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    Russell Viers is a Transition Expert in the publishing world. Since 1997 he has helped newspapers and magazines adapt to changes in the industry. Read more...

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  • Archive for September, 2008

    Defining Design and Theme

    Friday, September 19th, 2008

    I was in Moscow speaking at a conference for Adobe and I was pulled away at break and told I had an interview with a local IT magazine. Good thing I had a translator…I trust he answered my questions correctly.

    Anyway, the reporter started out by asking me where and how I find inspiration for my designs. I told him “I will often go to the CD shop and look around at different covers to see if one jumps out at me. I don’t look at specific artists, just the design. Then, if I like the design, I might buy the CD, not knowing anything about the music just to try something new.

    “Sometimes I’ll buy music that fits the design I’m after,” I continued. “For example, I was doing a project with a real retro look so I was listening to a lot of Esquivel and Yma Sumac, space-age pop stuff.”

    He then asked me if this was a technique I learned in school or if I had invented it. I told him it was just something that inspired me, I didn’t learn it anywhere, I just do it. “Oh, and sometimes I get a haircut,” I added.

    One way for a yearbook staff to find inspiration for a design is to choose a theme that fits the school.

    First I’ll clarify the difference between Design and Theme: The Design is the look that you carry through an entire project to give it direction, feel, consistency… whereas a Theme is the overriding concept that should drive the design.

    For example, you can have a GREAT design for a yearbook, or other product, and not have a theme. I see it all the time. Choice of fonts, colors, cover, folios, borders all add to a design, whether they fit a theme or not.

    Now if you have a theme, like “What’s that smell”, for example, you would tailor your design to fit the theme as closely as possible so the design carries out the theme and is understood by all and helps give the yearbook more direction and excitement.

    So maybe “What’s that smell” isn’t a great example. I’ll go to my new Walsworth Yearbook Kit and look at the Portfolio Catalog which is behind the first tab labeled “Covers & Endsheets.” On page 6 and 7 is a nice long list of theme suggestions. I’ll pick one at random…“Off the Record.”

    Okay, so now we brainstorm. Keep in mind we aren’t even close to a design…just brainstorming any idea that fits “Off the Record.”

    What comes to mind? Reporters, ledgers, notebooks, old vinyl record albums… Let’s say you have narrowed it down to this record album theme. Okay, now maybe you start talking about the design.

    Perhaps you want to use album cover style art modified for your school. Maybe you want vinyl record looking icons behind your page numbers in the folio. After a quick internet search I found a few sites featuring the best album covers of all time:

    My vote is for The Beatles White Album, but it wasn’t listed so I’ll go for Breakfast in America by Supertramp.

    I would also suggest a stroll over to the local bookstore and look at the music section to see if there are any ideas that jump out at you.

    I LOVE the Taschen book series. Regardless of your theme, they have a full line of books covering ads from different eras, album covers, architectural designs, interior designs, product designs, website designs, old cars and more. Ask the bookstore clerk where to find them and just flip through the pages and take notes.

    I’ve bought a few of the Taschen books. Right next to me here is “The Golden Age of Advertising-the 50s.” The also have them for other decades and they are all great stuff. Great source of inspiration.

    Now that you have your theme and some design ideas, you can start playing with them as you create your template in InDesign. Body font, headline font, colors, borders and more.

    To sum up, the Design helps deliver the Theme throughout the book. You can have a well-designed book with no theme, but I wouldn’t suggest a well-themed book with no design. What’s the point? You’re better off with no theme at all if you aren’t willing and able to carry it off with great design.

    By the way, you can read the entire interview mentioned earlier here:

    No Podcast Yet?

    Monday, September 15th, 2008

    No, not yet…still busy catching up on stuff.

    I have some of my mates lined up to help me on it, so I’ll keep you posted. Lots of good stuff coming up between now and Christmas, so plenty of reasons to have them.

    Cheers for now…RV

    Quark 8: First Impression

    Friday, September 12th, 2008

    Well I give Quark credit for finally admitting the software they’ve been peddling for the past decade was garbage. They may not have used those words, but the new behavior of Quark, which is more like InDesign now, says it all.

    As a Quark survivor, in full remission, I can tell you that my first launch of Quark 8 raised the question: “Will I be sucked back into this dark world in which I used to live to create my documents.” Well the answer is “no” but I can say that as an InDesign user, it’s easier to use Quark now than ever before.

    From the beginning, on of my favorite things about InDesign was the liberation from Quark’s text box/picture box structure. As a user, I was forced to create a box before I could put anything on a page. And worse, I had to decide in advance whether it was going to be a Text Box or Picture Box.

    No more. Now you can place text or pictures directly on the page and Quark creates the box for you. Just go to File> Import and choose what goes on the page. Better.

    Notice I didn’t say “Just like InDesign does….”

