San business-writing & design services:

My folder design for the project. The headline reads: “Custom Software, documen­ta­tion, and beyond. Way beyond.” I blind-embossed their logo (i.e., it’s the same white as the page, with no ink coloration).

Flexible Communications Consulting

The Massachusetts In stitute of Tech nology, in addition to being a world-famous university, is also one of the largest high-technology research centers, and a major incubator of cutting-edge tech companies that typically get spun off from MIT later. (For this reason, they have an extraordinarily high ratio of non-academic to academic staff, compared to most other universities.) MIT’s Ad ministrative Systems Development (ASD) group, a branch of MIT In formation Systems, is an in-house technical and creative-services organization that helps other R&D or administrative units of the university with their projects.

Despite their being (as you would expect) extremely bright people with an excellent range of analytical and writing/ editing skills, ASD found it difficult to do for themselves what they routinely do for their own clients namely, “chunk up” (divide into logical categories) and then clearly describe the range of services they provide. This is not unusual; people are often too immersed in their own business processes to see them the way an outsider (such as a potential customer) would. So they asked me to help.

The first sheet is the shortest they’re staggered in size so they stack nicely inside the folder. It’s titled “What is Administrative Sys tems Development?”
Most site maps are just boring lists, but not this one! It has comments and personality, and is the only way to find out everything that’s available on the Santhology site.

In many cases, clients want me to provide a complete communications package involving consultation, writing, design, and (often) production either for print, web, public speaking, or more arcane media. TThe client wanted à la carte assistance, which required me to work with them in a very interactive way. In this case, however, ASD already had writers, editors, and production people on staff, and they wanted their own people to handle as much of the job as possible. (In fact they have an in-house documentation group experienced in precisely this kind of project.) What they wanted from me was à la carte assistance, where I would advise their staff on some parts of the project, edit some of what they had already written, and provide other components “from scratch” myself in other words, a very flexible consulting/ production mix tailored to their exact needs. I was flattered that they wanted my help on a project of the kind they themselves are expert in, and was happy to work with them in the freeform way that they wished.

WWe worked on six insert sheets:
  • ASD: What is Administrative Systems Development?
  • ASD Quality Assurance
  • ASD Business Analysis
  • ASD Database Technical Services
  • ASD Custom Software & Support
  • ASD Documentation Services
The Contact San page gives several ways to get in touch, including a quick text-message box. Who says a contact page can’t be fun!

Initially the plan was to create a brochure, but we ultimately decided that it would be more flexible to create a custom- designed folder, with coordinated insert sheets printed in staggered sizes (similar to what I’d created for NC RI’s China Project). As the client’s mix of services evolved, they could simply swap out individual inserts as needed rather than redo the whole thing.

This sheet is called “ASD Custom Software & Support.”

Once that was decided, they asked me to read their existing promotional material (there wasn’t much); discuss their operations with them; and, finally, make concrete suggestions on how best to categorize the wide range of services they provide.

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In addition, they wanted a series of specific things from me:

The backmost (and therefore tallest) sheet is headlined “ASD Documentation Services.”

It was a kind of mix-and-match approach that I wasn’t used to, but since the project overall was still large enough to be worth my time, I agreed. IIt was a kind of  mix-and-match approach that I wasn’t used to, but it worked out well. (The only caveat was that I had to bill them by the hour, without a real estimate in advance, since I had no idea how much work I’d actually be doing.)

Things went smoothly, we all had fun, and they were so happy with the results that they left glowing compliments in my voice mail a few times during the project. One brief message said that they were “kvelling” over what I’d done. I had no idea what that meant it sounded like slang for throwing up on my work, and I figured I was in real trouble! But it turned out to be a Yiddish word meaning “delighted” or “proud.” My kind of clients!