Technical Authors - Documentation Consultants





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Design and Print


When we talk about the design of documentation, we mean the combination of its function and its layout. We design our documents to meet the most important needs of the readers. These needs can be discovered by asking two vitally-important questions:

  • Who will read this document?
  • What do they need to know?
Once we have realistic answers to these questions, we have gone a long way towards creating a workable design of the document. At this point, we will be defining what information the document must include, and in what order that information needs to be arranged (i.e. a detailed table of contents).

Following on from this will be about defining how the document will be presented (for example, paper, or screen or both); how its contents will be linked to other information; and how that document will fit with other documents.

Who am I writing for? and What do they need to know?
Knowing about the readership of the document is important too; as it will help us to recommend suitable writing styles, layouts, graphics, typefaces, colour schemes, and screen-based or paper-based supply and distribution methods.

Knowing about the size of the document and how it will be presented, makes it easier to decide on the best software to use to generate that documentation (Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe FrameMaker, RoboHelp and so on).

This planning phase of document design is very important as it allows the document to be defined in terms of readership and content; and it also allows the documentation project to be scoped much more accurately in terms of cost and time. Hopefully, it is at this early stage that any problem areas may become apparent, so that pragmatic solutions can be developed before any critical deadline.


When people produce paper-based manuals, a common mistake is to involve some-one with print sourcing expertise only at the last minute, when you need some prices. Starting with a good understanding of commercial print practice is a real benefit, as this means that design decisions can be made with the knowledge of any likely financial consequences. For example, whilst it might seem like a nice touch to print a user guide in four colours, this is likely to be very much more expensive than using just one or two colours.

Red House have a great deal of experience in the printing of documents within the field of "tech pubs". Over the years, we've probably come across and solved most of the problems which are likely to occur. Generally, we have a very good understanding of the various printing processes, and how they can be used electronically. Importantly too, we are aware of the common problem areas in electronic publishing, such as the use of typefaces, scanned images, image sizes, colour separations, accurate colour matching and special finishes.

Examples of the projects we have worked on include:

  • Printed User and Installation Manuals (black-and-white and full-colour)
  • Plastic-laminated quick reference cards.
  • Large loose-leaf documentation sets.
  • Company Brochures.
  • Low print-run digital printing, with an option to print on demand.
  • Corporate Identity Manuals.
Red House Consultancy Services Ltd
The Old Post Office, 10 Badger Lane, Blackshawhead, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 7JX.
Phone 07785 712 200
: 1996-2018 Red House Consultancy Services Ltd