In September 2011, Eeva Viljanen attended her first-ever #TCUK conference. In the subsequent Winter 2011 edition of ISTC Communicator magazine, she summarised the conference and its sessions, providing a specific focus on the closing keynote session presented by IKEA on the importance of visual guides in documentation, which has been reproduced here under kind permission of both Eeva and the ISTC.
Eeva Viljanen is a board member of STVY, the Finnish Technical Communications Society. She is a self-employed Technical Writer and Translator, and a visiting lecturer at Tampere University, Finland.
LinkedIn: Eeva Viljanen
In the Forefront of Visual Guides by Eeva Viljanen
IKEA probably leaves no one untouched. This is the case also among technical communicators judging by the eager show of hands among the audience, when Jan Fredlund and Magnus Ohlsson asked about user experiences with IKEA instructions. Jan’s and Magnus’ talk The Ikea Concept: Global and ‘Textless’ Communication, a Pedagogical Challenge had indeed attracted a lot of interest.
Both Jan and Magnus have worked at IKEA since the 1980’s with illustrations, instructions and communications. The initial decision at IKEA to go with graphics rather than text came from the rapid global growth of the company and the host of languages to be translated. IKEA produces 400 assembly instructions per year. The motto is, of course: We do our work, and you do yours, and together we save money.
Jan’s and Magnus’s advice on graphics are simple, but they work. With an easy start the user is motivated. Listing the steps in accurate order is essential. Early succeess encourages the user to go on. If the object needs to be turned around during the process, show the object from different angles. That’s the way to do it! And by the way, if you were wondering about the exotic product names, they come from IKEA’s Scandinavian heritage; some which do not translate particularly well in the global market.
The ISTC have also granted permission for the reprint of its Special Supplement on Technical Illustrations, published in conjunction with the 2011 Winter edition of Communicator magazine. Featuring such distinguished writers as Douglas Newton (MISTC), Patrick Hofmann and Matt Pierce, this supplement covers iconography, meeting end-user expectations, speaking visually and drawing with pencil and paper.
Notes: The Special Supplement is published by the ISTC, and Adobe has permission from the ISTC to distribute it. The Editor welcomes articles and letters for publication. Opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the ISTC. All articles are copyright and are the property of the authors, who have asserted their moral rights. For permission to reproduce an article, contact the author directly or through the Editor. All trademarks are the property of their registered owners. Advertisements are accepted on the understanding that they conform to the British Code of Advertising Practice. Acceptance of an advertisement does not imply that a product or service has the ISTC’s endorsement.