I have been working with technical documentation since 1993. Thirty years. And during those years I have seen a multitude of wonderful design trends come and go in traditional marketing. Color scales going in and out of fashion. Typography changing, image styles changing, photo styles changing. But design in technical documentation has barely changed. Every text in Arial, same page design, same ugly clip art, same boring colors for everthing.
There can be a lot of reasons as to why the design of technical documentation never changes. Like "this is factual information and we should not distract the reader with fancy pancy...." or "Arial is really the only font which can be used for all languages..." "Come on! The readers don't give a hoot!..."
All - somewhat - good reasons, but speaking from personal experience, there are two dominant reasons as well:
- Companies don't invest in the design of their technical documentation and don't hire design expertise for the job.
- There is no eco system for technical documentation design.
The eco system for design
If you are a user of MS Word, InDesign or Quark, you will know there are literally many, many thousands of premade designs to choose from on a vast number of stock sites. Ranging from super big sites like Adobe Stock to individual designers making a living off handcrafted designs.
But if you are looking for designs supporting the typical demands of technical documentation with lots of structure, heading levels, numbered levels and international language support, you will soon realize that the selection of designs is very, very small.