A cool example of instructions without words:

Zentangle instructions

Zentangle is a meditative form of doodling. I recently got into it as a really quick way to relax. (Bonus: you end up with piece of artwork!)

In the Zentangle book I use, the instructions for the different doodle designs are represented in comic strip style.

Each new step is shown in red.

No words

The method of this instruction style is never explained in writing. The graphic is not preceded by the heading “Instructions”. The authors don’t say, “Each new bit of the doodle is shown in red”.

Elegant simplicity.

Zentangle squares

Watch out for colour

Using colour is a risk I usually avoid as a tech writer. Not everyone can see colour, or they see colour differently.

I think these Zentangle instructions would lose some of their punch without the colour, but the clarity of the design means they would probably still work as instructions.

Could you use it?

I’d love to be able to incorporate this instruction style in tech writing. I could see it working with any sort of progressive task where each step builds on the previous step.

This technique might work as an alternative to numbered steps in a user guide for:

  • assembling a product
  • filling in a complex form
  • playing a game
  • using an app.

Image credits: Joy of Zentangle by Suzanne McNeill, Sandy Steen Bartholomew, & Marie Browning.