Static Graphics

Effective static graphics must communicate relevant information about a topic. Uninformative graphics weaken a presentation. Decorative graphics, or screen captures of empty dialog boxes, provide little additional information and are a waste of space.

Unfortunately many graphics only convey a dozen words or less. Make your graphics do more work. Search for the best example to illustrate your ideas. Choose the best subject and the strongest vantagepoint. Include parameters and tools along with the objects. Your objective is to communicate the maximum amount of information in the smallest amount of space in the clearest possible manner.

Show motion by using arrows and overlapping images. Emphasize significant information by calling it out. Annotate, highlight, crop, circle, or otherwise draw attention to relevant information. Do not insert raw screen shots and expect the user to figure out what parts are important.

You can often scale screen captures to a smaller size with only a slight loss of quality. A reduction to 75% of original size is usually acceptable for online publication. Reduce up to 50% for print.

If you reduce an image more than 75%, be sure to hide the cursor before you take the screen capture. When cursors are scaled down, they end up looking like flyspecks, rather than looking like useful information.

Save static graphics in GIF or JPEG format. Use GIF for screen captures. Use JPEG for continuous tone images such as photographs or rendered images.

Check List

  • Make your graphics effective. Show relevant information.

  • Make your graphics do more work. Combine several images into one.

  • Show motion. Use arrows or overlapping images.

  • Emphasize important areas. Crop, annotate, highlight, draw lines.

  • Scale to graphics to fit. 75% to 80% reductions in size are reasonable.

  • Save to GIF or JPEG format. Use GIF for screen captures, JPEG for renderings.

Fig. 13. This Static Graphic of two dialog boxes uses red lines to indicate an important relationship.