Since the 1970s, microcomputers have been an integral part of the business environment. Businesses use microcomputers and software packages to perform a variety of tasks. Until recently, the three most popular types of software purchased for microcomputers were word processing, spreadsheets, and database.
During the past decade, another type of software program called desktop publishing has gained popularity with microcomputer users. With the introduction of the laser printer and its ability to produce high quality documents, desktop publishing software became the fastest growing microcomputer application of the 1980s, and its widespread use continues into the 1990s. Desktop publishing involves using desktop publishing software or word processing software with desktop publishing capabilities, a computer system, and a printer to produce professional-looking documents.
Until the mid-1980s, graphic design depended almost exclusively on design professionals. But desktop publishing changed all that by bringing graphic design into the office and home. Faster microprocessors, improved printer capabilities, increased supply of clip art, CD ROMs, and the like continue to expand the role of desktop publishing. Everything from a flyer to a newsletter can be designed, created, and produced at a computer.
In traditional publishing, several people may be involved in completing the publication project. This may be costly and time-consuming. With the use of desktop publishing software, one person may be performing all of the tasks necessary to complete a project, greatly reducing the costs of publishing documents. The two approaches have a great deal in common. Both approaches involve setting goals, planning and organizing content, analyzing layout and design, arranging design elements, typesetting, printing, and distributing the project.
Desktop publishing can be an individual or a combined effort. As an individual effort, desktop publishing produces immediate results and offers you the ability to control the production from beginning layout and design to the end resultprinting and distribution. However, desktop publishing and traditional publishing work well together. A project may begin on a desktop where the document is designed and created, but an illustrator may be commissioned to create some artwork, or it may end up at a commercial printer for printing and binding.
Initiating the Desktop Publishing Process
The beginning process of creating a publication involves two stepsplanning the publication and creating the content. During the planning process, the desktop publisher must make decisions such as the purpose of the publication and the intended audience. The content of a publication must get the intended message to the reader. While the design of a publication is important, the content is the purpose of the publication.
Initial planning is probably one of the most important steps in the desktop publishing process. During this stage, clearly identify the purpose of your communication. The more definite you are of your purpose, the easier it will be for you to organize your material into an effective communication. Are you trying to provide information? Are you trying to sell a product? Are you announcing an event?
Assess your target audience by asking such questions as, who do you want to read your publication? What will your target audience expect out of your publication? Do they expect a serious, more conservative approach? Or an informal, humorous approach?
Determine in what form your intended audience will be exposed to your message. Will your message be contained in a brochure in a packet of presentation materials for a company seminar? Or will your message be in the form of a newspaper advertisement, surrounded by other advertisements? Will your message be in the form of a business card that is to be distributed when making sales calls? Or will your message be tacked on a bulletin board?
Decide what you want your readers to do after reading your message. Do you want your readers to ask for more information? Do you want some kind of a response? Do you want your readers to be able to contact you in person or over the telephone?
Collect examples of effective designs. Decide what you like and do not like. Try to determine why one design is more appealing than another. What elements attract your attention? Let the designs you like be a catalyst to your own ideas.
The most important goal in desktop publishing is to get the message across. Design is important because it increases the appeal of your document, but content is still the most important consideration. Create a document that communicates the message clearly to your intended audience.
In analyzing your message, identify your goals and start organizing your material. Establish a hierarchy of importance among the items in your communication. Consider what items will be important to the reader, what will attract the readers attention, and what will spark enough interest for the reader to go on. Begin to think about the format or layout you want to follow. Clear and organized content combined with an attractive layout and design contribute to the effectiveness of your message.