What is Editorial Design?
Editorial design is a specific branch of graphic design that involves the skillful application of creative page layouts, effective typography and inspired written content in order to present information in a way that is visually appealing and easy to understand for readers.
Editorial design can be as simple as using a single image within a magazine or newspaper article or more complicated such as complex page layout designs which include graphs, charts, diagrams, text boxes, and other visual elements to convey meaning about the content. While graphic design focuses on the overall look and feel of the document, editorial design is more concerned with the actual written content and how it relates to any visual elements within a publication.
Editorial design requires a high level of knowledge and skills in typography (font selection), page layout, grids and composition, colour theory, image editing, and more. Depending on the client’s desired outcome for their editorial design project, professional designers are able to apply their skills in many different ways. Typical types of desktop publishing services they offer include: print and online publications such as brochures, flyers and leaflets, corporate and research reports, business white papers, newsletters, technical manuals, ebooks, etc.
Why Commission a Professional?
The visual expression and design of your promotional materials or publications are the first touchpoints (and the most customer-facing interactions) for your business with the general public. If below par, it quickly becomes obvious and you and/or business will be viewed in a poor light.
For this reason, you should definitely consider commissioning a professional designer or desktop publisher to help you because they will create a compelling and visually interesting design for your publication that satisfies the needs of your organisation. A professional designer is able to work closely with you or your team to get a sense of what you’re trying to achieve and they can be instrumental to the success of your business. In addition, they often have hands-on expertise in design strategy, content production and management, digital marketing and online advertising. Most importantly, a professional desktop publisher can help you create a more cohesive visual message which enhances the user (reader) experience and ensures it is effectively communicated across different platforms.
The Benefits of Working with a Professional Designer
Wealth of Design Skills and Experience
Professional designers have many years of experience working with typography, page layout design, colour theory and other aspects of desktop publishing, which leads to a higher-quality outcome for your editorial project. Hiring a professional to take care of your design needs is often more affordable than you may think! Not only will you be working with someone who has a wealth of experience and skills in their field, they’re also likely to have access to DTPsoftware like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Indesign, Adobe Photoshop that is expensive to purchase and has a steep learning curve associated with it. In the long run, the investment will be worth it as the end result is sure to look more polished and sophisticated to the reader’s eye than if you’d tried to do everything yourself (which usually involves struggling for hours without a satisfactory outcome in MS Word!)
Keen Eye for Detail
A professional designer with English language expertise is able to review text-heavy publication, scrutinising the written content and page formatting of a document. This entails paying close attention to margins, spaces between lines, size and direction of the page, headers and footers, and more. Their ability to vet your text for grammatical errors, and the ability to understand how your project will appear, whether in digital or print format, all make hiring professional designer a no-brainer.
In-depth Knowledge of Design Principles
Professional designers have an in-depth knowledge of design principles that the ordinary person who attempts to create a DIY publication lacks. For example, wthout any understanding of cohesive and consistent design, your publication will lack uniformity across its pages and so it will look very unpolished. Editorial designers know how to make each page unified so that they flow into one another, with a range of heading hierarchies, image sizing, textual arrangement. This is all acheived while, at the same time, presenting the content as a cohesive unit of aesthetically appealing information.
In the content-saturated world we live in, plain written text without the advantage of some sort of artistic ‘oomph’ (in terms of imagery, typography and colour palettes) will mean that your publication will miss out on its fair share of ‘digital eyes’. This is particularly the case for printed publications and content intended to promote you or your business.
Desktop publishing software – the best tool for publication design
How long do you think it takes someone to decide if they’re going to read your marketing brochure or business report? Probably less than a second! In an increasingly media-centric world, we are constantly bombarded with all sorts of visual publications vying for our attention: advertisements, marketing and promotional material infiltrate all aspects of our daily lives.
It’s no longer good enough to present your written content as plain text on the page. Newsletters need to be able to draw the eye with catchy typography and imagery. Technical manuals must contain high-quality graphics and having carefully considered heading hierarchies in order to make information easy to comprehend. Even sales reports need logos and diagrams to impress. But how do we produce eye-catching, professional-looking documents? What is the easiest way to design stunning reports, flyers and other types of publications that will influence your investors or secure a sale for your business?
Two different types of software platforms for creating professional publications are word processing and desktop publishing software. But how do they differ and which method of publishing content is the best option for your business or organisation?
What in the Word?
Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re probably already familiar with word processing programs. Word processing is software created for producing text-heavy documents. Most people have used Microsoft Word as it’s been the default word processing program in workplaces for many years. But there are other word processing tools available – free or otherwise – such as LibreOffice, Apple Pages and Google Docs that are also useful tools.
