Thinking of producing your own financial literature? Here’s why it could be a big mistake

Chris Monteith

Print Manager

Posted on July 11, 2016

Confession time: we’ve come to dread that call from a client telling us the exciting news that they’ve purchased InDesign. A worrying request nearly always follows: could we organise some training for the marketing team on how to use it, so that they can update and edit their own financial literature?

We usually love talking to our clients, so why does this call make our heart sink?

The unwelcome truth is that there is a good reason agencies still hire dedicated studio artworkers and keep the account managers out of InDesign. Even factoring in that it will never be an efficient use of an account manager’s time while there are proposals to work on, clients to service and strategies to plan, there’s a bigger reason still to use an artworker.

Creating your own, professional-looking artwork, even with user-friendly software such as InDesign, is a hugely technical process. There’s simply no cutting corners: you need a significant amount of skill and experience to do it well.

In this blog, I’m going to talk you through the four stages of creating a piece of artwork and highlight some of the procedures and skills that an artworker brings to the table. You’ll soon see that although it’s tempting to encourage your marketing team to use InDesign to design or edit their own financial literature, it is likely to lead to significant inconsistencies and output errors, all at a high cost to you.

Stage 1: InDesign Setup

Before you begin your project, InDesign’s preferences and the new document’s settings must be adjusted correctly to avoid big issues later.

This ranges from the general considerations – such as what form the document will take and whether it’s intended for print or web – right down to fine setting adjustments. The right setting will make sure a document’s colour is set to either RGB (for screen) or CMYK (for print). Further changes may then need to be made within each individual colour profile, depending on the intended output device.

But surely defaults will do for ‘standard’ publications, you ask? Unfortunately, the default profile installed with Adobe InDesign is actually set up for American web presses, designed to print high volume newspapers, not attractive, colourful brochures. This default profile sets the colour to a narrow range, limiting the values to ones that it assumes will be used by a web press.

By simply selecting File > New > Document, you’ll already have limited most of what will make your publication look vibrant and beautiful. Not the best start.

These setting adjustments aren’t just an issue for marketing teams trying to produce publications from scratch. If you decide to take back artwork files created by an agency and start making amends yourself, it is worryingly easy to convert colour profiles unknowingly in the process. This will affect not only your CMYK values, making your printed colours incorrect, but the RBG colours on your web projects will be thrown out too.

Stage 2: The Design Process

Once an initial design idea is approved, an artworker followers a number of formal processes to make sure the work looks flawless. The most important of these is the use of character and paragraph formats for every different text style throughout the document.

All InDesign documents feature multiple text styles. There are styles for body copy, headings, subheadings and bullet-pointed text, to name just a few. There are then also the basic font formats like colour, size, leading and kerning, spacing, tabs, rules, and hyphenation. In fact, there are 126 different format options associated with any particular style.

It may sound like overkill, but setting your artwork’s styles and formats in this way is essential if you want to ensure consistency across multiple design files. As soon as you change the format of the artwork without using style sheets, you run the danger of damaging the overall look and feel of the literature, essentially weakening the impact of your brand.

Stage 3: The Artwork Sign-off Process

The easiest way to demonstrate the complexities of artwork creation is to show you the 37 checks we go through before any document is signed off.

This artwork quality checklist that has been developed over a number of years to guarantee that any potential problems in a piece of design are caught before any damage is done.

Click here to see our full artwork checklist and you should get a good sense of how many potential problems could arise if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Stage 4: PDF Output

Once the artwork has been signed off and checked, all that’s left is to create a PDF file. Again, this is usually assumed to be easy, but get the output settings wrong, and you could find yourself hitting all kinds of issues at the final hurdle.

Just some of the things to consider are interactive elements, image resolutions and compression, embedded fonts, and crop marks and bleed. Yet again, you’ll need to make sure you have the correct colour management settings, because when you create a PDF, all too often the CMYK values are converted to something unexpected again!

Unless you feel confident managing all these elements, chances are the PDF settings you use will be the wrong ones for your document.

In conclusion

If you decide to run the risk and use InDesign to design or edit your own publications, simply bear in mind that the results will not be to a professional standard and will feature a lot of inconsistencies.

Within our studio, we collectively hold over 120 years of artwork experience and yet still run issues past each other on a daily basis. Each of our individual backgrounds contribute to perfect literature production, whether that’s in print, typography, packaging or photo retouching.

As much as we wish we could empower you to do more yourselves, in this case, we can only ever advocate for the importance of having an experienced artworker team behind you. It really is the only way to ensure your brand is producing the very best publications, every time.