Associate Profile: Henry Korman


April 1999

Associate Profile: Henry Korman

CIDMIconNewsletterHenry Korman, senior partner of Wordplay Consulting, was trained as an architect in New York City at the Cooper Union and Columbia University. At Cooper Union he was awarded a Schwineberg Fellowship for continued study, and at Columbia he received a William Kinne Fellows Traveling Fellowship for a one-year study of design in India, Southeast Asia, and Japan. During his travels, Henry immersed himself in non-Western cultures to gain a birds-eye view of his own culture and began a lifelong interest in how different points of view reveal different aspects of our world.

After returning, he worked with the team that won the design competition for the new Boston City Hall-one of the most influential works of architecture in the United States for the next thirty years.

A few years later, working with Gruzen & Partners, a leading New York architectural firm, Henry headed another team that won a competition for the planning of about twenty city blocks north of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, including housing, a community college, public plazas and spaces, and office towers.

He has also won awards for the design of dormitories for the State University of New York and for Housing for the Elderly in New York State. Henry has also designed structures as small as a doghouse (although the dog liked it very much, it won no awards!).

Henry was Adjunct Professor of Design at City University of New York, then Professor of Design and chairman of the foundation year program in architectural, product, and industrial design at the Parsons School of Environmental Design. At Parsons, he taught the fundamental principles of design to hundreds of young people.

In 1985, Henry was called in by a good friend who was working at Apple Computer to troubleshoot the development of ideas for presenting new software. Henry went on to work with the team at Apple that developed and implemented the first hypertext online help and documentation system for personal computers. It was used in all Apple/Claris products for ten years and many of the innovations have since become industry standards. Later, he developed the first interactive courses meant to be delivered online for AppleLink University, a part of AppleLink Personal Edition and a precursor to America Online.

From his early experiences developing concurrent paper documentation and online help systems that contained 90 percent of the paper content, Henry became interested in the brevity needed for the online versions. (Remember, at the time, software was delivered on 800K floppies and 1MB was a huge amount of RAM!) This blossomed into developing and implementing methods and concepts for what would later come to be called minimalist documentation.

This interest has continued to the present. Recently, Henry has helped Fortune 500 companies, as well as small businesses, to improve their documentation while making cuts of up to 75 percent. For example, consulting with a team at Hewlett-Packard, he helped produce a prototype of a downsized user manual for a customer fax machine that had the best customer response of any manual ever produced by that division. He also leads numerous workshops and consults in developing online help and documentation systems and creating lean, downsized manuals, online and off.

Because of his interest in online information delivery, Henry was lured by STC competition directors into judging several Northern California regional and international competitions. He’s also spoken at STC meetings and ceremonies.

Henry is co-author with Jonathan Price of How to Communicate Technical Information (Benjamin/Cummings, 1993) often called the “Bible” of technical communication. His most recent book, co-authored with his wife Mary Ellen, is Living With Dogs (Wildcat Canyon Press, 1998), a book of tales that show why dogs play such an important role in the lives of many people today. CIDMIconNewsletter