Another challenge in redesigning the manual for the company’s only electronic product was language: the company distributed its products in 71 countries, representing (conservatively) nine languages. Translating the text would make the manual either so thick it wouldn’t fit in the box, or the print so small our customers over 50 couldn’t read it.
So I devised an alternative approach: I styled the manual like a comic book. No, I didn’t write a story about superheroes helping to install it — I made sure the illustrations contained sufficient information that an intelligent person could understand the installation procedure even if they didn’t understand the words. I carefully included double-encoded labels with numerical values, or colours (spelled colors in this manual, since our largest market was America). I wrote a minimal amount of text in English only, assuming that anyone who’s into electric guitar is into rock music, and has at least rudimentary English skills. I kept sentence structures clear and unambiguous, and tested them for common misunderstandings that could occur with native speakers of French, German, Spanish, and Cantonese.
The new manual was a success! Not only that, but I got a couple of calls from guitarists who happened to work as information designers. They wanted to know which firm designed the manual for us, and when I told them it was me they said, “this thing is amazing…!”