Posts Tagged With: publication

Publication Infographic Final

Infographic 3

Reflection 1:

My inspiration for this infographic was based on my recent research into the field of publication. I’ve found that there is a lot of confusing information out there, and most people I’ve spoken to don’t seem to understand all of the same ideas. For example, I have some writer friends on Twitter who are very excited about self-publication, but who don’t really know how it works or how much money they can expect to make. I thought it might be useful for them to have something that showed the important information all in one place.

Since the questions many writers face with publication usually involve decisions between one path or another, I decided a comparison of the various types of publication would be the most useful. From the beginning I planned to have a variety of three-way comparisons that would clearly lay out some of the major differences. This way people can see clearly what their options are, and make easy visual judgments about what is the most common, popular, or useful to them. A lot of the information I found normally didn’t make the comparisons as clear; the numbers were usually spread out in separate paragraphs without any direct explanation to link one number to another. This created some confusion, such as the articles I read making it hard to tell when they were referring to overall publication statistics, print books, or ebooks. Some of the numbers were left out of those articles entirely, and I had to extrapolate them (for example, the 6% of books being independently published weren’t mentioned at all, and I had to figure out that number after subtracting the self and traditional publication numbers).

One of the biggest limitations I found was that piktochart didn’t seem to have any good options for helping me align the various icons and background shapes I used. I had to eyeball a lot of things, and I feel like under close examination there will be visual flaws in the layout. I would have preferred if the program had a tool similar to Prezi’s that showed me when two objects were the same size, centered correctly, or aligned on the same horizontal or vertical point as each other.

I also felt I generally lacked enough artistic skill to make the layout visually appealing. I had to judge color choices and shapes simply by what I thought looked good. If I were to make an infographic in a professional environment, I would probably want to work together with someone with more artistic skills, collaborating on the design but letting the other person make the graphical choices while I did the writing. Either that, or practice enough myself to attain a higher level of skill than what I had here.

Reflection 2:

I laid out the text of the infographic with two types of hierarchy in mind. One was a change in color, which Lupton suggests can be uses for emphasis (p. 132) instead of italic or bold font. I decided that the headings for each grid would stand out well in color, compared to the plain white font I used for most of the text. Since I was laying out the text in a nonlinear fashion, I thought this emphasis would be a good way to draw the reader’s attention to each heading first. If I had been writing a normal paper where everything was linear and the reader followed the text from the top to the bottom, headings could have simply been placed between paragraphs, possibly in a larger font size. The layout of the infographic, however, meant that sometimes the headings were either above, below, or to the side of the information they related to. I felt this meant they needed to stand out in some way.

A second hierarchical method I used was simply changing the font size. The headings for each grid are in the largest size, the sub-headings (such as for self, indie, and traditional publication) are in a smaller size, and the main blocks of informative text are in the smallest. I wanted to avoid excessively fancy font choices, since they would have been unnecessary and distracting. Likewise, I avoided adding too much fancy imagery in the text frames, and stuck with simple colored blocks as backgrounds. I felt that either fancy font or excessive imagery would be what Tufte calls “chartjunk” (p. 152). Even some of the basic icons picktochart provides seemed like they would be content-free distractions and pointless decoration, which Tufte disapproves of. I therefore kept my use of icons to a minimum.

I tried to use a consistent color scheme throughout the infographic, in order to avoid distraction and unnecessary decoration. Even though I was already using simple colored blocks, I felt that too much color would make the infographic harder to read and ruin the continuity of design. Even when choosing my initial template, I avoided ones that seemed too “busy.” Pointless color and cartoonish design would have gone against Tufte’s suggestions that a design should be clear and efficient (p. 79).

I also attempted to make visual comparisons easy to see as a supplement to the numerical information being shown. Tufte suggested that information always needs to be compared with something specific and appropriate (p. 127). He also discusses how a good graphic should visually show the ratio between different statistics, with text included right alongside the graphics. Piktochart didn’t really allow me to make precise measurements, so I settled for rough size differences in the backgrounds on the ebook publication comparisons, with the 87,000 total ebooks in the largest box, and the 12,000 that were independently published in the smallest box. I then supplemented this with icons that give a quick visual comparison (1 book icon = 10000 sales).

