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In Others Words... the Meaning and Purpose of Desktop Publishing

Desktop Publishing Quotations


Popular Desktop Publishing and Graphics Software

Good design doesn't care what software is used. But we certainly have a lot of desktop publishing software from which to choose.

Box shots provided by Serif, Broderbund, Nova Development, Microsoft, Quark, Adobe, and Corel.

Desktop publishing itself is not something which inspires a lot of great quotes. At least not quotes that others gather up and publish specifically as quotes about desktop publishing. However, in sifting through collections of graphic design, creativity, and computer software quotations I was able to find a few quotes that can be applied to desktop publishing and the use of desktop publishing software. And as with my collection of typography quotations and type design quotations, I've provided some commentary and my own thoughts following each one or certain groups of quotations.

Desktop Publishing Software Is a Tool

"I became a graphic artist because of the tools. I love working at a big drawing table with traditional tools: T-squares, compasses, mechanical pencils, French curves, blank ink, and graphite. At a computer, one works on a keyboard. I never considered myself a typist." Michael Schwab
You can be a graphic designer without knowing how to use desktop publishing software and you can learn how to use desktop publishing software without being a graphic designer. Today, for better or for worse, desktop publishing software replaces the T-squares and mechanical pencils. But no matter which tools you use, they are only tools. Owning desktop publishing software doesn't make you a good designer anymore than owning a big drawing table. It's possible that some day those of us who grew up with PageMaker or InDesign or PagePlus will lament the next new tool for design and publishing, whatever form it takes.
"The grid system is an aid, not a guarantee. It permits a number of possible uses and each designer can look for a solution appropriate to his personal style. But one must learn how to use the grid; it is an art that requires practice." Josef Müller-Brockmann
Designing on a grid predates desktop publishing, however, desktop publishing software makes it easy to try on different grids in the process of creating a piece of work. Just because it makes it easier to try out different grids, different layouts, the software can't show you the perfect grid on its own. This quote can be expanded by substituting "desktop publishing software" in place of "grid" or "grid system." It still holds true. The software is an aid you must learn to use but it's not a guarantee that everything you create is going to be good.
"You can't do better design with a computer, but you can speed up your work enormously." Wim Crouwel
"Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking." Milton Glaser
When it comes to using desktop publishing and graphics software this is both true and false. Individual tasks are faster. But, because it's now so much easier to change a font, resize a picture, add a drop cap, or change an entire layout we may end up spending far more time trying out new ideas (a good thing) than we might have otherwise done and negating any time-savings. But, it's true that using a computer and software doesn't make your work better, it just changes the process of getting it done. The differences between the casserole you cooked in the conventional oven and the one you cooked in the microwave oven are minor. But if you screw up the recipe then it doesn't matter which kind of oven you use. This all fits nicely with a quotation from Ryan Singer, "Good ideas turn into good designs fairly quickly. If you catch yourself fiddling too much with colors, borders, and treatments to bring a design together, chances are the problem lies somewhere deeper."
Is Desktop Publishing Training Needed to Do Graphic Design? Most graphic designers use desktop publishing software, so yes, it's a required skill most of the time.

Software Skills Are No Substitute For Design Skills

"Skill in the digital age is confused with mastery of digital tools, masking the importance of understanding materials and mastering the elements of form." John Maeda
"Owning a camera doesn't make you a photographer." Gabriel Von Satzer
"It's not about knowing all the gimmicks and photo tricks. If you haven't got the eye, no program will give it to you." David Carson
Knowing how to use desktop publishing software is a good skill to have whether you are a graphic designer, an office manager, a teacher, or a club secretary. But it doesn't make you a skilled designer, simply a skilled user of the software.
Do I Need Graphic Design Training to Do Desktop Publishing? It certainly won't hurt, almost always will help, but it's not an absolute requirement.


More Desktop Publishing Quotations and Commentary

  1. this page of quotes on software and design skills
  2. Don't Use the Software as a Crutch
  3. The Software Isn't The Problem If Your Design is Bad (plus sources)


Pick Your Path to Desktop Publishing
Get Started: Basic Guidelines and Requirements for Desktop Publishing
Choose Software: Desktop Publishing and Design Software
Tips & Tutorials: How to Do Desktop Publishing
Training, Education, Jobs: Careers in Desktop Publishing
In the Classroom: Back to School With Desktop Publishing
Make Something: Things to Make Using Desktop Publishing
Use Templates: Templates for Print and Web Publishing

Readers Respond: What Kind of Desktop Publishing Do You Do?

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