Design challenge — Part II

Illustrator, InDesign, Tips

In my previous post, I began to outline a challenge from one of our ad reps to design a calendar of events that one of our clients wants to sponsor. I’ll continue with some info about some of the details, including using a CS2 script to make a task much less tedius.

In the sample ad the client provided, there’s a thin chevron graphic separating the sections. I’ve never really done a chevron before, but found this simple tutorial. I created it about four times as big as I needed just so it would be easier to work with, and followed the tut. I made the lines fit the color scheme I was using, put in a background and dropped it into InDesign, reducing it to 25% size and set a transparency of 50% on it.

Next, I started adding some detail to the top section by drawing lines. Then I went to work on the bottom. I added the chevron piece there, too, and drew a box filled with a color matching the chevrons and setting a 50% transparency on it, too.

The bottom section contains information on the locations around the community where events take place. I could have drawn each box individually, or drawn one and then copied and pasted, but there’s a faster way: using a script. (Note: In CS5, this became a built-in feature. Check out this tut).

Draw a box and while it is selected, go to window/automation/scripts. For this one, I needed to go to the Samples folder, then Applescripts. There’s one called MakeGrid.applescript. With the box selected, I double-clicked that script, entered the information, and voila! Separate boxes, evenly spaced.

In upcoming posts, I’ll discuss setting up the main portion of the ad, with the calendar. We’ll talk gradients and style sheets. Questions? Leave them in the comments or feel free to tweet me up @DesignsbyJunO.

Design challenge — Part I

Illustrator, InDesign, Tips

On Thursday, one of the ad reps walked into our work area and asked “Who wants a challenge?” I wasn’t busy, and I’m always willing to try and stretch my design wings.

One of her clients wants to sponsor a calendar of local events for the summer, and had given her a similar ad from another paper as an example. He wanted it exactly like that ad, in fact. Challenge accepted.

I knew it wouldn’t be difficult for me to recreate the design — most of it could be done in InDesign with fairly simple tools and features. The challenge would be to make it easy for anyone who didn’t create the ad to update the text easily. That’s best accomplished using style sheets.

But first, the actual design, step by step. There’s lots of work involved, so I’ll break this up into different parts.

Our ad rep thought for our paper, this ad would work best as a 4 column by 15 inch ad, so I created an InDesign document to that size. Then I set some guide rules for the top section, where the client’s content about their business and a small testimonial ad are on the sample ad. I did the same for the box on the bottom.

Then I went to Illustrator to design the background for the top section. I started with an orange box with radial gradient. There’s a faint starbust in the sample ad. Now, there are plenty of tutorials of how to make a starburst in Illustrator, and it’s fun to do, but I found one on Metro that I downloaded awhile back to save time on designs like these. I copied and pasted that into the Illustrator document, put it on its own layer, resized, changed the color and dropped the transparency.

For some texture, I keep some images of old papers handy on my desktop. I grabbed one that I thought looked good, sized it and placed it where it looked most interesting, then dropped the transparency on it, too.

Draw a box to create a clipping mask, and then drop into InDesign.

In the next post, I’ll continue with some of the small design details. If you have questions or need more detail on some of the steps, let me know in the comments.

InDesign vs. Illustrator for print ads

Illustrator, InDesign, Tips


When it comes to design programs, Adobe’s Creative Suite is obviously the top choice. But between InDesign and Illustrator, which is the best to use for print advertising design?

There’s no definitive answer. You have to look at what’s best for you and your organization’s workflow.

At my paper, we primarily use InDesign CS3 with Illustrator CS5 and Photoshop CS5 as supplements when needed or appropriate. Most of the time, we are creating single-page documents for the ads, created at whatever size the ad is, wether it’s a one-column help wanted classified display ad or a broadsheet full page or double-truck.

My two co-workers and I were asked to each do a holiday house ad last year. I did this for Thanksgiving in Illustrator.

My two co-workers and I were asked to each do a holiday house ad last year. I did this for Thanksgiving in Illustrator.

Really, I think now, after being in the creative services department for almost two years, I’d prefer to use Illustrator to create the majority of our ads — and once in awhile, when I get the chance to be creative and design something from scratch, I do. But I moved here from the newsroom, where InDesign rules for pagination, and that’s what I knew. It functions perfectly well for what we do, but now that I’ve been able to take the time to learn more about Illustrator’s tools and capabilities, I really like it. Before, I was a little intimidated.

But, for practical reasons, InDesign is the best way for us to go. Many of our ads are PDFs sent by clients or agencies. With those, we place the PDF in an InDesign document, size it if needed and export it under a code number as PDF that is then pulled into the page dummies through a database (that’s about as technical as I can get about that process). Many of the ads we do create are classified displays (mostly text, maybe a logo), an update of a previously run ad, or some clip art or a photo supplied by the client, text and a logo. For that kind of work, InDesign works fine.

Also, InDesign is used by anyone who designs at our newspaper. So if, for example, the news or sports editor who is working on a Saturday for the Sunday edition (we publish Sunday-Friday) finds a typo in an ad, we could actually talk them through over the phone where to find the InDesign file to make the correction and re-export it, instead of a creative services staffer coming in and doing it. It gets fixed right away, no delay.

So really, as far as small newspapers go, if you’re wondering if Illustrator is worth an investment, it might not be. If you have a great designer(s) and they have the opportunity at least once in a while to do something creative and complex, then go for it. But if you’re a very small publication on a budget, and your ad designer is also the salesperson who helps with pagination, then going with InDesign will probably work for you. (Any small papers tried Adobe’s Creative Cloud yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

And you can do some interesting things with InDesign, too.