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Challenges Developing Hardware Documentation for Industrial Design: A Case Study

What is a Tech Comm professional to do when documenting a manufactured physical hardware product that has absolutely no computer component whatsoever? The vast majority of technical writing focuses on tools and processes that lend themselves to automated text handling, but this type of documentation does not. Instead, this type of hardware documentation must wordlessly convey specific physical motions and gestural qualities to be successful. This presentation addresses the challenges faced with this type of documentation, as well as the strategies that the writer developed for addressing these challenges.

Rebecca Firestone worked closely with a core team of engineers to develop an effective graphical language and style. After trying several different tools and production methods, a combination method evolved: SolidWorks, 3D PDF renderings, Jing, Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, and unstructured FrameMaker. This approach could make it difficult to migrate to a structured content-management system, and might require sacrificing a considerable amount of graphical leeway for the sake of convenience and speed. Can we afford to lose the qualities that make the documents special? However, considering future growth and best practices in Tech Pubs, can we afford NOT to?

In this presentation and demo, Rebecca will walk the audience through the creation of a composited document in both Frame and InDesign, and also touch upon the initial challenges from the perspective of potential conversion to topic-based authoring approaches.

Our speaker:

Rebecca Firestone is a writer and business content developer with 20 years of experience, focused mainly on product and user documentation for enterprise software products. Currently employed as a Senior Technical Writer at Zep Solar in San Rafael, CA, she focuses on product documentation--including installation manuals, tutorials, white papers, slide shows, technical notes, and component-level instruction sheets. Rebecca has worked with several Bay Area architectural design firms, writing articles and features on design and energy compliance. Other experience includes complex enterprise software applications, such as telecom convergence billing systems, messaging presence servers, and customer relationship management software. As a trainer, she worked with account managers, professional services, channel partners, new hires, and customers to deliver industry-specific, hands-on courses in the convergence billing industry space. In addition to her work in the software industry, she also worked with a leading electronics manufacturer to write business articles and white papers on the use of expert systems for supply-chain optimization.



6:00 to 7:00 pm: Networking, conversation & dinner 7:00 to 7:15 pm: Announcements
7:15 to 8:30 pm: Presentation
8:30 to 9:00 pm: Conversation, follow up on job announcements
9:00 to 9:15 pm: Clear the room; move conversations to the sidewalk

Chapter Meeting Fees
For the meeting and dinner, reserved on the Chapter's website in advance:

Members: $12 Non-members: $20 Students/Low Income: $6

For the meeting and dinner, at the door:

Members: $16 Non-members: $24 Students/Low Income: $9

Note: If you do not reserve dinner in advance, dinner may or may not be available on a walk-in basis. We order dinner for the number of reservations plus a few walk-ins.
To attend the program only, reserved in advance:

Members: $6 Non-members: $10 Students/Low Income: $3

To attend the program only, at the door:

Members: $10 Non-members: $14 Students/Low Income: $6

NOTE ONE: Non-members are always welcome to STC meetings.

NOTE TWO: All members of the San Francisco Chapter of the IABC are welcome to register for Berkeley STC General Meetings at the member price.

*Attendees are encouraged to announce open positions. Please bring job listings for distribution. Recruiters may introduce themselves, but may not describe open positions in detail. Save that for one-on-one after the program.

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  • Alice B.

    Last minute venue change for tonight's event! Ed Roberts campus next to ashby Bart. Parking lot behind ERC on Woolsey.

    February 12, 2014

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