    Nope, it’s a ways away from being like InDesign. First off, you’ll notice Quark doesn’t offer the loaded cursor, which means that when you import text into XPress it just fits the page or column pargin…boom. Now I have to resize it. If I import a photo, it fits the page width. Yep…and I have to resize it, too. I much prefer InDesign’s approach which give me the loaded cursor and I have the option to click on a page, click over a frame or drag a frame the size I want my soon-to-be-placed photo.

    And another thing Quark trails InDesign on is the multi-place functionality. Yep, being able to select multiple items, even mixed format like a couple of text files, a few jpegs and a psd, allows me to build an entire page very quickly.

    Nope…Quark doesn’t have it.

    Another improvement in QX8 is that you don’t have to have your cursor in the text box to place text. That ALWAYS annoyed me. I’ve got a text box selected with my item tool, hit Cmmd. + E to Get Text and it barks at me. “C’mon” I used to scream at my screen. “Put the text in the box, already!”

    Now in the Ocho, you can select a text frame with the item tool, select File> Import (or your favorite shortcut) and boom…you can place your text in there.

    So even though XPress 8 has a long way to go to catch up with InDesign, I’ll accept Quark’s apology and be glad they are making strides to fix the product…although not enough for me to go back.

    New Yearbook Kits are on the Way

    Thursday, September 11th, 2008

    I’m happy to report that the Walsworth Yearbook Kit for the ’09 school year is the best I’ve seen, yet. Great results from a lot of hard work by the Kit Department and Kim Zahner…thanks.
    Walsworth Europe customers should expect to see them in the mail shortly.
    In future articles I’ll dive deeper into individual parts of the kit, but for now, let’s take a quick look at what’s inside:
    • New page and spread template designs (plus some returning favs)
    • New Portfolio Catalog, with predesigned cover ideas, folio art, endsheets & more
    • Photography and Photoshop tips
    • New Ladder and Deadline Planner
    • InDesign At a Glance Card
    • Photo Resolution At a Glance Card (very helpful)
    • A nifty Process Manual that walks you from Planning to Creating to Submitting
    • New Templates/Fonts catalog for easier reference
    • New Click Art Catalog & Disk with new art for 09
    • New Improved Color Catalog and color reproduction guide
    • Color Guide Poster
    • Fonts Poster
    • InDesign Keyboard Shortcuts Poster
    • 08-09 Calendar
    …and a nice big binder to hold all your papers in.
    I don’t know how well this comes off in the written description, but in hand, the kit is very nice…and too heavy to deliver in person.
    When I first joined Walsworth here in Europe I wanted to hand-deliver every kit. What a really bad idea that was. Not only was it impossible for me to visit schools soon enough to deliver early enough in the year, but they were boxes, bigger than a shoe box, that I had to carry on planes, trains and taxis.
    Being new here, I didn’t realize the strict weight restrictions of the discount airliners, either.
    So last year I said to my self: “Self…how about handing them out at the Fall Yearbook Conference, if possible.”
    Perfect idea…or so I thought. The first person I gave the kit to said “Oh, great…one more thing for me to carry all the way back home.”
    Okay…I got the message, finally, and this year they are being shipped out to the schools. I was smart enough to wait until after school started so they don’t end up in the custodian’s closet somewhere.
    When you get yours, drop a comment or note and let me know so I can begin filling in the blanks on how to use it.
    One of our goals at Walsworth is to help you with production so you can spend more time on the content and design.
    Feel free to consider me your Assistant Yearbook Adviser.

    Toilet Talk

    Monday, September 8th, 2008

    I was walking into a public restroom somewhere, maybe one of those mega department stores, I don’t remember. Anyway, as I turned the corner to enter, I saw a large industrial roll of toilet paper drop from behind the stall and begin rolling across the floor toward me, leaving a trail of paper along the way.
    Maybe I was in a restaurant…
    After rolling about five meters and stopping on my shoe, I heard the voice of a young boy behind the stall say “Oooooh…that’s not good.”
    I rolled the paper back under the stall to him, thus saving his life.
    He thanked me through the wall.

