Posted in Uncategorized

Document design resources

For those of you who need to think about document design as part of your final projects (and really, this is all of you) Here are a couple of quick resources. I’ll be happy to have further discussion about these issues with you, either one on one or in small groups in studio over the next couple of weeks.

This is a web article I like about visual hierarchy. It focuses on screen design, but it’s discussion of how we read in in the Western world (from top to bottom, left to right) and how those reading patterns effect how we should design documents is useful. It describes some design layouts that break up text and help you to think about how to use headings, alignment, typography and whitespace effectively to increase readability.

Keep in mind the peer review exercise we did where I asked you to scan memos. Good document design takes seriously the 3 sec/30 sec/3 min rule.

The other resource that might be useful is a Powerpoint I borrowed from another instructor on effective resume design. All of the principles outlined in this presentation apply, not just to resume design, but to designing easily scannable professional documents across genres.

The CRAP design principles (contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity) are useful for most kinds of visual design.

Finally, I’ll recommend a design book I like. It’s been a staple of graphic design teaching that is in its 4th edition. The Non-designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams is an inexpensive, useful primer. There’s a copy in the library, and I have one I’ll bring to studio time this week.

Posted in Assignments, Uncategorized

Topsight Activity Systems Worksheets

A reminder that you are reading chapters 19 and 20 for class on Monday.

Spinuzzi has made PDF versions of the worksheets available on his website . Using these worksheets may be helpful.

You can also adapt this very bare bones (but editable) version of the activity-system-diagram.

These chapters show how to think through the Macro view of and organization by looking at culture, history and long term goals. Some of this information may come from your interviews, and, if you’re involved in an organization, your experience, artifacts and maybe observations. You may also need to incorporate some secondary research, looking at company websites, press releases, or research about the industries your companies or organizations are engaged in.

Activity systems are analytical tools. They are expected to help you think through the data you are acquiring about a company or a problem. The goal is to identify the parts of a system and consider the relationships between those parts– both in terms of the connections and the contradictions or difficulties.

As you are working on your research proposals, you should be thinking about how you will incorporate the activity system analysis into your research. Think about what questions it can help you answer.


Posted in Discussion Questions, Uncategorized

Topsight Discussion


The reading begins with the definition of the term Topsight which the author defines as, “an understanding of the big picture”(Spinuzzi, Ch1). Topsight was created to access an organization’s overall activity and how that organization’s activity can be changed to produce more efficient results. Topsight includes multiple factors in order to help accomplish this including the resources that they use, chains of communication that people use in the organization, and how employees combine and substitute resources to address their tasks. How Topsight is created is through a five step format starting with the design of a field study, conducting a field study, navigating data from the field study, analyzing the data for trends, and creating recommendations to help use the data to benefit the organization. Chapters 2-5 go on to explain in more depth the use of research and field studies and some of the more important prerequisites that one needs to know in order to use Topsight correctly. Chapter two talks about the use of research design and a research design matrix in order to pinpoint what types of data that needs to be collected and what categories the data needs to be split into. A common research design matrix would include information based on levels of activity (macro, meso, and micro) as well as by the perspective of the tester and the subject being tested. In Chapter three it goes over the importance of building in protections in your research. Creating privacy for subjects, confidentiality and trust between the organization and the testers, control over the participation of the subject in the study, and control over the time that the subject spend being tested. Chapter four talks more about gaining the permission to perform these types of field studies within the company. It addresses the importance of contacting managers and stakeholders at the company in order to make sure everything being done is ethical and legal. Finally, Chapter five talks about preparing the study for data collection. It makes sure that you know the importance of knowing the tools and paperwork behind the study and using the right questions to collect the right data. This includes making sure the data being collect is confidential and that the prompts being used do not breach any of the rights of the subjects in question.


  1. What aspects of the Topsight method ensure that the data being collected will reveal the right information for the organization?
  2. Based on what the class has gone over with rhetoric and ethics, would you say Topsight is a good tool for professional writers to use for field studies? Why or why not?
  3. What is the most important step in the formation of Topsight within an organization? Why do you believe this?
  4. How can Topsight be used within the careers of professional writers? Give examples.


Posted in Creative Enagement, Uncategorized

Thursday Night Winery – Coby’s Creative Engagement Assignment

For my creative engagement assignment, I chose number 59. The assignment was to create a design for red wine packaging, that balanced taste, affordability, and visual wit. I was intended to only take 30 minutes, but that was a joke. Because, I went legitimately crazy.


So, I am obsessed with all things Shonda Rhimes. I love all her shows. ABC has blocked off Thursday nights as the night to air all her shows. In her shows, red wine plays a major role, just like in Rhimes’ life. So I decided to design a wine label after that. I decided to call it Thursday Night, gives it an elegant name, and is also draws upon the shows being aired on Thursdays. I also decided to use creative names for the different types of wine. So I named each type of wine after a major character in her shows; Meredith, from Grey’s Anatomy, for Merlot, Annelise, from How To Get Away With Murder, for Cabernet Sauvignon, and Olivia, from Scandal, for Shiraz.

Business-wise, this would be so wonderful to promote. It would be on every shelf, and promoted as the official beverage for show-watching. You could drink your Thursday Night wine, with your Thursday nigh binge viewing. It would be perfect. By making it a cheaper, more cost effective wine, we could really each the demographic of middle class moms, and young women, who make up most of the demographic for her shows. So if anyone knows Shonda Rhimes, tell her to hit me up if she is looking to expand her portfolio.

