Behind the scenes at the 2011 InDesignSecretsLive Print and ePublishing Conference
I'm just back from the aforementioned conference and I thought I'd sit down and share some impressions. My hope is that, if you don't normally attend these events (I don't either), that you might be interested in the goings-on...First impression: It's a global thing.
Roughly 400 folks attended the conference from 33 states and 11 countries - I believe it was a sell-out. I heard mention of Australia, Hong Kong, Serbia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Guatemala, and others. I know that kind of diverse participation is no great revelation to people who move in design and software circles frequently, but to someone who doesn't, I am particularly aware of the privilege it is to be a part of this type of international event.It's a community.
Equally as interesting is the sense of community I felt. Designers, geeks, authors, and designer-geek-authors have much in common. Many of us are most comfortable in designing our world and staying within its bounds - so it's particularly exciting to be with other folks who spend so much of their lives on the same layer. I love my wife, but she couldn't care less about which device and software I use to calibrate my HP ZR30w monitor (thank goodness). Occasionally, it's a good idea to sit with people whose brains are trying to solve similar problems and attain similar outcomes.There is no single voice.
For some reason I had the expectation that I would hear one side of things. Yes, that sounds silly in hindsight, but that's what I was thinking. The reality of it reminds me that there are as many workflows, approaches, and opinions about design and production as there are people doing it. For example, I sat in a session with the InDesign development team who all seemed to think that it should be the printer's responsibility to produce final production PDFs from native InDesign files. That was followed by the "Long Live Ink" roundtable with Design Tools Monthly editor Jay Nelson and prepress troubleshooter and Adobe Certified Instructor James Wamser both of whom seemed to think the opposite - that most jobs are best prepared for printing by the user (using the printer's guidelines).E-publishing is in its big-bang stage.
There are MANY ways to create and view e-publications and MANY devices and platforms on which to view them. That's about all anyone agrees on. Which software and software settings to use (including InDesign's EPUB export) will be dictated by the device you're preparing your publication for, the complexity of the document, the intended distribution channel, and so on. As conference organizer David Blatner pointed out, you can't, for example, produce PDFs to sell through Apple - not because you can't produce them, not because the iPad can't read them, but because Apple doesn't yet allow you to distribute them through iBooks.
There are also significant design considerations to be tackled. When you convert page layouts for different devices and orientations, you'll need to design different layouts for each setting or create simplified, "elastic" layouts that adapt to multiple uses. I heard someone refer to that conversion as changing your layout into a Microsoft Word document.
Software developers and designers alike are in the very early stages of figuring out how to recast information in ways that are compatible with the new devices yet as aesthetically pleasing as print and conventional web page design. I think even the folks at Adobe would agree that (for now), that InDesign's EPUB export is not for creating e-versions of complex layouts.
Chris Kitchener, Senior Product Manager for Adobe InDesign, "Meet my extended family," 2011 InDesignSecretsLive Print and ePublishing Conference (doctored image)The best early tools are expensive.
It's not surprising that the tools that allow the most control over page layout and effects are being developed for the upper echelon of the publishing trade. James Fritz
, another respected author and trainer, discussed some of the many platforms used to create digital versions of magazines - Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, WoodWing's Digital Magazine Tools, Mag+, and others - and the fact that the new pricing models require both upfront fees (most in the thousands of dollars) for the initial content management systems and ongoing monthly or per-piece publication fees. (The good news is that by the time you read this [a couple of hours after I write it] everything will have changed.)Much of what I learned was from the audience.
I went because of the featured speakers but I learned lots from the audience too. Questions, suggestions, and comments from audience members were every bit a useful as those from the assembled experts. For example, in one session, Eddy Hagen, the managing director of VIGC in Belgium offered some excellent insights on the production of PDFs and pointed us to his own Flemish Innovation Centre for Graphical Communication
and the Ghent PDF Workgroup
. There we're lots of high-powered users and experts in the audience.Technology is a moving target.
No revelation here, but it is impressive when a presenter changes her slides in the hours just preceding her presentation because of some new tidbit of information. From his view inside Adobe, the Lead Product Manager for Adobe InDesign, Chris Kitchener, explained the perplexing process of gathering suggestions for new features, fixing bugs, and working with engineers to update a program as complex as InDesign. It's easy to forget the divergent pressures applied by users, reviewers, stockholders, partners, marketers, and so on to influence the decisions about which features or fixes to produce when and why.
