Advanced Technical Writing

W321 — Spring 2018

Ballantine Hall 336
Days and Times
11:15-12:30 TR
Course Description

Topic: Document Design; Our increasingly visual culture is constantly evolving new and exciting opportunities for communication. However, this progress comes with a price, especially for students like you: each year, graduates face higher expectations from potential employers that they are just as fluent in visual means of communication as they are in linguistic means. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, these abilities to manage visual aspects of communication are frequently what give the edge to candidates who seek employment in many language-intensive professions, including publishing, public writing, law, medicine, and social/community services positions. This class exists to equip students with the visual ability and analytical vocabulary they will need to compete at the highest level for work in these and many other careers. The name for the study of these aspects of visual communication is Document Design. Together, we will pursue these central questions, as well as a host of other related ones. -How does the design of a document -- the material shaping of text on a page -- contribute to its effectiveness in achieving its purposes? -Likewise, how do poor design choices prevent documents from accomplishing their aims? -How are design elements such as page layout, font, spacing, size, proximity, color, and contrast central to our visual literacy--our ability to interpret, understand, and make use of information based on how it is physically structured for our reading? -How can we develop skills with industry-standard design applications, such as Adobe InDesign and other applications of Adobe Creative Suite? We'll target these questions by exploring a range of different documents, especially (but not limiting ourselves to) those that we would call "professional writing"--reports, proposals, process and procedure descriptions, brochures, announcements, online documents such as web pages, and the like. We will also learn about more than essential concepts and theories of document design: we will learn how design choices have very real, specific consequences, rhetorical consequences, for how persuasive texts are in the purposes they seek to accomplish. We'll be completing various short writing and design assignments, as well as a semester project, which will likely be the writing and design of a longer document needed by one of our many community service organizations. Several of our assignments will be group projects, again giving you an advantage in your professional future by giving you the chance to learn strategies of effective collaboration and teamwork. (Nothing--I repeat, NOTHING--is ever written by sole individuals in the professional workplace. The more you know how to manage work with others, the more you become be the kind of colleague that others want to have around.) Your work will provide you with a portfolio of various texts that you've created to help you demonstrate your abilities as both a writer and a designer of professional documents. Also, if you dont mind my saying so, I refuse for this class to be anything but life-altering and transformative. Were all staring down death, so lets not waste our time. Also also: arcane lexicography, extempore philosophical musings, non-tangential tangents about Disney, dire Jeremiads and absurd rhapsodies in equal measure (as pedagogically appropriate), fractious impiety, and multiple field trips. (How do you feel about Swedish design?) Email me at if I can further persuade you to take this class. If you DO need further persuading, just ask me about what former students have to say about the class, as well as where they are now working. Also, the stated prerequisite for this class is actually a suggestion, not a requirement. Just email me. We'll talk. The End. Instructor: Dana Anderson

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