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Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Text for Readers Paperback – December 31, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0471306368 ISBN-10: 0471306363 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

In this book, one of the world's premier researchers in the evolving field of document design and communication takes a probing look at exactly how people read documents and how they create them. This book provides numerous examples and case studies to assist writers and designers in creating effective documents. Examples include before and after case studies based on user responses, studies of actual design scenarios (including the first technical illustration of the HIV virus), and examples from Scientific American. The Sears Catalog, IRS, The New York Times, and many others.

From the Back Cover

From an international leader in document design, research-based insights about writing and visualizing documents that people can use . . .

This book is for writers and graphic designers who create the many types of documents people use every day at home or school, in business or government. From high-tech instruction manuals and textbooks to health communications and information graphics, to online information and World Wide Web pages, this book offers one of the first research-based portraits of what readers need from documents and of how document designers can take those needs into account.

Drawing on research about how people interpret words and pictures, this book presents a new and more complete image of the reader—a person who is not only trying to understand prose and graphics but who is responding to them aesthetically and emotionally.

Written by document design expert Karen A. Schriver, Dynamics in Document Design features:

  • Case studies of documents before and after revision, showing how people think and feel about them
  • Analyses of the interplay of text and pictures, revealing how words, space, visuals, and typography can work together
  • A fascinating and informative timeline of the international evolution of document design from 1900 to the present

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Product Details

  • Series: Wiley Technical Communication Library
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (December 31, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471306363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471306368
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Gary Bastoky on October 1, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a designer of technical documentation for almost 12 years, I have studied, and used many of the concepts that Karen Schriver presents so well, in this definitive book on documentation design. For myself, finding this information and learning how to apply it to real-world situations was been a long and frustrating process, and there were many times when I wished for a book such as this.
Dynamics in Document Design is not a how-to book, nor is it a set of guidelines. It is information compiled from extensive research that provides designers and writers with the many variables that can be used to make a document accessible to the reader.
I am currently teaching document design as part of a technical writing certificate program at a local community college and Dynamics in Document Design is our recommended textbook. I am confident that Shriver's new book will become the reference bible for what many are referring to as the "emerging field" of document design (even though it has been emerging for more than a decade).
In her Preface, Shriver states that she "...decided to write this book because it has been difficult to find resources devoted to helping document designers reflect on the nature of good writing and design from the perspective of the reader." Thank you Ms Schriver!
This book should be read, not only by designers and writers, but just as importantly, by the companies whose products require documentation. I'm sure that many will be surprised by the correlations made between the quality of a product's documentation and the perceived quality of the product itself.
I can't say enough good things about this book. Buy it and read it and use it to create good usable documentation!
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
For years I've purchased almost every book on writing and design I could get my hands on. This one ranks up there with the very best of what I've seen such as Edward Tufte. Actually, I like this one better because it is not vacuous about what cognitive art means. Tufte claims to tell us about how people respond to text but he never gives any data. How strange for a statistics prof! Schriver offers studies in which we see reader after reader responding to a real document. I very much liked hearing the voices of the audience and seeing what they said. BTW I noticed that one reviewer below chastizes Schriver's book, presumably for poor editing. However, in looking at the page he refers to, HE not Schriver introduces the typing error. Get a clue before you review! I found the writing very clear and personal. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to meet the needs of their audiences.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Stephan Filimonovich on August 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is the most useful one I've found on the subject. Design books of all stripes (document-design focused or otherwise) have a tendency to provide "principles" without ever providing real support for said principles. Books will be loaded with recommendations that may or may not be well supported by data, quantified or at least well documented study results, etc.

Schriver's book does exactly the opposite, and this is why it is longer than many others. It is impossible to read about Schriver's document design principles and not know exactly where they came from. Virtually every recommendation is, for once, well supported by research findings. This book never tells you to do something without first explaining why it should be done.

If you're looking for a short-and-sweet book that conveys the most basic principles of document design ("principles" that may in fact be a designer's personal preferences), this isn't it.

If you're looking for a book that will help you make better design decisions and help you understand why to make these decisions over others, then this is the book for you. After all, it isn't so unusual for professional designers and others in the workplace to have to explain exactly why they've made certain choices over others, and this book can help.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By drama king on March 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
The reviewers who say this book is wordy and over-long just don't get it. This is not a "how to do it in five easy lessons" handbook. If you find a book like that - burn it! Books like that are usually self-published by amateurs who don't understand the complexities of the field, and they are worse than useless. In fact, they are often filled with advice that has been so oversimplified that it is actually wrong. You CANNOT learn document design in five easy lessons.

Conversely, Schriver's book is a refreshingly thoughtful, well-researched, and comprehensive overview of document design. It starts with the history and philosophy of document design and continues through contemporary needs and trends. It contains especially strong advocacy for usability studies, including documentation of those conducted by the author and her colleagues. It's about time we document creators stopped "blaming the user" and started taking responsibility to make improvements when documents are hard to understand.

Document design is a relatively new field of study, so the comprehensive timeline of its development is a gold mine, especially since no author has attempted it before. This type of in-depth research is sorely needed.

Schriver explains things in a way that is clear and compelling, with lots of thoroughly documented examples and supporting charts, tables, and graphics for clarification. And her research spans several decades, which is invaluable for tracking the evolution of document design. She has produced an unparalleled work which will be the benchmark against which other books are measured for a long time.
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