Adobe InDesign Students, Please Create e-books. Or at Least Use Agri-fiber if You Must Print on Paper

As your career begins and progresses, step ahead and embrace a paperless world. Read Cradle to Cradle and understand the premise by McDonough and Braungart that trees are better left in the ground. Paper is “not a fitting resource to use in producing so humble and transient a substance as paper.”

In a thorough article by Eric Benson in the 2019 CA Typography Annual the concept of agri-based papers such as paper made from sugarcane, bamboo and the byproduct of wheat (straw) should be a design rule for the production of your printed work.

Benson reminds us that in 1975, Business Week predicted that personal computers would reduce the need for paper usage at work. This would be the so-called paperless office. Unfortunately, in 2016, global paper usage increased to 413 metric tons. 50% more than in 1980.

So, what is the cause of such an increase in societies that have been defined by the information age. Population is obvious, but there must be more answers. I am open to hearing your answers and following up on this topic with whatever you come up with. Keep designing with InDesign and keep learning every day at SFJ Academy.

The Principal,
Foster Johnson


Can You Teach my Group a 3 Day Class in 4 Hours?

A request came in to the principal’s office. A company wanted to learnĀ  how to use InDesign to typeset books. The request came across my desk with a list of 12 topics they wanted to cover. The interesting part of the request was the part about covering the list in 4 hours. I won’t go into detail about the contents of the list. Let’s just say it covered what I typically have my instructors cover in a three day Basic Intro to Adobe InDesign class. Obviously not in detail and not topic for topic, but this list was quite comprehensive.

In an effort to reduce Scrap Learning throughout the Academy (and the entire world for that matter), let’s examine the request from the perspective of a challenge requiring a valid solution.

Since there are twelve points of interest, the simple math would dictate 20 minutes per topic.

I believe that an InDesign expert could definitely demo each point successfully in 20 minutes, as I have been tasked to do many times in the past as a consultant not a teacher.

The real test is whether participants can execute any of the activities that are demonstrated at any point in the following three days.

It is my belief that they cannot and most likely will not. They have seen how to di it, but they did not actually have time to try it so they have not learned how to do it. If they could, the link to online tutorials and subsequent queries online would have answered their questions and supplied them with the skills (to a level) where they would not be seeking training.

Don’t Just Watch, Try
Training should include time for each participant to try “to success” each task in its entirety. In my short experience as an instructor I can safely say that a 20 minute demo, deserves a 20 minute hands-on exercise or set of exercises to reinforce and “brain stamp” the activity.

Can’t We Just Buy Four Hours of Training?
The answer is no. Four hours is a waste of time. Eight hours is about right, but as usual only if the participants understand the tool.

If they have no usage, are unable to learn the basic interface elements, and how the engineers at Adobe have built the app to do what it is designed to do, then pagination from master pages and typography are skill topics that are actually outside of the application. A publication designer should know both. Layout and typography should be basic knowledge. How InDesign accommodates these skills as tasks is too far a concept apart from the actual execution of these tasks.

Know the Tool Before You Try to Use It
If the basic mechanics and workflow of the app itself are not thoroughly understood a learner will waste time trying to memorize a step-by-step example instead of learning or discovering those steps as the application offers them (i.e. via menu commands, panels of tasks, context clicking).

SFJ Academy has a syllabus, the class detailed on the syllabus is what I sell. If customers are seeking to cut costs and corners by configuring what I sell into a shorter faster solution, they should be aware that there is then no guarantee that any participant will learn anything.

That guarantee is part of the concept of a serious endeavor attempted, worked through thoroughly and accomplished with sufficient time involved. Even a publication designer who started with PageMaker or Quark two or three decades ago will benefit from such a process.

It is “that process” that we sell. Success cannot easily be achieved by providing coverage of a short list of topics. The process involves the time, the desk, a modern appropriate system and the offer to let you focus with no distractions on the task to be learned. You can find an explanation on a list of topics anywhere where there is a search bar. We sell learning.