ITS 311: IT Communications
Chapter 3: Utilizing Graphics and Other Visuals
This chapter discusses the use of charts, graphs, and pictures. Objectives
important to this chapter:
- Purpose of Graphics
- General Conventions
- Uses for charts, graphs, and tables
Chapter 3 begins with a discussion of effective use of graphics. Several
reasons are given for their use:
- To increase reader comprehension
- To provide reference material
- To provide an easy comparison of numeric data
- To provide numeric data that is only summarized in the text
- To add variety to your message
A technical writer will find it worth the time to learn to use standard
graphic creation software. Some industry standard packages are mentioned:
Adobe Photoshop, JASC Paint Shop (now owned by Corel), CorelDRAW, and
Adobe Illustrator. These are examples, and not the only choices you might
make in purchasing graphic programs. Be aware that the standard graphs
described in the chapter are typically created with spreadsheet software,
such as Microsoft Excel. Graphs created in such
programs may be saved as graphic art, but they are typically made in spreadsheets
for easy recalculation when data elements change.
General advice about graphics is given:
- Don't put too much or too little information in a graphic. It must
hold enough information to be worth using, but not so much that it becomes
- Graphics should have titles for two reasons: to
explain what they are about, and to act as a label so you
can refer to them in the text.
- Acknowledge the source of graphics you do not make yourself, as you
should with all elements from others.
Some advice about various types of graphs:
- Use bar charts to show numeric differences visually, such as
differences in scores, performance, or events.
- Use line charts to show changes in values across time, or as
influenced by another variable.
- Use pie charts only when showing values that add up to one
hundred per cent of something.
- Use flow charts to show steps in a process, especially when
those steps can flow in circular paths.
- Use organization charts to show relationships.
Some advice about graphics, drawings, and pictures:
- Use exploded view drawings to show the various parts of a device.
- Use line drawings with labels to clearly indicate particular
features of devices.
- Use photographs to show what an object actually looks like.
In any instance of using illustrations, remove items from the
picture that do not contribute to the lesson, or that would offend the
audience. If you are using actual photographs, this may mean taking a
new photograph without the unnecessary elements.