Word processing software is designed for writing and editing text documents. They often come with various in-built features such as a selection of fonts, options to add photos, shapes, tables, and more. They usually allow for a certain level of customization/formatting of document pages. This includes control over margins, spaces between lines, size and direction of the page, headers and footers, and more.
So it sounds like if you’re looking to publish anything, all you’d need is a word processing program? Well, that’s not actually the case as we’ll find out below.
The benefits of desktop publishing programs
Greater layout control
Desktop publishing software – commonly called DTP – offers far superior control over the layout and formatting of your publication. DTPs are designed for creating a range of visual documents, including brochures, business cards, flyers and posters, business reports, books. Even large-scale billboards can be designed using desktop publishing software. Microsoft Publisher, Scriba and Adobe InDesign are all examples of desktop publishing packages.
Ease of use
Ease of use and sophisticated customisation abilities make desktop publishing software ideal for creating visual documents and presentations. Though word processing programs like Microsoft are flexible, they’re ultimately intended for working with text documents. Attempting to manipulate images and typography within a word processing package can be a very frustrating process and can often result in a jumbled mess. In contrast, desktop publishing programs such as Adobe InDesign are frame-based software tools. This means that they permit layering, rescaling, and precise positioning of both text and graphic elements. Kerning (the spacing between letters) and leading (the spacing between lines of text) can be controlled, thereby allowing for minute manipulation of typography. Automatic restructuring means that certain graphic elements can be switched around with ease and, likewise, other elements can be adapted to the new space created.
Some desktop publishing programs provide flexibilty inallow for multimedia elements to be incorporated such as video and audio files if the final publication is displayed online. In this way, you can create interactive presentations, as well as handouts to go with them.
Another important feature of digital publications produced by desktop publishing programs is responsivity. This means the template of your publication will adjust to any screen it is viewed on, ranging from a desktop or laptop computer to a mobile phone and everything in between.
Does it really matter which software program you use?
Couldn’t you just use a word processing software such as Word to create your publication? While it’s true that you can use a word processing tool for almost any publishing task, it’s often not a good idea. It would be similar to only using plates to eat all types of food. Sure, you can try eat soup off a plate but it’s going to be far messier!
People respond to visuals. What’s more attractive? A plain text brochure, or one that uses background colours, images and typography? Using word processing tools means compromising on your vision for publications that require many or complex visual elements. Or the process taking a lot more time and associated frustration to manipulate visual elements.
In the corporate world, producing publications using desktop publishing software is a wise investment. It will save you time and greatly enhance the professionalism of your documents and presentations. Plus, the easy interface allows for increased creativity as you’re able to experiment with a huge variety of page layout options.
A professional outcome for your publications
With desktop publishing software, what you see displayed on your screen is exactly how the document will be printed if it is sent as a digital file to a printing company. DTPs are powerful and add a professional quality to your publications that is not usually possible to achieve with documents that have been produced using word processing programs. But even with top-of-the-line desktop publishing software, you need to know how to use it. Design is both an art and a science. It takes a lot of knowledge to produce a product that is visually appealing and effective in capturing your audience’s attention. It’s incredibly easy to end up with an amateur design by mistake.
If you’re looking for assistance with a visual publication – whether it’s a technical manual, workbook, brochure, research report, or more – we can help you. We guide you through the creation process and advise you on everything down to the last detail to ensure you end up with a high-quality outcome that you’ll be proud of.
As an editor and book designer who works mainly with self-publishing authors, I am privileged to regularly receive a wide variety of manuscripts, all of which are representative of the writer’s passion and belief that their knowledge and expertise should be shared with others. This is especially true of PhD graduate Paul McNamara, who dreamed of igniting a passion for mathematics in secondary school students by communicating his unique slant on this often-dreaded subject. Paul is on a mission to ensure that young people don’t end up like me – someone who has always been ‘maths phobic’ and has shied away from this important subject field! Hence, it was such a pleasure to help him achieve his vision when he self-published his mathematics textbook, The Derivation of Mathematics: Mastering Secondary School Mathematics, earlier this year.
As a school student, Paul had a keen interest in mathematics but felt that it would have been much easier for him to learn the subject if it had been approached in the right way. He was fortunate to have a father who was a mathematics teacher and had a deep passion for his chosen profession. With his father’s help, Paul conquered the basics of Newtonian physics and special relativity by Year 10. His love of mathematics was established at this point and has been an ongoing theme throughout his life.
After completing his PhD in physics and working in the computing industry for many years, Paul was ready for a complete change of direction – embarking on his journey to help school students learn mathematics with ease. In tandem with writing the textbook, Paul has developed the Mastering Secondary School Mathematics program which is designed to complement existing mathematics courses by creating clarity and interest in this subject in students.
Breaking into the Field of Educational Publishing
As with any book, newly published textbooks have to compete with existing books that may have been used in universities and schools for many years. Before embarking on the potentially long and arduous journey of writing a textbook, it is important to consider how your publication will fare in such a competitive industry.