    Quark 8: Install Log Entry 1

    Monday, September 8th, 2008

    Okay, here I am loading yet another version of Quark XPress I may never use except for testing and evaluation. But I’m keeping an open mind.
    Here’s my plan: If Quark is saying this is new and exciting and the best software they’ve ever released, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ll install it and give it a fair shot.
    My main objective here, of course, is to compare it’s functionality to that of InDesign and Creative Suite.
    Like so many users, I bailed from Quark a long time ago. I think I did it earlier than most — I converted the day InDesign was released in 1999.
    The question isn’t just “is this good software” when evaluating Quark…the question has to be “is this software good enough for me to switch back to Quark?”
    If you have yet to convert to InDesign and Creative Suite, maybe you have to ask yourself a different question: “Am I better upgrading to Quark 8 or converting to Creative Suite?”
    So we’ll see.
    In this article, I want to share my experience so far…and so far I’ve almost installed the software. We’ll talk about functionality in future articles.
    My phone experience with Quark customer service was delightful. Bobbie spoke English, knew all the answers to every question and took my order as I would expect. I ordered the Quark 8 upgrade and gave her my credit card information which is: 422…wait…maybe this isn’t a good idea. Just trust that I gave her my credit card information.
    The software arrived as promised and I eagerly opened the package. I must say, I like the new look of Quark, but then I’m partial to greens. It IS exciting and new and I think it looks good. Right off the bat it says “this is not your father’s Quark.”
    I was disappointed there wasn’t a manual this time. When I ordered Quark 7, I got a rather heavy box and was pleasantly surprised by a one inch thick manual in there, ready to answer my every question.
    What’s funny about it, though, is that I never opened it. Nope. Just like 90 percent of software buyers out there, the sight of it was a great relief, like a safety net under my dangerous work, there just in case.
    But I never looked at it.
    I guess, then, I have no reason to be disappointed that Quark 8 ships with a PDF of the manual I won’t read on the disk instead of a printed version — saves trees, shipping costs and shelf space, I guess.
    Now here is where it gets tricky. I purchased the software while in the U.S. this summer and didn’t want to carry anything more than what I absolutely need back, so I opened the box and exhumed only what I needed to take with me, which was a card with a disk attached and a sticker on the back. On the front of the card it read “See back of card for information required at installation.”
    Okay, that’s pretty clear…let me turn it over…it reads US68…wait…maybe this isn’t a good idea. Just trust that there is a long number on the back.
    After several attempts as entering various numbers, I decide to go to the Quark website,, and see if I need to download a NEW validation code. I only wonder because when I installed Quark 7, I was able to use old serial numbers and it worked fine. Times change.
    Keep in mind that we’re not talking about small numbers here. We’re talking about 47 digit codes that are straight from the CIA code book. I did the math: if every human on earth (based on an estimated world population of six billion) owned 492,534,069,091,280,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 copies of Quark, they would finally use all the combinations.
    Except, and this is too much math for my brain, add the combination of a unique serial number that goes with the with validation code and you can have even more computers.
    Wow…Quark is really planning on selling LOTS of copies…good for them.
    Back to my install…
    So I enter the number on the back of my card, which is all I’m going to need for installation, so they say, and I enter my arm’s length validation code and it begins the install…good.
    Now I’m cookin’.
    I watch it do its thing while I think of other things to do. When its done, it asks me to Activate it. No worries, let’s activate using the internet, which is the recommended method.
    No luck. I’m rejected. My serial number is no good.
    What does this mean? There is only one number in my possession. How can it be wrong. I check it again and, yes, I entered it correctly. What am I missing?
    Let’s go through it again: I entered the number on the card on the website and it gave me a validation code, I entered the number on the card and the validation code and it installed…but it won’t activate because I have the wrong serial number. Shouldn’t it have told me that when I entered it on the site instead of giving me a validation code?
    I think Bobbie misses me and just wants a reason for me to call her back. I hope my wife doesn’t find out.
    I am now running the software for 30 days in demo mode until I can get this resolved.

    Speakers Announced for Fall Yearbook Conference

    Monday, September 8th, 2008

    Bregenz, Austria — The speaker list for Walsworth Europe’s 2008 Fall Yearbook Conference has finally been set. In what is advertised as the World Cup of Yearbook Conferences, trainers from both the United States and Europe will be leading the sessions. This year’s conference is Sept. 26-28 in Lindau, Germany.
    “We’re lucky to get the best speakers in the world every year so that teachers and students can learn from the experts,” said Russell Viers, Walsworth’s director of European sales. “We’ve added more classes this year and there’s a small chance we’ll bring in one more expert trainer for the event. But for now, this is our starting line-up.”
    Sandee Cohen, world renowned speaker/trainer, and the only person to write books on every version of InDesign since its release, will fly in from New York to teach InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator.
    Gabriel Powell, author and speaker, will head down from Amsterdam to share his InDesign knowledge that he’s written about in many books and articles.
    Brent Niemuth will join the conference for the third straight year. Niemuth is a top designer and branding expert who will leave his work in Kansas City to work with students for the three days. In addition to teaching some design classes, Niemuth will work with teachers and students from each school in one-on-one sessions to hammer out design ideas specific to their book.
    H. L. Hall, with a quarter-century of expertise in yearbook and school newspaper creation under his belt, will leave his duties as the Executive Director of the Tennessee High School Journalism Association to work with students for the conference.
    Jim Petrucci, who has worked for Walsworth as a yearbook rep since the 60s, will give sessions on yearbook production.
    “I’ll be speaking, too” said Viers, an Adobe Certified Instructor who works with newspaper and magazine publishers throughout the world. “It’s really nice to be able to share the same knowledge we give professionals in the working world to these yearbook advisers and students.
    “Not only are we helping them learn how to produce a better yearbook faster, but we’re giving them skills they can take with them into the next phase of their lives, whether college or a career,” Viers continued.
    For more information, or to register, visit the Fall Yearbook Conference.

    Stop Stupid PDF Syndrome Now

    Thursday, September 4th, 2008