BTW, the Adobe team was particularly impressed by and thankful for this blog post
which explains that InDesign is a database and why, for example, files are not backward compatible.There is a modicum of tension between Adobe and its community.
One of the most intriguing revelations of the experience was the respectful tension there is between the product producers and their users. All of it was friendly and in good humor, but it's obviously, a real issue. Adobe wants everyone to like its products and users are great at pointing to flaws. None less than Michael Ninness
, now the VP of Content for Lynda.com, formally the Senior Product Manager for InDesign, rose to ask the current Senior Product Manager when certain features (such as charting) would be added to InDesign. It was all good-natured (especially when Ninness pointed out that he, himself, hadn't added the feature when he could have), it is a complicated dance.There are few better venues for meeting the people you want to meet.
I had the pleasure of meeting, face-to-face, some of the many people I communicate with online and introducing myself to others I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet.
First and foremost I got to meet and speak with one of the conference organizers, David Blatner. My only complaint about the entire conference is we didn't hear more from David. He is a smart, personable guy who knew as much or more about InDesign (from a user standpoint) as anyone in attendance.
If you don't know Blatner, he's the editorial director of InDesign Magazine
, wrote Real World InDesign (and 14 other books), teaches courses on InDesign at Lynda.com
, and co-hosts InDesignSecrets.com
with Anne-Marie Concepción.
Their combined experience with InDesign, the InDesign community, and Adobe corporate made David and Anne-Marie uniquely qualified to pull together this wide and deep gathering of designers, technicians, and developers.
If you don't know Anne-Marie Concepción, she too teaches courses on InDesign at Lynda.com, does the InDesignSecrets.com thing, plus rules her own creative empire at Seneca Design & Training.
This was also an opportunity to sit with Jay Nelson and Lesa Snider. Jay is the affable publisher of Design Tools Monthly
, the only industry publication I read cover to cover, every issue. It was a real treat to spend some time comparing notes with someone else who is as interested as I am in finding and sharing the the best of design and publishing ideas. Lesa is a writer for Macworld, author of numerous books, chief evangelist for iStockphoto.com
, and host of graphicreporter.com
I also had the good fortune to have one-to-one discussions with conference speakers Gabriel Powell
, InDesign and Photoshop author and Senior Solutions for Typifi Systems, Ron Bilodeau
, the Production and Design Specialist at O'Rielly (who once worked for the beautifully designed Cooks Illustrated), Chris Kitchener, Lead Product Manager of Adobe InDesign, Nigel French
, the author of InDesign Type (who spoke about designing with a grid), and Cari Jansen
, a technical writer and print and publishing consultant who spoke about the challenges of this new medium.
And I gathered some great insights from Keith Gilbert
, a brilliant tech- and design-savvy guy who spoke about XML and data publishing and who showed me an impressive project he had just finished. It's a beautifully designed iPad-based catalog/brochure his client's sales force will use at an upcoming trade show.
All that and, of course, all of the good stuff I learned (I just downloaded a 344-page PDF of conference slides that Anne-Marie Concepción made available to those who attended.)
Finally, most happily, I got to meet a few folks who subscribe to my newsletter at ideabook.com
and who read my blog at PagePlane.com
. Thank you all for introducing yourselves. (If I didn't get your business card please send me an email so we can stay in touch.)
So... where's the 2012 conference?Discuss this topic here...
Retail, self brand packaging it an expertise unto itself. Communication Arts recently recognized Terri Goldstein's Goldstein Group for their makeover of Luden's Throat Drop packaging and that led me to their site and portfolio.
As you parse it, you realize how complex it is to design something that both captures attention and communicates the big picture in a matter of moments. It requires sophisticated research, an understanding to consumer behavior, and executions that use a mix of messaging, color, custom typography, depth and movement, and storytelling symbolism.
I think there's much to be learned here. The challenge is to translate these techniques to conventional print and digital materials.
I try to remain as objective as possible about the information I share here. Unless I tell you otherwise, I receive no compensation from the organizations and people mentioned except for occasional product samples. Comments? Suggestions? Write me at [email protected]