By Natasha Berryman
Technical writing and language go hand-in-hand. Whether the job title is copywriter, journalist, freelance writer, or any of the other countless titles that a technical writer takes on, he or she lives in a world that is built on language.
The ways in which they use language are as varied as the rules that make it up—some use language to give instruction, others to provide clarity, and many to construct descriptions of the world that would not otherwise exist.
Curt Wozniak, former journalist and current writer for People Design of Grand Rapids, uses language to tell stories. To him, it’s always been about telling others’ stories.
Education and Career
Wozniak earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Aquinas College of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Curt first began telling stories as a writer for the school’s student newspaper, which was then called the Aquinas Times, but has since been renamed The Saint. According to Curt, he gained this position in a “round-about way.”
He explained, “I wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the quality of reporting in the publication. The reply was, ‘Think you can do better? Our next staff meeting is Wednesday.’ I showed up and by the end of the semester, I was Features Editor. The following year, I was Editor-in-Chief.”
While Curt was working to finish his undergraduate degree, he began writing for the Grand Rapids Press as a freelance writer. After graduation, he continued freelancing for the newspaper while simultaneously working as a copywriter for Meijer, Inc. in its advertising department. He would also later write about the design industry in West Michigan for Grand Rapids Magazine.
He explained that holding this position and cultivating sources in the design industry allowed him to network with designers. This networking would prove to be beneficial in more ways than one, as he would eventually come to work for two different designers.
Using a journalism skill set, but applying it in a different setting, Curt still tells stories. His current employer, People Design, a design firm located in downtown Grand Rapids, prides itself on developing “customer-centered design methods.”
According to the company’s website, they seek to understand their client’s customers and their values, making “the ideal a reality through compelling stories, informed creative direction, mastery of craft, and the discipline to deliver results.”
Creating these compelling stories is where Curt fits in. He is given the responsibility of learning as much as he can about the audiences his company’s clients target with their products or services.
He described the responsibilities of his role: “I craft messaging that links the benefits of the products our clients make, or the services they provide, to the needs of their audience members. We have a diverse mix of clients, but the one thing they all have in common is a desire to serve their customers better, so these are fun stories to tell.”
Working in an environment where collaboration is key and titles disappear as the group works together to complete a project, Curt values the experience he’s had with his colleagues at People Design.
The brainstorming sessions where the company’s projects “take shape” are just one of the characteristics that make his current position different from those of his past. He noted, however, that as a writer he’s always told other people’s stories.
In journalism, advertising, and even when working for a design firm, he has always been a storyteller; however, it is here, with this company, filling this niche, that he has been the happiest doing so.
“In journalism, people are typically less accessible because they are not paying you to tell their story, and sometimes they don't want their stories told. I loved journalism, but I've never been happier than I have since joining People Design,” Curt declared.
Going from student writer to journalist to copywriter for a design firm, Curt has taken a route that has explored several facets of the technical writing field. While some set out, and have successfully surfaced, as writers in a particular technical field, Curt has demonstrated the ability of being an adaptable writer in several.
His grasp on the language that we use every day has taken him to an organization that sets out to be both innovative and intuitive in the ways that it approaches its work—and one that is perfectly content with letting Curt tell a story.