If you look through this site, you’ll be able to see examples of the sort of amazing things that people do while studying publishing at Edinburgh Napier University. What I would like to talk about is a little bit different. It is what I have spent the most time doing over the past year and it is probably the most important thing that I do.

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InDesign, it is a computer program by Adobe that has become the industry standard in book and magazine production. It is in the same family of products as Photoshop and Illustrator and more importantly, it is my friend.

I personify InDesign in a way that somebody who has spent cumulative days of their life talks about any inanimate object. Like a captain might talk about their ship or craftsperson their tools, I have come to imbue InDesign with human characteristics. It is such a vital thing for what I do that my human brain feels uncomfortable believing that it is not a living thing with my best interests at heart.

If InDesign does not work, I cannot work. It is a complex tool that requires training and practice to use correctly. It is a program that requires more than a basic knowledge of how it functions. You need to know how to make the most of it. A few wasted minutes each time you use it quickly begins to stack up.

It is a challenging software to use at first. My first project using it involved creating an Advanced Information (AI) sheet. There was probably a day where I locked myself in the university computer lab for maybe six or seven hours of continuous work. I had to decide on colour schemes, I had to think about alignment, fonts, sizes of those fonts; the list goes on. Overall, I probably spent at least 12 hours of my life creating a single A4 page. That was then. Now, I could probably put together something of a similar quality in an hour or so.

Not long after this, we had an exam that required InDesign. We were provided with a manuscript that we had to completely edit and flow in, typesetting it to specified criteria, leaving us with an end product that would theoretically be ready to print. In preparation, I would take myself to the computer lab, set up a timer and timed myself as I created book layouts, margins, master pages, paragraph styles, caption boxes, checked my time, deleted everything and started all over again. I had to be fast but I also had to be accurate. The product had to be made as fast as possible with zero tolerance for mistakes. I would practice that again and again and again.

When I went on my work placement, I was with Sandstone Press. They’re a wonderful team who taught me a lot. They’re small though and not every workstation has InDesign. When they asked me if I knew how to use it and I said, ‘Yes,’ any task that they asked me to do meant that a real employee couldn’t use InDesign at that moment. They put a lot of trust in me and my abilities, and so did I. The practice paid off.

I’m coming to the end of my final InDesign project now. A book, an entire book, designed, formatted and typeset completely by myself. It’s a big project and has taken me many hours. I’m fast and precise. It is why, as I continue to go out into the world of publishing, I know that if ever I’m asked if I’m able to do something in InDesign, I can reply with that same swiftness and precision: ‘Yes. Yes I can.’