When I first entered the design industry, I thought that graphic designers who said disparaging things about word processors for  document layout were snobs. I now know better.

Having lived through more than one ‘I can do it myself, I just need you to print it’ project, I can attest that word processors are not appropriate tool for professional document layout, no matter what their makers claim.

I recently worked on a brochure designed by my client in a word processor. By the time it went to press – for the second time – I had spent more time on troubleshooting problems than if I had been commissioned to design the project from the beginning. My client thought they were saving money by doing the layout themselves and just getting us to do the printing. They ended up paying more. Not only that, but the process was frustrating for both of us.

Word processors were intended for creating good quality documents for printing on a desktop printer. No quibbles there. However, they are not intended for printing by a commercial printer.

Every profession has its own set of tools. Electricians and plumbers both use pliers, but electrician’s pliers have evolved to a specialized function. A plumber might be able to use an electrician’s pliers, but it will be awkward and he or she will not be very efficient since it’s not the right tool for the job.

In the same way, a professional graphic designer uses a document layout program to create beautiful and functional documents, not a word processor. The industry standard for document layout is Adobe’s InDesign. Quark’s XPress is a similar product and used to hold that top spot. These and other professional document layout programs are the tools of the professional graphic designer. They allow the designer much, much greater control over all aspects of the document, including

  • colour management (not all colours are created equal!)
  • typography (hyphenation, justification letter spacing ,word spacing etc.)
  • bleed (being able to print to the edge without margins)
  • object positioning
  • layering, transparency and effects
  • print output
  • and so much more

So when a graphic designer doesn’t ooze enthusiasm over that brochure you just slaved over in Word, don’t take offence. They understand document layout—and they know that using the right tools makes a world of difference. They aren’t being a snob, they are actually taking the needs of their clients to heart and offering the best they can to make them look good.

What do you think? Join the conversation.