As a marketer, or a small business owner wearing the marketing hat, you have various options when it comes to creating new communication material. You can simply hire a design agency to create it for you, add a graphic designer to your team, or design it yourself.
You might also do a mix of the three, depending on the size of your organisation and the type of project you require. But whether or not you will be designing anything, I am convinced that being aware of the tools on the market, understanding what they can be used for, and knowing the basics of how to use them can offer real benefits.
If you work with an agency, it will help you understand their technical jargon when you discuss your projects. If you have a designer in-house it will help you understand what he does. And if you design yourself, well, you obviously need to know the tools. Plus you always need some last minute modifications to an image or a document, and you don’t always want to rely on someone else to be there for you.
I started my career as a marketing executive in a small company of less than 20 people. Marketing was being done solely by the CEO himself, with the help of a design agency. I came on-board in a junior role to help him with various activities, like preparing brochures, updating the website, planning for events, etc.. So pretty soon I was involved with the design agency, sending them creative briefs, choosing from their various design drafts, etc. They were very professional and delivered beautiful products, but sometimes we needed less sophistication and faster turnaround.
So when we needed to design an invitation for a trade show to be sent by email, I started playing around in Publisher. Yes, publisher, I know… It was not the best, but that’s how it all started, from the need to create something quickly and by myself. I then looked for some tools, and slowly learned how to use them by reading tutorials, books and playing with the software. I’m not saying that you need to become an expert in photoshop, but believe me, having some basic skills will save you time and money. So let’s dig into it, and have a look at the tools themselves.
Presenting the Adobe Creative Suite and the difference between Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign
Adobe have developed or acquired many software programs along the years, and now offer a full suite of products that help designers produce content for print, web or digital platforms. They are without doubt the standard tools that all designers use, and they integrate beautifully together, with similar interfaces, menus, shortcuts, etc.. If you look at the Adobe website, you’ll see dozens of products, but today we will be focusing on the core products you need to know: Photoshop, illustrator, Indesign and Acrobat Pro.
Photoshop is an image editing software, designed to retouch and manipulate photos, although it offers many additional possibilities. When working with Photoshop, you edit what we call a “raster” image, made of millions of pixels, or tiny dots. You can use photoshop for changing colors of a photo, resizing it, cropping it, removing some defaults, changing shapes, cloning elements or making collages. These days, every single photography is processed with photoshop or a similar software before being published. Think of models in glossy magazines, cars in advertising, food on recipe books for example.
Illustrator is a “vector” drawing software. Vector graphics are made of points, lines and curves that are coordinated and calculated mathematically. The key advantage over raster images is that you can scale vector graphics without loosing resolution, or seeing the pixels (see image below). Illustrator is mainly used to create logos, complex shapes, flat images where few colors are used and of course illustrations.
Indesign is a desktop publishing software, used mainly to layout documents like brochures, magazines, newsletters and books. Indesign focuses on the layout of the page, the arrangement between text and images and is extremely flexible and precise, ensuring perfect customisation of your document. You can control placement of the header, page number, text flow, in a more robust way than working with Microsoft Word.
A note about Acrobat Pro
Acrobat Pro is not used to create or design anything, but it is part of the product bundle -the Creative Suite- and helps you manage your pdf files very professionally. You can create a pdf file from any document editing software (Word, excel, etc), combine photos into a pdf document, edit an existing pdf, add an interactive form on the document, secure the document digitally, and much more. Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign have a lot of functions in common and you could sometimes get the same result with one or the other, but it is still useful to understand limitations and key differences. Another detail to point out is that the three tools are often used together in a single project. For example, if I was to design a new brochure for a product, I would retouch the photos of the product in photoshop, create any logo, fancy text or graphic in illustrator, and combine all the elements in Indesign to create the final pdf. I hope this gave you a good introduction to the famous design tools from Adobe and removed some of the confusion as to which ones you can use. I will go into more details about each software and how to use them in future posts, in the meantime you can find more information on the Adobe website or leave a comment if you have any question.
The new tool that every online entrepreneur uses these days: Canva
Canva is an online-based graphic design platform that lets you create so many things, including social media graphics, presentations, videos, flyers, brochures, workbooks, and much more. It comes with thousands of pre-loaded templates as well as design elements and photos, and really simplify and shorten the design process. No wonder every blogger or entrepreneur on the web uses it theses days. I will be covering this tool in more details in upcoming posts, and again you visit their website to learn more.