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.

Great tip for automatic alignment of an InDesign facing page layout

Here’s a possible solution to a problem a student described about the requirement to insert a new left side page into a spread and thereby making the original page 3 end up as page 4, the image was then next to the spine, when it was meant to remain on the outer edge of the page.

Q. How can you create a facing page layout, that automatically keeps a mirror format relative to the spine of a facing page spread.

A. An example of this problem could be a two column facing page layout, that has a left front cover 1 spread in the middle and a back cover (page 6). You’d like to add another page to eventually change the content on one side of the spread. The spread page or pages has a design where a photo covers the top portion of the outside column and forces a text wrap away from all sides of the photo. The problem arises when you attempt to insert a single page into the left facing page of the spread. After doing so, the photo that was on the left on page 2 is now on the left of page 3 and therefore is no longer a mirror of the design structure (where the photo is always over the outermost column away from the spine).


The solution is to use an inline graphic container for the photos. Anchor the inline graphic and apply a conditional anchor based upon the anchor object’s position away from the spine. See the illustration.

The setting that you would set in the Anchored Object Options dialog box after selecting “Custom” in the drop down menu is to check the option “Relative to Spine”. Then set the Anchored Object’s Reference Point box so that it is selected on the left edge (automatically on the right edge as well) and in the middle vertically.

A Position of Custom, and Relative to Spine setting can also be applied to any object on the page including text as long as the object is inline in a text frame. The frame itself can hold nothing more than empty paragraphs with insertion points for the relative to spine aligned objects. To make an object an inline object quickly, leave a copy on the paste board. Copy it and paste it into the text frame as if it were text.

Upon insertion of an extra page. The photo will always anchor to the outermost column, in flow with the page break and inline with the appropriate position in the copy.