Innovation is key to augmenting your InDesign skills
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Published on March 6, 2014
A digital designer's tools are typically separated by the tasks that they're performing. For instance, publishers and marketers might use Adobe InDesign to accomplish different goals, but at its core, the work this software accomplishes is largely the same - the snap-to grid will help you line up visual elements, such as text and graphics, and the importing and exporting features will allow a high level of control over the content. Although images are often part of the publication process, graphic designers creating pictures from scratch wouldn't necessarily turn to this software when, for example, Photoshop or Illustrator would serve their needs much better.
With that in mind, it's important to remember that in this age, where there's a different technology for everything, it's possible to blur these hard and fast lines. One software isn't necessarily restricted by its core functions anymore, and if you know its basic operating features, you can, with a little training, master additional tricks that will make your life that much easier.
Start by knowing the basics
Before you can learn how to exceed the inherent limitations of a program, you should know what they are first. At its inception, InDesign was established as one of the premiere tools for digital pagination. Whether publishing online or preparing PDFs for print copy, the transformative work of this program made it easier for professionals in this business to manipulate text and images without having to fuss with long hours at a copy desk, while still maintaining a direct level of control over the layout and overall design of the page.
From there, the functions of the program expanded to include more options for image manipulation. It is even easier to adjust and resize images now, carefully and precisely lining up their borders with all manner of headlines, bylines and text boxes, and although it cannot necessarily create images without a little help from Photoshop, it is still capable of pulling off masterpieces.
Once you've learned the basics, however, you may start noticing its limitations. If you're working on a project that includes complex graphing and calculation skills, for instance, your first instinct might be to use the line tools to create boxes and then little text boxes to fill in the information. While this is an industrious solution to an otherwise challenging task, you will waste time and energy lining up these elements using a tool that just isn't meant to work this way. Conversely, you could also design the graph in an Excel spreadsheet and then transform it into an importable image, but again, this will take away from your primary objective, which is to ultimately use the tool.
According to Creative Bloq, one of the true tests of your InDesign skill is knowing when to turn to supplementary software to help you get the results you're looking for. For instance, once you've gained the know-how you need to use this software with a high level of competency, deploying a plugin like Calculs Raynaux, a plugin that allows you to perform simple calculations, will be feel like second nature. This solution allows you to advance your mastery over InDesign, allowing you to produce immediate results which can then be dropped into a column or a table.
The same can be said of every product in the Adobe Suite. Although each software has its own unique purpose, your skills will only truly evolve if you're diligently practicing and dedicating some of your time to additional training. If you're interested in developing your abilities, the American Graphics Institute has a series of InDesign classes that can help prepare you to take your designs to the next level.
About the author
Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the creator and editor of the Digital Classroom book series. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, and Microsoft. He delivers workshops relating to digital marketing, web analytics, SEO, and SEM. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.