fundamentals of reading music.

Professionals know these kinds of things and have to learn how to communicate them to everyone involved while maintaining their professionalism, credibility, and ultimately, their business.

It’s easy for clients to underestimate, and essentially, devalue an individual’s services, and this can be hard for the professional to not take personally. However, creating and adhering to firm policies and procedures that provide benefits to everyone involved– especially in regards to monetary compensation–establishes a standard of fairness for both the professional and the client.

Just as with teaching piano, a lot of work is involved in tailoring information to people’s needs– whether it’s through building websites, writing, editing, designing graphics, filming, etc.

It’s important that professionals receive compensation for the services they provide because…

1. This is fair to the professional who does the work.

2. This usually eliminates most of those unrealistic expectations a client may be inclined to having about any extraneous details regarding the progress of the project.