I designed this on It is a program I started using at my job, and is an easy-to-use, adobe-like software. I have used this in the past for my jobs and it makes great, professional looking designs for people who need help in graphic design (i.e. me). I think this tool really benefits professional writers who maybe find themselves needing to do some design work, with limited design knowledge or experience. It is mostly free (some design parts have cost, but there is plenty you can design without using costed elements. My work was designed completely using free elements). I was supposed to only use 30 minutes, and hand sketch. But I work better when dealing in actual software and making things how they actually look. I probably did only work a little bit over an hour on this. My design process started with my idea for it to be paired with ShondaLand shows, and then the name, Thursday Night. I was originally just going to call it that, and make a simply, elegant red-wine-inspired design, and then decided to change it up. I decided to go full into ShondaLand mode.

The book also said if I wanted to take it a step forward, I could design what the box wine labels would look like….. so naturally, I did.

Conducting this creative engagement assignment, I learned about everything that goes into marketing of products. Designing products boils down to how it will be sold. Every principle you use, from images to text, to lines, all have to help you sell your product. I also learned about designing for a bottle. Labels are rounded, not like anything most students would have designed. Most things we design are papers, or posters, that go on a flat surface. My designs needed to be conscientious of the fact that you cannot see all parts of the design at one time, which was an interesting challenge. I had to shorten my title because you couldn’t see all of it originally, because of the curve of a bottle.

Overall, I loved this assignment, and for serious, someone get Shonda Rhimes to hmu.

Posted in Opportunities, Uncategorized

Writing Center Tutor positions Fall 2017

The Purdue writing lab is currently recruiting undergraduate tutors for Fall 2017. This is an excellent opportunity for both professional writers, and those of you from other disciplines who are interested in writing, and interested in diversifying your resume experience.

You can find more information about being a tutor here.

Applications are due FEb. 27th. Feel free to drop into the writing lab if you have questions. This is an excellent opportunity. Remember that Purdue OWL has name recognition far beyond the university.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Basics of Usability


Having lived through the transition from dialup to wi-fi, this reading was especially interesting for me. It helped me see how the websites from my childhood, with basic text boxes and confusing prompts, to the smooth user experience we enjoy today were the result of meticulous work by professional writers and designers.

The readings start off with User Experience Basics, which introduces the idea of User Experience (UX) as a means of tailoring a product to its users. The core requirements, as explained by Peter Morville’s ‘User Experience Honeycomb’ are that information should be useful, usable, credible, findable, desirable and accessible. There are also many aspects of UX that are still being built on, such as User Research and Visual Design.

The User Centered Design Basics go into the process of creating UX and provides a starting point for how to incorporate it in our own work. It goes through four steps, which are to be iterated over many models. These steps are: understanding the users need, considering what may be required from the standpoint of business expectations, finding the solutions and building a design using them and lastly, evaluation of these solutions by both the designer, and especially the user/users of the product. This process does not need to be done in any rigid or specific way. It can be changed and improved upon to fit the needs of the user and the product itself.

The next page had to do with Visual Design Basics. This is a part of design that is often underestimated, since most people know what looks good and therefore assume they can produce it as well. The article spoke about how various things, from the font (typography) to the lines in a visual design can lend themselves to it. It also touched upon the broader elements, such as balance and Gestalt, which is the overall design of a page that is created by its elements. Proper execution of these basics can create a highly successful and effective visual design experience for a user. If it is not done properly, however, a site can end up looking confusing or unpleasant, affecting the user experience.

A poorly designed web page

The last assigned reading was on accessibility, which is much easier to achieve with all the tools found in our computers today. The disabled have a right to access to every resource that is available online and elsewhere, and therefore design aspects need to address this. Anything from having transcripts and subtitles, to making sure that color and text are not the sole ways to navigate the site. This also requires integration of all these aspects into all the pages on the site, rather than just one specific page.

Reading about User Interface Basics helped me understand that the best interface is one that the user doesn’t notice. As I have seen in my own experience, with products like the iPhone or Facebook, the interface is designed in a way that is intuitive and easy to navigate. This is done so well in these and some other cases that it is easily taken for granted, unless it is contrasted with a poor user interface, which makes the distinction clear. This can include buttons, icons, list boxes and is present in everything from the font to the layout of a page.

The Information Architecture Basics article went a step further to explain how information interacts with other information in a page. This needs to be seen through the lens of the user as well, so that it can follow a linear pattern and be easy for the user to access. If done improperly, it can lead to confusion overall. To carry this out, the designer needs an understanding of how the information is structured and how it is likely to be accessed. If done successfully, it makes the information easy to retrieve and interact with, so that the user does not have any problems accessing what they need.

Facebook’s mobile app, a well designed and easy user experience


  1. This post mentions specific experiences. Are there any specific experiences that came to mind while reading the main articles? How did they inform your understanding of the articles?
  2. How does the accessibility page expand on our previous readings? Could anything be added to it?
  3. The article on Visual Design Basics mentions typography (fonts, size, alignment, color, spacing), how does this relate to your experience in professional writing so far?
  4. What additions would you suggest to the User-Centered Design Process, drawing from processes you may have used or still use?
  5. The User Experience Honeycomb lays out the main aspects of information that make it valuable. Would you add to it? Were there aspects you didn’t fully agree with? If so, why?