Document design 101

Document design 101

For the virtual team project, our team decided that two people would be needed to work as graphic designers. Our particular project is about writing instructions on how to use Instagram, and we realised early on that we would need an awful lot of screenshots to accompany the written instructions. And this therefore meant that there would be a lot of work in this role.

So I had a choice between the editor and second graphic designer role, and I ended up taking the graphic designer role. As a hobby, I work as an artist on a self-published webcomic each week, which I create entirely using computer software. With this experience in manipulating graphics digitally, I was quite happy to assume the graphic designer role.

Normally when I work on the webcomic, I use two tools: Clip Studio Paint to sketch and ink the comic, and Photoshop to colour it. However, for this project, nothing so fancy was needed. Instead, I relied on a simple photo editing software called Paint.NET, which I have used for years and is free to download.

So for this project, myself and my teammate collected over 20 screenshots between us. I cropped these in Paint.NET and ensured that they all had the same dimensions. The next problem, however, was that certain information on some of the screenshots needed to be highlighted. My teammate provided an example of one where the information was simply circled in red. I then used the tools on Paint.NET to add similar ellipses to other screenshots, where necessary.

We were also able to use graphics to help reduce our word count, which was just tipping over the maximum of 12,000 words. In many instances, our instructions require the user to tap on particular icons on the screen. So instead of using several words to describe what each icon looks like, I was able to insert a small graphic of each particular icon into the appropriate sentences.

It ended up being an excellent idea to divide the work between two graphic designers. My teammate laid the foundations for the layout of the document over the weekend. Then, because he works full time and is only free at weekends, I was able to complete the final revisions to the layout during the weekdays.

We decided to keep it all as simple as possible and used a simple two-column format in Word with the written instructions on the left and the graphics on the right. We then used horizontal rules to separate the text and graphics for one step from the text and graphics for the next step.

Nonetheless, despite our best efforts to keep it as simple as possible, I still ran into difficulty with formatting the numbers. However, I think this was mostly down to my own lack of experience with numbering that large amount of steps. So after a few trial-and-error attempts, I eventually got it to look like our initial design.

But this unfortunately led to another problem. When the file was uploaded to Google Docs, the original Word document lost some of its formatting, including much of the numbering that I had laboured over. However, if the document is downloaded as a Word file, then all of the original formatting is restored. Nevertheless, I saved the original Word document as a PDF just in case, as this preserves all of the formatting that I created.

I sincerely doubt that this is the end of my graphic design role for this project. At the very least, I imagine we will have to revise something on our document, and it is also possible that we will have to help the French students once they have finalised the translation. Even so, the basic structure is now in place, so anything else from now on should just be a matter of improving or fixing any problems.



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