The motivation for writing a textbook may be financially-based, to gain industry recognition or the desire to share a lifetime of accumulated knowledge with the younger generation. However, motivation and knowledge alone are not enough to ensure your book is well-received within your industry. First and foremost, it is crucial to evaluate the competition and ensure that your new textbook will have a point of difference that is sufficient enough to persuade university professors and schoolteachers to switch to a new resource. If the current textbook is long and tedious, it might be time for a shortened, more to-the-point textbook on the same topic, or for a series of textbooks where the information is delivered in more manageable chunks. If the current version is outdated, then an updated version can be very timely. The most effective option is to write a textbook on a topic that has not been previously well covered.
Points to Consider When Writing a Textbook
Some key things you need to consider when writing a textbook are outlined below.
Decide on your topic
The first step is to decide on the topic you are going to cover. As mentioned earlier, the best topics are those that fill a gap in the market. If this isn’t possible, it is important to ensure that your book has a real point of difference.
Target your textbook to a specific age or reading level
It is imprtant to decide on the age or reading level of students who you are targeting your book towards. It is much easier to write for a target audience that you have experience dealing with; however, if you do decide to branch out to a new age group or study level, you could consider running some classes or connecting with your chosen group to increase your knowledge and experience.
Keep your audience firmly in mind
Ensure that you keep your audience firmly in mind and focus your writing accordingly. Teachers with specialised knowledge are perfect candidates for textbook writing because they already know how to talk to students. Academics without teaching experience can often forget that the audience for their textbook is a group of students. Instead, they write in the same way they would for journal articles, which are directed to peers with assumed knowledge on the topic. To help avoid this pitfall, a friend or family member with the right level of knowledge on the topic can be a valuable resource for double-checking the appropriateness of the language used in the textbook.
Test out your textbook before publication
Testing your textbook before publication is a vital step. It is essential to ensure that your textbook is readable, understandable and useful before committing to the publication process. The most valuable test is using the textbook in a real-life scenario, such as in a tutoring group, or school or university classroom.
The Rewards of Publication
A textbook can take many years of hard work from conception to publication, but it can be an extremely rewarding process. As well as offering the potential for significant financial rewards, educational publishing can help to propel an academic’s career and bring personal satisfaction by serving as a summary of a lifetime of hard work. For Paul McNamara, the reward of self-publishing his textbook will be to enjoy witnessing his book and tutoring program opening up the undeniably beautiful and important world of mathematics to secondary school students. In this way he can help them to discover a passion for a field which has so many applications in the modern world.
Over the past few days, I’ve been reflecting back over 2015 and the different projects I’ve worked on and the authors I’ve supported to publish their book. One self publishing project I’ve been very proud to have been involved in was helping my client Cathy Burke (CEO of The Hunger Project Australia) to publish her book: Unlikely Leaders: Lessons from the Village Classroom. This moving and inspirational book – which describes the work that Cathy and others from the The Hunger Project organisation are doing to combat world poverty – has the potential to transform many people’s lives.
Throughout history, it has been through the stories that we tell each other that we shape our own lives and those of our friends, families and communities around us. I firmly believe that inspirational books can act as a powerful vehicle for change within society – providing inspiration, clarifying problems and challenging entrenched thinking patterns. At a critical juncture in your life, the right book can offer you the courage to embark on a new venture, the reality check that you’re not yet ready to embrace change or the quiet affirmation that you’re not alone in your fears or ambitions. An inspirational book can set you on a path to happiness and a successful life.
Reasons for writing an inspirational book
During our lives we may have to cope with heartbreaking challenges – the death of a loved one, chronic illness, unemployment or financial difficulties. Sharing what you did to overcome your problems or how your positive attitude uplifted those around you during a challenging time in your life can have a powerful influence on your audience.
Whether it took you months or a lifetime, we’ve all encountered a powerful learning experience we think might be helpful for others to hear about. Maybe there are things you would have done differently in hindsight or maybe you want to instil hope in others so that they can triumph in their own lives. Your wisdom can help others grow in similar situations.
The inspiration of a leader
Has your leadership motivated others to take action? Whatever the actual circumstances, we all have pride-worthy moments of leadership we can share with others to light their path in life.
Sharing your experiences or life story can help readers to identify how you made decisions and why; what wisdom you gained as a result of your particular challenge or journey; and what things made it possible for you to grow and change – transforming into a stronger and more mature person.
Readers want to be able to share your insights so that they have a better understanding of how they can make positive decisions and solve their problems. Even if you are a fiction author, you can write stories that demonstrate how you’ve worked at understanding challenges and give your audience information which they, in turn, can apply in their own lives. Consider your readers as your future self and aim to inspire and encourage them with your words.