Now I started off in print, I went to school for print design, and worked the majority of my career in print. I felt I was a pretty darn good print designer, but now after looking back at where I was two years ago and where I am now - I think I've made leaps!
Refactoring for efficiency
I oftentimes during a project spend time refactoring my code – that is, going through it and ironing out process which may be resource intensive, or just plain redundant. It helps me maintain a streamlined project that’s easy to muck around in, or come back to months or years later.
You can do the same in print projects as well. Perhaps you’re only cleaning up your indesign paste-board, or files floating about that are no longer in use, but the principle is the same. Keeping your projects tidy, and your documents as efficient as possible not only helps you be faster, it makes you feel more professional when your projects are water-tight.
This is a good one. Alot of times print designers think with a one-off attitude, I’m guilty of that, especially with ads. I bang out tonnes of ads, but I’d never thought of being modular about it. Why not set up templates, or stylesheets for your recurring ads, why not make your life easier by spending a few minutes making it drag and drop?
In addition, when you’re producing any recurring publications like magazines, posters, whatever – taking the time to modularize it helps out quite a bit. I find this most noticeable when working with Realtor ads in newspapers – sometimes they want 4 listings per ad, sometimes they want 12, or sometimes just one! Either way, if you set up a modular system, you can call up the template that works best for you!
Keeping organized files, and folders
There is absolutely nothing more embarrassing than shipping off a document to a client, or another designer, and forgetting about your lazily named linked files, like “asdgadga.psd” or “stupid-shit.pdf”. I do quite a bit of my work over FTP with other designers, and keeping a smart file structure, and good naming practices definitely makes you a better designer.
Semantic structure in layout
In HTML it’s all about semantics – wrapping the content with the correct wrapper. Paragraphs in P tags, Headings in H tags, yadda yadda. Bringing this to print was simple; when I have tabular data, I put it into a table (not a tabbed out list). Content boxes are either Text, Graphic or Unassigned, pretty straightforward, but I see you designers out there using Graphic frames (or text-frames) for borders. Yes, I’m looking at you!
Lastly, In CSS, we’re all familiar with margin and padding – but in print we tend to just fudge our structures – that is, when we want to ‘pad’ a text-box we either nudge it over a few points, or we add some left-indent or right-indent. Both are semantically incorrect, for me, the graceful solution is to add inset margins to your boxes. Having indents in your text boxes that are specifically used to manipulate the layout of the text is not semantic. This is especially true when vertically centering a block of text. Why would you want to adjust the baseline, or nudge the box around, when it’s far better to set your vertical alignment to middle?
The moral here is to make your structures work for you, and try to avoid as many specific ‘hacks’ as you can, to achieve the layout.
After working with CSS, moving back to print really opened my eyes to how under-utilized InDesigns powerful styling system really is. So much so that I have Object styles that I keep on hand for anything from drop shadows, to outlines, to inset boxes, starburts, you name it!
You can also do cascading styles, which I find extensibly useful when styling tables, lists or even paragraphs with just a glancing knowledge of child-parent styling.
I’ve worked on about 6 different community phonebooks, and I swear, if I hadn’t gone through the trouble of using indesigns styling system, I would still be there bolding phone numbers.