Design and Production: Two Agendas That Eventually Meet

cali fires11-2003

So…Whaddya Know?

A prominent senior designer once asked me what I knew about Quark. There was amusement in his query. He was designing the 1998 Pac Bell annual report. I was an unknown freelancer. What did I know?

I asked to sit down in front of his keyboard, and began to analyze his comp by asking questions in a walk-through manner as I looked through each part of the layout

It went something like this:

“Page layout? It looks like a spread, with a cluster of pulled guides, and what looks like a 2 column grid. Let’s go to page masters. Create master page A, set up a 2-column grid, apply said Master page to spread. Nudge and tug the master page columns a bit. Now the text starts looking a little more secure.”

“Common text box tops? Go to baseline grid. Set first line to strike at 1.5” (18p). Now all the text boxes can be moved and parked accordingly if that’s the plan. We’ll adjust the line leading later, but we’ll leave it at the default 12pt.”

“Well lookie-here. All the text boxes have a default inset of 1 point. Eliminate that, then the text boxes can slam up against the guides without fuss.”

“Formatting type? Hmmm…no evident style for anything. Body text looks like Centaur Book, 10/12.5. There was a gummed in initial cap in its own box with whack runaround. Not good. Let’s set up a style sheet for the main body text, and pull a dupe style sheet to accommodate the init cap (3 down, 1 over) paragraph, and use a character style sheet for color, etc. Now define a style sheet for alternate first, middle and last paragraphs. And forget the part about hitting returns on the end of the ‘graph. Specify the space after each paragraph. Ditto subheads, pull quotes and sidebar info”

“Colors? How many is this project going to use? 4+3 spots and a varnish? Nice. Go to color palette. Lose or convert all RGB colors to CMYK, unless the RGB green is being used as a die-line FPO indicator. Otherwise kill it.”

“The folios in the bottom look improvised. Go back to master spread. Create folios using automated page characters. I can think of more fun things to be doing rather than chasing improperly formatted folios and where they are placed.”

“Text rules? Inline text ital/bold/? Character styles!”

“And that is what I know about Quark”.

His grin had frozen in place. Which leads to the next idea.

Style Sheets Are Your Best Friend

Design and production have two separate agendas: The designer is creating multiple variants to sell one. The print-production expert has to take that one idea and make it jump multiple times. This is where a solid command of style sheets will make your waking working life considerably happier.

In 2002 I was contracted to produce the 355-page Hancock & Moore catalog through Dan Lennon’s design office.

On arrival, I was handed a sample spread containing text blocks with grouped AI eps files. It looked a lot like this:


Behold the famed Quark “Duct-Tape Xtension! The delightful things one sees when you turn on Invisibles and Guides. Whoa!

I then asked the designer if this was it. He said it was. I told him that I would use this design to set up typographic solutions for this set up. He was skeptical.

This highlights the difference between a one-off idea and a production-line execution. If I used this exact setup I would be in deep trouble. Why?

  • it was a collage, subject to unintentional ungrouping
  • the rule combination was a different enlargement for each text box
  • it was unmodifiable on a production set up.
  • Hard returns after every line, tabbed everywhere (indicated by arrows), spacing (indicated by dots). All of these can (and eventually will be altered by unwary edits)

Clients will change their minds. Count on it.

This is an example of what the finished style sheet looked like for a main copy block. Everything is handled through the style sheets. The rule combo, distance from main head to descriptor body. The subsidiary listing is described by another style sheet.


(top line is highlighted, showing relevant style sheet, with Invisibles turned on)

Remember what I said about the Client changing their mind?

Three chapters into the book they decided they didn’t like the look. I was idled for a long weekend while the designers went back to the boards. What you see here was the final-final round. Converting the previous style sheets only took several hours. Imagine what it might have been like had I not set up the original style sheets in the first place. Not a pretty picture.

HM Sample spread

One final note: While I was putting this project together I thought the type was a bit fussy and small given that the target audience was likely to be 50+ and a bit farsighted. Secondly, furniture galleries have subdued lighting, unlike Ikea or Target. The following year the catalog had an insert that used chunky 12pt bold type…

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