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Meet TSTC Publishing’s Design Interns

2 Jul

Creativity is a theme this summer with TSTC Publishing’s design interns. “The graphic design interns we have this summer come from a wide range of backgrounds and experience, but all share a passion for design and a strong work ethic that is vital in today’s job market,” said Projects Manager Grace Arsiaga. “We have had interns working in the office since 2004, when the office first opened, and they are a great asset to the company.”

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TSTC Interns Abound at TSTC Publishing

18 Nov

TSTC Publishing interns include six Texas State Technical College Students for the fall semester. They include:

Margarita Seely has been an advertising intern for TSTC since 2007 and will graduate with her associate’s degree in advertising in the spring of 2010. She and her husband, TSTC Biomedical Engineering Professor Garrett Seely, have two children, Gavin and Isabella. Margarita said in ten years, “ I plan to still be married and working. My kids will be twenty!” Margarita is a busy mom and wife; she enjoys supporting her kids, “being there for them, cheering them on,” she said.

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Book Design: Answers to Questions Only a Book Designer Would Ask

20 Jul

Last night the question of quality came up again to my frazzled mind as I idly watched TV (cable, how have I lived without you for so many years?). On BBC America I found to my delight Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares.” I’m not a foodie by any means, though I know a good meal when I eat it.

I find myself fascinated by Ramsay, who comes off as something of a restaurant-industry drill sergeant, not only because of his creative use of the f-word and other — sadly — variously maligned words in the King’s English, but also his understanding of what quality is, from kitchen prep to customer service, and the way he values mental discipline in work and simplicity in the kitchen, even when creating gourmet dishes. The business values he expounds translate well to any kind of business, book publishing included.

And once again, using the associative property of the wandering mind, after seeing the Ramsay show, I thought about comments from freelance book designer Stephen Tiano about last week’s post, which distilled and paraphrased say, Good business comes from consistent quality matched with reasonable prices, and I couldn’t agree more.

Thinking about that comment reminded me that Tiano had produced an “unscientific survey” on his blog, and that reminded me to answer said survey via this week’s post. And now that I’ve rambled about my favorite f-bomb dropping celebrity chef and once again about my evolving theory of the associative property of the wandering mind I present …

Answers to Questions Only a Book Designer Would Ask (from Stephen Tiano)

1. Name the first aspect of designing a book that you give priority to once you accept a project and sit down to start.

Two considerations I’ve been making simultaneously with our books when I first start are how I’m going to apply our styles to the manuscripts we receive — some of the manuscripts have been sort of formatted with random fonts and designs before we get them so we sometimes have to decide even what constitutes a chapter head, a main head, a subhead, etc. — and whether it’s best to copy edit in Word or wait to flow the text to InDesign and then edit. The copy edit is, to me, the first priority, but I really prefer to copy edit once the text is in InDesign, simply because it’s easier to spot errors, most of the time, because I get a better visual sense of the book’s final layout.

2. Has InDesign proven to be the Quark killer for you; and, if so, what was the feature that did it; or do your clients determine which software you use?

I used Quark for seven of the nine years I was at the newspaper. I wasn’t J-school trained and had never used any design program before going to work at the paper, so Quark was my first experience with design and layout software, and from what I can tell quite a few papers still use Quark. I wasn’t fond of Quark, but the problems I had may have been based on our system (pages crashed just before deadline, or became corrupted frequently and were unrecoverable).

When I came here, I got my first taste of InDesign and have really liked it. The simplicity of the tools is a reward, though I find myself sometimes reaching for the Alt key when I want the hand tool (old habits, eh?). I’m big on simplicity. I think if I ever used Quark again, I’d be frustrated with it. I’d be curious to see what an InDesign template for a broadsheet set up in six columns would look like.

I can’t say, however, InDesign is a Quark killer, but InDesign certainly seems simpler.

Of course, with both programs, you use what’s available at your office.

3. What’s the first font comes to mind for body text each time you begin a book design project; and do you usually stick with that choice or say something like, “Yes, I really like that font, but it’s time to work with something else”?

At work most of the time we use Times New Roman for body text. Visually it seems to have a practical, no nonsense quality, perfect for technical books.

Not that you asked, but my sentimental favorite font is Courier, though a hardcopy manuscript page done on a word processor never quite has the bold output of Courier on a manual typewriter. A recent post at freelance editor Deanna Hoak’s site mentions that editors like manuscripts in Courier, because the spacing between letters makes it easier to catch mistakes.

But that’s manuscripts. I’m reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, and it’s set in Bodoni, which seems to really stand out; and, to me, seems reasonably readable.

4. Name one design-related book you highly recommend to book designers—please don’t suggest Tschichold’s The New Typography (Die neue Typographie) as I am just up to here with that book, as much of an earth-shaker as it was.

Ummm… Er… Ummmm …

Th-th-that’s all folks! (to stay with the Looney Toons theme from last week.)


Book Design: MS Word vs. Adobe InDesign

10 Jul

When it comes to book design, one of the questions we get all the time—especially from (potential) authors—is what kind of software we use for page layout. Or, more specifically, they ask us if we use MS Word. Part of this is curiosity on their part. Another part of this, though, is that we have plenty of folks who spend an inordinate amount of time formatting their manuscripts in Word before handing them off to us either thinking that they are helping us out or to show us what they want their page design to look like.

The short answer is that we never use MS Word for page layout. Instead, we use Adobe Indesign CS. And, when we get manuscripts—whether they are in Word or WordPerfect or any other format—we almost immediately dump the content into InDesign and then begin working with it there. There are several basic reasons for this.

