Communications Writing and Design
Communications Writing and Design
The Connectivity between Research, Writing, and Design
By limiting and filtering the visible, structure enables it to be transcribed into language.
Michel Foucault 1994
After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
understand differences and connections between a text, a document, and a work.
analyze how research and writing unites with design.
evaluate signs to determine their value on communication.
create a semiotic sign system to communicate an idea. 1.1 The anatomy of a text, a document, and a work
Let us begin by establishing a simple view of how research, writing, and design collide in creating communication for mass audiences by relating the collective analytical thoughts of sociologists, linguists, writers, designers, information scientists, and philosophers.
French researcher, sociologist, and author Roland Barthes (Barthes and Miller 1975, 64) called text "tissue", which he explains as "a product, a ready-made veil, behind which lies, more or less hidden meaning (truth)" and he purports that "text is made, is worked out in a perpetual interweaving". The perpetual interweaving of text in modern mass communication represents the endless, interdependent relationship between research, writing, and design. In the information science world, three main items represent the things we research, write and design; they are a text, a document, and "a work". The text is the sets of words that create writing. The document is the physical container where the text is recorded, and "a work" is the set of ideas embedded "into a document using text with the intention of being communicated to a receiver" (Smiraglia 2001, 3-4). In advertising, for example, we see this in writing lines of copy (text), that then go into individual advertisements (document), which then go into a campaign (a work). In book publishing, the lines of words become the text, while the text becomes the documents in the form of chapters and sidebars, and the chapters, front matter and indexes become the work in the form of a completed book that communicates a set of ideas.
Figure 1.1 From Complex to simple. Text, document, and work are the result of research, writing, and design. Illustration by John DiMarco.
Research offers methods to perform inquiry and observation that yield questions, data, and theories. It becomes the starting point for making meaning about something and spawns a desire to define a problem, get ideas, and then ultimately create form (Lupton and Phillips 2011). Research can be formal (structured and systematic) or informal (loose and divergent) and scholarly, building knowledge for knowledge's sake, or corporate, building knowledge for commerce's sake. Regardless of the type of research we use, once we can make meaning and build data, then we can begin to represent our ideas in written form. Research offers more than just data gathering on a formal level. It ignites inspiration of new concepts or magnifies clarification of what we think we know, especially when ideas swirl around inside our heads. In communication design, research generates data (text) and data becomes food for generating content (document), thus designed into a final communication product (a work) for advertising, marketing, and public relations.
Figure 1.2 Data drives campaigns. The "Truth" campaign uses hard data in the form of statistics to persuade young adults to stop smoking. The website and ads encourage millennials to be the generation that disavows smoking by showing a statistical trend leaning to success and feasibility, thus empowering them as group to be seen as making a historical contribution to society. www.tr