25 June 2008

[design] InDesign Is the New ... ?


One of the bloggers with Fenix Workshop penned an entry that, despite its brevity, is meaty, chewy food for thought. It involves my favorite program in the world, Adobe InDesign, with an equally provocative title, InDesign Is The New Microsoft Word.

The subject isn't as incendiary as the attention-getting title would suggest, but an intriguing crystallization of what the blogger sees as a trend:

In the last year or two many office support staffers are being required to learn InDesign, as budgets tighten and companies no longer want to outsource work to freelance designers. Employees with little or no design training are being required to navigate the complexities of typography and information architecture and create publications that look professionally designed.

Not only are design and pre-press pros depending on what I can't resist calling "Indy" to create publications and such. Now support staff ... those who were once expected to do their work in MSWord ... are now expected to crack open Indy and get it done.

It's an interesting observation, and one that leaves me, as a trained graphic designer hoping soon to find a regular gig in design, with decidedly mixed feelings.

Now, most of us know that Indy is no less than a Swiss Army Knife. It's come a long way since 1999, when Indy 1 came out. They whispered that it was the Quark Killer then but version 1 was decidedly weak. I began learning Indy with InDesign 2.0, which was a keen experience. I had known QuarkXPress and enjoyed using it, but I kind of fell head-over-heels in love with Indy. And Indy's just gotten better since. QuarkXPress still exists, but it's kind of off in a world of its own; what work I have been able to find, I've done largely in Indy. I also own a copy of QuarkXPress 6.5. It never sees any use. Indy may not have 'killed" QuarkXPress, but Indy has improved so much that comparing it with Quark really isn't necessary anymore, in my opinion.

I'm encouraged by the attitude of the blogger, who mentions how they weave typography and design principles into the instruction. That's the way it ought to be ... there's plenty of dog's breakfasts out there generated by people who get hold of a copy of a layout program such as Indy and assume that mere posession of such a thing makes them a designer. If you're going to do layout, then you should do it right, whether you're a professional designer or office support staff.

But the pleasure I feel at the thought of competent Indy training for the non-designer is mitigated by the thought that instead of using an in-house (or even an independent designer – I prefer the word independent over freelance) designer, companies essentially "level-up" their office staff. And I wonder how much of the difficulty I've found in finding chances at a gig is generated by that trend.

Heaven-on-earth to me would be to find a steady gig where I'm paid to play with Indy all day long.

Any other designer want to chime in on this one?

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