First, for the type of publishing we do—graphics/illustration heavy textbooks and technical materials—MS Word is incredibly unfriendly to use. As Aaron Shepherd has noted at his blog about using Word for page layout (as well as in his book Perfect Pages: Self Publishing with Microsoft Word, or How to Avoid High-Priced Page Layout Programs or Book Design Fees and Produce Fine Books in MS Word for Desktop Publishing and Print on Demand), if all you have is text, MS Word can be made to work for you. But, for anyone who’s dealt with trying to uniformly place pictures in a Word document, much less the technical glitches that can arise with those graphics when converting that file to a PDF, the hassle and time involved is not nearly worth the payoff in terms of final layout quality and consistency.

In addition, when it comes to applying styles to text—such as deciding that all main headings will use 18 point Arial bold font—InDesign is more powerful and easier to use. Plus, InDesign, as being part of Adobe Creative Suite, is integrated with other programs such as Illustrator and Photoshop that we use on a daily basis. And when it comes to converting the final InDesign files to PDFs using Acrobat—yet another Adobe product—we have fewer (not none, but fewer) problems than when going from Word to a PDF.

Finally, when you get down to it, Word is not really made to be used for book design. (I’m not really sure even MS Publisher is meant for book design, but that’s another subject entirely.) Word is good for letters, memos, reports, short newsletters, and the like. It’s just not powerful enough—or easily powerful enough—to use for graphics-heavy books. It’s kind of like when I used to teach online classes as an English instructor. We used WebCT, one of the two premier distance learning platforms (the other being Blackboard), a software system designed specifically for distance learning course management. Now, does this mean that you absolutely couldn’t use something like MySpace to teach an online class? Sure, of course you could, after a fashion. But the problems arise from using a social networking system to try and teach a class—and all of the time and labor it would take to get it to do that—would greatly outweigh, in my opinion, the relative “cool” factor of having your class on MySpace.

In the end, for anyone interested in doing book page layout for books or other publications, I would suggest breaking down and buying either Adobe InDesign or Adobe PAGEMAKER. The initial learning curve for both of them is pretty steep—all the ins and outs of master pages and gutters and toolbars and palettes and checkbox options—but in the long run you’ll have more control over how your book looks as well as putting it all together.


Book Design: InDesign Tips

29 Jun

There is a useful resource on the internet that is for anyone who uses the Adobe product InDesign on a regular basis. I am always looking for ways to be faster and more efficient in my page layout and this website can make that happen for anyone who has the interest. Learn about using the same image in multiple frames, copying text formatting, changing color modes quickly and much more.

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Book Design: CS3 Conference

29 May

As an entry-level graphics specialist new to the world of (book) publishing, I had never attended a conference before Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 in Austin, Texas. I spent the night before in a nearby hotel. When I first pulled into the parking lot, I could not help but notice the Starbucks on the corner. I made a mental note to leave early enough to grab a good cup of joe before heading off to the conference. I arrived on time the next morning but did not note what level I parked on. This oversight cost me about 20 minutes of walking at the end of the day. Oh well, live and learn. The continental breakfast they provided while people were registering was much better than the dried out muffins and bagels my hotel had offered earlier that morning. Aside from loads of fresh fruit and breakfast crescents the conference provided juice, coffee, soda, and Red Bull energy drinks. Even though I had just had a huge cup of coffee earlier, I could not resist grabbing a Red Bull. Needless to say, I was wired for the rest of the morning.

While waiting for the presentation to start, I made my way around the sponsor tables. This expo showcased printers and papers from Xerox and Hewlett Packard along with Photoshop plug-ins by On1. The event’s platinum sponsor was who offered everyone who registered a free one-month subscription as well as a $100 discount on a year’s subscription to their Online Training Library. As a graphic specialist, I enjoyed the design family presentation the most because it highlighted improvements to Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

Photoshop CS3 has added the quick selection tool which is found in the toolbox with the magic wand and allows a quicker and easier selection of an object than ever before. Also, the ability to manipulate layers once they have filters applied to them is very cool. If you don’t like the effect, instead of backing up in the history palette, just delete the effect inside the layers palette. Photoshop CS3 now offers color sliders for changing a color image to black and white. This allows the designer to fine tune each color to the desired shade of gray.

Illustrator CS3 provides many new features as well. Live paint now lets you scroll through the colors in the swatches palette by pressing the left and right arrow keys. This kind of time saving feature proves very useful to a designer on a deadline. The live color palette provides several preset color harmony groups for designers who need a little help with attractive color schemes. Those who have a theme in mind may create new color groups manually and save them for later use. In my opinion, the biggest time saver in Illustrator CS3 is the introduction of the eraser tool. It is no longer a lengthy process to punch a hole in a shape.

InDesign CS3 features a “quick apply” that can be used to change the content fitting of all the placed images in a document uniformly. When working on a book with hundreds of images or equations it will be useful to fit all content inside their containers in one spot. Also, the palettes are made to appear when the cursor hovers over them and disappear when the cursor is moved away, giving the designer a little more work space. Transparency is now called “effects” and strokes can now be beveled and embossed, as well as all the other options that were previously only available in Photoshop. The final thing that caught my attention about the new InDesign was the new hierarchical numbering and list options available in paragraph styles. This will prove very useful in future textbook publishing and ensure consistency throughout the publication.

Everyone at the conference said that, especially for a first timer, this was a good one to attend. I came away feeling encouraged that the problems I sometimes face in the business arena are problems of designers everywhere. My hope is that by attending more conferences and training seminars in the future I will not only learn new practices but also build a network of designers with whom I can share new ideas and hopefully gain a fresh perspective.


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