Desktop Publishing Tips and Tutorials · DTP Professionals

What this is about:

In the past decades, technology has brought the power of publishing to almost anyone willing to pay $2,500 for a computer, printer, scanner, and the necessary software. Many have taken advantage of this opportunity to create newsletters, brochures, and other publications for their businesses or organizations. But just as owning a propane torch doesn't necessarily qualify you to do the plumbing in your house, having a computer and a printer in the den doesn't mean you're ready to create a professional-looking publication.

Choosing a Desktop Publisher

by John Gold

Creative Communications The quality of your publication, whether it is a newsletter, a brochure, a business card, or an annual report, shapes the public's perception of your business or organization. A professionally designed and printed publication tells your potential clients that you know what you are doing. A poorly produced publication indicates the opposite.

While I don't want to discourage you from creating your own newsletter or brochure, there are times when it may be a better business decision (not to mention a better use of your time) to hire someone to do it for you. To that end, I've come up with some suggestions that will help you work smoothly with desktop publishers. These tips will not only save money but will also help produce a better publication with less hassle.

First, you need to hire a desktop publisher. You can check the Yellow Pages (under desktop publishing, graphic arts, or printers) or surf the Internet. Either way, make sure you get some references. The best route, however, is to ask around. Find out who designed other organization's newsletters that you particularly like. Call the designer (assuming it's not an in-house person) and arrange a meeting to discuss your project and get a quote.

You can also try graphic design and technical schools in your area. A student may be willing to take on your project to fill the requirements of a course. But be warned — students have a lot going on in their lives, and they may not get to your project for awhile, especially if you're not paying much for their work. If you have a deadline you have to meet, you could be in trouble if the student isn't highly motivated to finish your project on your schedule.

“You'll pocket significant savings by having everything organized before you deliver pictures and copy to the desktop publisher.” — John Gold

Once you've selected a desktop publisher, your work begins. If you will be providing the copy and photographs, you need to gather your material (the "content," in desktop publishing talk). In this do-it-yourself world, it's tempting to tackle this on your own. In many cases, you can. If you're a decent writer or a good photographer, go ahead. But if you have questions about your abilities in these areas, or have better ways to spend your time, you may want to hire someone to do these jobs. In many cases, your desktop publisher will offer these services or be able to suggest good photographers and writers you can hire. Once you have your material ready, you can deliver it to the publisher.

Like other professionals, desktop publishers charge for their time, including the time it takes to decipher and organize the information you provide for your newsletter. You'll pocket significant savings by having everything organized before you deliver pictures and copy to the desktop publisher. I always advise my clients to create a manifest, a list of all the stories, graphics, and photographs that are to be included in the piece. The manifest should indicate where each story goes and should include descriptions of all pictures accompanying the story.

Deliver Clean Copy on Disk or by Email

In order to begin designing your newsletter, the desktop publisher needs to transfer or "import" your text into the layout program. Check to see if the files your word processor creates will be compatible with the publisher's system. Most layout programs recognize several different types of files, including Word, WordPerfect, and Clarisworks.

When in doubt, you can always save your story in text only or ASCII format. This is a stripped-down file format that is understood by every computer and is easily imported into page layout programs. The major drawback to this format is that you will lose any special formatting (italic or boldface text, for example) you applied to the text. You should also provide a printed version or "hard copy" of each story in case something goes wrong with your file, or the formatting is missing.

Make sure you provide the information needed to explain each photo. Captions should include identities of all recognizable people in the picture along with date, location, and other pertinent information. If the photograph is going to be used with a story, it may be helpful to explain how the photograph illustrates a particular part of the story.

Write each caption on a separate piece of paper and attach it to the back of the photograph with transparent tape. Don't write on the back of a photograph, especially with a pen. If you stack the front of one photograph against the back of another with an inked caption, guess what happens? You get little ink spots all over your picture.

Proceed to part 2 of John Gold's Desktop Publishing Professionals tutorial.

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