How InDesign revolutionised our studio


Scott West

Studio Manager

Posted on May 28, 2015

Anyone working in desktop design or publishing in the 90s will be able to tell you that once upon a time, if you were going to publish anything, there was only one way to do it. QuarkXPress was simply what publishing was. With an astonishing dominance of over 95% of the publishing market share, Quark was how all designers cut their teeth, honed their skill and competed in their various sectors. The thought of doing it any other way just didn’t occur to us.

And so, it was something of a coup when Adobe’s InDesign hit the scene at the turn of the millennium. To start with, of course, all entrenched in our usual Quark ways of working, not much changed. But by 2004, Quark’s market share in publishing software use had dropped to just 25% and continued to drop thereafter. Nearly every publisher and designer had switched.

So what happened? How did InDesign come to change the world of publishing so suddenly and dramatically?

Our own studio at Talisman is a good example of why Quark is now all but a distant memory. We switched to InDesign after seeing how much other publishers were benefiting. Those benefits were obvious to everyone: publishers using InDesign were producing better quality artwork and print, doing it faster, and saving money in the process.

The improved functionality that left Quark almost defunct within a few short years is something that many people have written about since.

We wanted to draw attention to just three features that had a particular impact on Talisman’s work and growth.

Beautiful data merging

Supporting the financial industry means handling complex data. Before InDesign, this often involved a lengthy process, moving data from one format to another. But with InDesign, we grew the ability to take data fields and records from spreadsheets and data files, no matter how lengthy or complicated, and quickly and seamlessly merge them with our design work.

This means better, easy-to-read, more concise content for everyone. Whatever financial information our clients need to communicate, we can quickly turn it into crisp, beautifully laid-out infographics and artwork. It’s made marketing projects like customised mail-outs a doddle, too. With a list of contacts or any kind of collated data, we can now design and personalise publications with speed.

Engaging, interactive PDFs

InDesign’s ability to create interactive – or dynamic –PDFs was a real game-changer for digital publishing. PDF communication didn’t have to be a one-way street anymore – users could choose how they interacted and took in information. The ability to engage and attract audiences through content rather than just broadcast at them began to change the way we market.

InDesign not only let us design PDFs for the express purpose of being engaging, but also to take existing items, like a brochure or a form, and update that into a working interactive version.

The potential of this technology, especially combined with other features such as data merging, has enabled us to come up with more creative solutions to problems our clients approach us with. For instance, we have one client who needed a cheaper, user-friendly way to engage their fund managers. By creating monthly, personalised, interactive PDF forms from data they supply us with, they’re able to email fund managers relevant information to interact with, learn from and use as a reference guide. Time-conserving, easy to use, and – let’s be honest – way more fun than a spreadsheet.

Flexible liquid layouts

The move from Quark to InDesign has, more than anything, given us more freedom. Alternative, liquid layout systems mean we can now offer the flexibility to design multiple page sizes, orientations, or aspect ratios.

Instead of having to make projects and ideas fit a template, we can come up with a design strategy first, and then have the freedom to explore that in whatever way suits the project best. Hand-crafted, semi-automated, or fully automated: it’s all possible. There’s no making do, squeezing or butchering things to fit anymore. This comes in especially handy with clients who have multiple offices worldwide and who require the same piece of literature but in different sizes and formats. We can make sure it looks perfect every time.

InDesign made us a “can do” studio.

If you made the switch too, what did it do for you?