Learning Adobe InDesign

Software programmes. They can be intimidating. When we were told that we would be learning Adobe InDesign – a publishing software programme – I was worried. Would I be able to learn how to use this software programme within a few months?

During my previous MSc in Spatial Development and Natural Resource Management, I had learnt how to use ArcGIS, a geographic information system. There’s something fascinating about putting data into a programme, and seeing the visual end result. I’ve always been intrigued by how I can best use software programmes, and remember spending hours learning how to use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, when I first learnt of them in primary school.

I soon realised that my working method for Adobe InDesign would be similar to how I worked with the other software programmes I knew. The main part of learning how to use any software programme in my experience, is knowing how to search for a solution when you get stuck. I love the challenge of thinking of the most efficient way to word my problem so that I can type it into the search engine and find solutions to my problem. Another part that I find important to do at the beginning is to learn the keyboard shortcuts, it always gives me this feeling that I understand the software better, which in turn makes me feel more comfortable with using it.

As with any software programme, I find that I learn best by using the software. Thus, I was intrigued our projects this trimester would be to typeset a book and design a book cover, as well as, create a magazine spread this trimester. The projects provided me with the opportunity to practise my skills, and with that practice my skills improved.

I enjoy using Adobe InDesign now and I’m not intimidated anymore. I like working with numbers, so using the reference points and tabs to ensure that all objects line up, makes me very happy. It’s easy to use and doesn’t require the knowledge of a programming language. And I feel like there’s always more to discover about it, whether it’s a new shortcut or a new tool, thus I’m never bored.


About the author
I’m Sinead, an MSc Publishing student at Edinburgh Napier University. I’m the Communications Officer and the Inclusivity Officer at SYP Scotland. My blog Huntress of Diverse Books focuses on reviewing and promoting diverse books. I’m also a co-host at Lit CelebrAsian, an initiative aiming to uplift Asian voices in literature.

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Discovering Production

As a reader, I used to pick up a book and judge it by the cover and story. Now that I have been studying publishing for a few months, when I pick up a book, I think about the production choices. I think about what paper, typeface and other design decisions went into the book. Over the last few months, I learned that a lot more goes into the production of a book than the average reader would ever guess.

I chose to move to Edinburgh and attend Edinburgh Napier because of their emphasis on vocational training. (I also just really wanted the opportunity to live in Scotland.) I knew enthusiasm could only get me so far. I wanted to develop a practical skillset.

Napier’s MSc Publishing course gives you a year of dedicated learning in editorial, marketing, rights, production and everything in-between. It’s an in-depth overview of the entire publishing industry—books and magazines. I’ve always been interested in design but didn’t really know what it entailed. I didn’t even know what production was a few months ago. I knew someone had to design a book’s cover, but I never thought about the work required in typesetting and designing a book’s interior.

I’ve learned that it’s the production department creating the overall look and feel of the book, transforming a word document to a polished and professional product. Production meticulously goes through the text eliminating “widows” and “orphans.” They’re the ones ensuring the formatting is clear and readable, preparing the book for printing. Never had I considered how the choice of typeface changes someone’s perception of a book. For example, a production designer wouldn’t use Helvetica for a Sherlock Holmes novel. Baskerville, a typeface fitting to the story’s period and setting, would be a much  better choice.

Production choices define a reader’s experience with a book. A good example of this is the work of Scottish publisher Barrington Stoke. They use a specific type of paper and a specially designed typeface to create dyslexic-friendly books. Production choices like these can make a book more attractive and accessible to readers.

I enjoyed learning about editorial, rights, the fiction market, etc., but production has been my favorite topic this trimester. I learned how to navigate InDesign and put what I learned into practice by designing AI sheets and book templates. I’m happy to report that my prior dread of InDesign has morphed into (mostly) genuine enjoyment. Three months ago, I didn’t even know how to use a Mac computer. Now, I can typeset a book. Seeing myself and my fellow PC loyalists progress has been immensely satisfying.

I came to Napier thinking I wanted to pursue either editorial and marketing. While I’m still very interested in those areas, I’ve now added production to my list of ideal jobs. I’ve no doubt that as I continue through this course, I’ll discover new and exciting areas of the publishing industry to add to my list of dream careers. Hopefully, after completing Napier’s MSc Publishing course, I’ll find myself working in one of them.

Photo via gizmodo