The sections of the infographic were laid out to keep related information close to each other. I wanted to make sure that when the reader looks at the infographic, they can easily tell which information is related and should be considered together. Tufte suggests keeping relevant material within the common visual field (p. 91) in order to keep them unified. I kept this in mind when laying out each grid, so that all the information on print books is together in one place, ebooks in another place, distribution of money in another, and so on. Also, even though most of the grids have a three-way comparison between different pieces of information, I made sure to use a slightly different design on each. The first is triangles, the second rectangles, the third parallelograms, etc. This keeps each grid self-contained as its own block of information, with the intent of guiding the reader to view each grid as if it were a separate “page.”

All together my approach was to use simple design, with the goal of keeping the infographic plain while remaining visually appealing. The focus was on the content, not on artistic design for the sake of artistic design.

References:

Lupton, E. (2010). Type (2nd Expanded ed.). New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press.

Tufte, E. (2006). Beautiful evidence (3rd ed.). Cheshire, CT: Author.

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Constructing Text: Textbooks can be interesting?

StudentTextbook

No matter who you are, the word “textbook” brings to mind images of lengthy passages, torturous studying, and droll information. So why haven’t publishers tried to give textbooks a better rep? The truth is, not all textbooks are the same, just like not all books are the same. In our culture, time is of the essence. There have been studies done on our shortening attention spans, so it would seem that publishers and authors need to consider new ways to keep students and casual readers reading.

Recently our class looked at The Story of Writing by Andrew Robinson, which discusses in great detail how writing has evolved over time, and how different cultures and languages use writing in different ways. The material is heavy. At times, it can drag on. But what makes this textbook readable are the design details Robinson and his publishers use to create mental breaks.

First, there are over 200 pictures. The pictures are placed alongside text largely as an aid in explaining the detail of writing as it evolved over time. The pictures are a necessity because many of the forms of writing Robinson mentions are unknown to common readers, so the pictures help illustrate his points and foster a better understanding. But the pictures do more than just that. The pictures create a break from the heavy text. They allow readers to engage in more than one way, and give audiences’ brains a chance to catch up with what is being said. This is a wonderful tactic to help enrich a textbook and improve understanding. Unlike other textbooks, this is accessible to more people because it employs different modes of communication. While the alphabetic text is still the most dominant, the pictures also pull their weight.

Page breaks, sub-headers, chapters, and sections also provide readers with a chance to recollect thoughts and make meaning. The text is broken into smaller and smaller chunks to allow for a seamless collection of ideas to flow. There are a lot of sub-headers, which help focus readers on different time periods and writings as Robinson moves through history. Each new topic begins on its own page and tends to stick to around 1-2 pages in length. This stops readers from being bogged down with too much information. Likewise, the chapters help organize ideas into an even broader area, and the sections help move readers through history. The above techniques are all successful ways to organize ideas and information, especially thousands of years of history, into readable chunks.

These design choices are not an accident of the author or the publisher–they were made to allow for better readability. By creating a more functional page layout, they were able to design a textbook that didn’t really read like a traditional textbook. The choices reflect the intent of the author. The design develops a deeper understanding and is intuitive, providing answers and examples just when the text becomes too overwhelming.

After reading through this book, I feel as though I have a better grasp of how design can improve audience interaction with a given text. I think the decisions people make in writing and publishing are often overlooked, so breaking down the different elements are a helpful way to understand how different strategies work to afford more accessibility. I am interested in digging deeper into the choices from an authorial perspective because I hope to become a successful writer one day, and I think having an understanding of the best ways to inform readers will be truly valuable to my writing. The choices made by writers are definitely something to keep in mind as our society progresses further into the technological era. If our attention spans continue to shrink, I am not sure what we writers will do! Hopefully as we continue to learn more about the ways information and writing are structured, we will be able to answer that question!

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