Technical communication is an art that combines technology, language, and aesthetics. It is not solely concerned about technical writing and utility. Technical communication, however, requires the use of principles and elements of design that contribute to creating aesthetic appeal. Aesthetics and technical communication are becoming intertwined, and for technical communication to be effective, it must be aesthetically pleasing. I will demonstrate the importance of aesthetics in technical communication by explaining the meaning of aesthetics. I will also demonstrate the use of aesthetics in technical communications, and finally, I will discuss the necessity of aesthetic appeal.
Introduction to Aesthetics
For something to be aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to contain pretty pictures and color. What I am referring to is the organization of the information. Information must be organized in a way that is pleasing and easy for the audience to navigate. Sometimes, that organization includes color and images, but white space and font choices also contribute to the organization and aesthetic appeal of a document.
We find things aesthetically appealing when they create a sense of harmony, because harmony is pleasing to the eye and enjoyable to the audience. Harmony is important in technical communication because it engages the viewer, creates an inner sense of order, and creates a balance in the visual experience. If a document is not harmonious, then it can easily become too chaotic or boring. A lack of harmony can prevent the reader from being engaged.
Bad Use of Aesthetics in Technical Communication
However, aesthetics can make technical communication less effective when they are used incorrectly. If too much color or imagery is used, it can distract the reader from the actual information. The first example that comes to mind is the use of aesthetics in power-points. Power-points usually contain too many unnecessary images and incorrect use of visuals, making it difficult for the viewer to focus on the relevant information. My previous blog post provides additional information about bad use of aesthetics in Power-points. I have also provided examples of good and bad use of aesthetics in web design:
This is an example of bad use of aesthetics because there is no harmony. The homepage is crowded with images that lack order and organization. There is too much use of color, especially high impact colors such as lime green and hot pink.
This example is similar to the one above because it contains images that link to other websites. However, this website is harmonious. The images are organized with an adequate amount of white space, making the website pleasing and easier to navigate.
Importance of Aesthetics
Aesthetic appeal is important in every aspect of technical communication, because a lack of aesthetic appeal hinders audience engagement. Aesthetics are becoming especially valuable in website design. With a million sites in existence and only a click away, websites have to use aesthetics to capture the short attention span of the audience. Once the they capture the attention of the audience, they have to find ways to use aesthetics to keep their attention.
Technical communication doesn’t always have to be entertaining or fun, but it must always be aesthetically pleasing. Utility and usability go hand in hand with aesthetics, because in order to meet the goals of utility and usability, certain aesthetic guidelines must be met.