in the land of publishing, no man is an island

Believe it or not, even if tens of thousands of graphic designers or freelance writers say they work alone, they never really do. And if you ask me, publishing is actually one of the most collaborative process I’ve ever been involved in. Take the graphic designer that gets his worked tweaked by the art director. Or the freelance writer that gets his masterpiece overhauled by the over-compensating editor. And what about the 3-man layout team trying to finish a 250 page monthly fashion magazine? Oh, and I haven’t even started describing what a nightmare it is when the layout team and the editorial staff start “working together”.

it’s never just yours
Sometimes, in fact, you don’t even feel you own a certain file. If you’ve ever tried to sneak in a few changes when your layout artist is out on lunch, or if you’re standing behind someone dictating changes to the file, you know what I mean.

It’s not only troublesome to manually pass printed edits of your copy to your designer, it’s also slow and to a certain extent inaccurate. Imagine a text flowing one or two extra lines… and then your designer spends a whole day trying to readjust the layout. Only to cancel the changes and bring the old copy back.

Because our design process for both layout and copy are free flowing, things could change from one look to the next in a wink of an eye. And you get your editors or your designers chasing after the other just to match and make the design and the copy “fit”.

The way it is


Traditionally, you have two groups working together on a single publishing project: The layout guys and the writers. The diagram above shows how the two teams start work concurrently, where the writer and editors use a word processing application to write their copy, and the designers working on the page layout with InDesign, for example. Midway through, the writers hand the softcopy of their articles/stories to the designers. The designers, place the text into their layout. Unfortunately for the writers, they do not have direct access to their copy from this point forward (unelss they make like a designer and start working on InDesign too… which, sometimes is just too much to ask). Hence, they settle to use pen and paper. This is where the war begins: when the writer starts to heckle with the designer to change this and that, practically making the designer just the hands that punch the keyboard.

the way it SHOULD be


What we really want to have is complete control over our jurisdiction. Let the writers handle the text, and let the designers concentrate on doing what they do best. This picture represents an ideal workflow. The spread is owned by the designer (working on InDesign). Different frames are assigned to different writers (hence, the higlights to visualize the assignments — they really do show up in InDesign!). And when I say frames are assigned, I actually mean that their is a separate physical file created in the form of an .incx file. This is the magic file that makes true collaboration possible. While the designer has the .indd file open and he is working on it, the writer has the .incx file open too… so that he can work on the copy. It’s really simple: 2 people (a writer and a designer) working with one file each for one project at the same time. They ar not waiting on the other to complete a task and you are letting them do what they do best. Doesn’t it make sense?

.incx for the you
Just imagine: If you could select a threaded text frame in InDesign and just hand that text frame to your copywriter for him to fill with text. He’d know exactly how much copy he needs to write. He will be using your paragraph styles (not the ones that microsoft word so conveniently provides). And if you allow him to, he could actually take a sneak peak of how you’re designing it. The most important thing is that the rest of the objects on your layout are still under your command.

That’s what .incx does (stands for InCopy Exchange). It allows you to package your frames into independent files so that your writers can continue working on their copy while you continue working on your design. AT THE SAME TIME.

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