Monday, December 1, 2008

Desktop Publishers: Who They Are and Why They're Needed

When you are a desktop publisher, you may work in an office or at your home and telecommute. You might be a freelancer or you may be in-house for just one company (even if you do telecommute).

Desktop publishing (DTP) first began to catch on in the late 1980s with the proliferation of personal computers. Desktop publishing at the time was a great revolution and helped to dramatically reduce the costs of creating print publications. With computer-aided technology and pre-defined templates, total novices could now create respectable brochures, booklets, reports with graphics, newsletters, and so forth. As a result, less materials were needed, less space and equipment were needed, and fewer specialists were needed. This meant far more publishing jobs could be done in-house instead of sent out to publishers, and it also meant that one person could do the jobs of several; both of these developments saved businesses large amounts of money.

However no amount of technology can replace creative talent and excellent writing/communication skills. So, as the technology spread and PCs became even more abundant, a niche was created for desktop publishing specialists. Businesses became interested in hiring these people because they were still saving large sums of money over what they had to spend before while meeting the need for dynamic, creative, precise communications and presentations.

In the 21st century, desktop publishing may also comprise what's become known as electronic publishing--where publications are created only to be specifically viewed online. Electronic publications are created in the same basic way as desktop publications, but they might include dynamics that printed publications cannot such as interactive links, mouse-over pop-ups, and flash animation. Many businesses also like the security and readability of PDF files and electronic publishing makes heavy use of these.

So, the desktop publisher does not need to be a computer scientist, but s/he does need to be computer savvy and able to learn new programs quickly, and will need to be or become adept with using (and, if a freelancer, will need to own) a DTP program like QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign, a large computer monitor, and a laser printer. There also needs to be a good word processing program like Word Perfect and a graphics program like CAD Drawing or Paintshop Pro in use. Superior communication skills, including with the written word, an excellent eye for attention-getting graphics and images, and creative talents all need to be possessed by the desktop publisher, too. A desktop publisher will also need to have professional relationship-building skills, too, because s/he'll be working in the business world. Some creative personalities find this a difficult balancing act, so it's an aspect of desktop publishing that must be emphasized.

Making use of the DTP program, the desktop publisher spends his working hours engaged in layout design; inserting photographs, sketches, graphics, or (for electronic publishing) movies; going over and possibly combining many different fonts and typefaces; and multitasking with multiple input files to create customized, original documents to meet specific marketing, communications, or advertising needs.

The desktop publisher may work alone or in conjunction with a copy writer. One might work specifically in the marketing-communications department of one company, or may freelance and have to spend some time putting into action a self-marketing/advertising plan to get business. Freelance desktop publishers can charge more money per hour or assignment and have more freedom, but of course the trade-off is they have to make sure they get a steady stream of new and repeat clients.

Desktop publishers need to understand how to subsume their own creativity so that they are meeting the needs and demands of their business or clients for whom they work. If a client does not approve of the work done and wants changes made, the DTP person needs to be able to understand how to make these changes as quickly and with as much quality as possible, while still being able to produce unique, effective, and creative publications for the person or business paying them.

Desktop publishers can make pretty good money. The national average for annual pay in the United States is about $43,000 a year. Once they establish their reputation and clientele, freelancers can possibly make six figure incomes.

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