07 November 08

Publicious translated to Arabic

Mike Rankin, the wiz behind Publicious.net and a great contributor at InDesign Secrets sent me an email showing me that a post I wrote for Publicious has been translated to Arabic. And oddly enough, almost everything translates to Arabic except CinnamonCooper and Publicious. So hopefully there are some amazing people somewhere in the other hemisphere who have found something useful in my post about creating master pages.

Now I just need to write more to see which language it gets translated to next time.


06 April 08


Publicious. It rhymes with delicious.

I don’t write here very much about what I do for a living. I’ve heard all about the possibilities of getting Dooced by talking about work on your personal blog. And since I’ve liked my job, I’ve avoided saying much of anything. If you know me in person, or if you have been reading this site for the past 7 years (holy crow!) then you know that I work for a textbook publisher and I specialize in doing the page production portion of the process.

If you don’t know me, then you may not know what that entails. See when you make a book you often have the people who focus on coming up with the text, and you have people who focus on coming up with the design (knowing which fonts they want to use, what images, about where they’ll be on the pages, what the design elements are that will appear frequently throughout the book, etc.), and then you have the people who do my job.

When I was studying journalism I thought I wanted to be a political writer. But then I began to realize how much ego was wrapped up in tthat and how biased people were (even though they were supposed tto be unbiased), and I felt disheartened. And then I began to work with the guys who were doing the page make-up for the paper (using Photoshop 3 and Quark 3.2) and I was thrilled. This was interesting! This was amazingly fun.

Fast forward about 10 years and you may get to understand a bit of what I do. I take the words that the editors create, I take the design direction that the designers create, and I determine the best, most consistent, and technically most efficient way to put it on the page. But getting it on the page so it looks right is only half the battle. There are a lot of repetitive tasks that come with making books, and I try to find ways to automate the process. And just because you have it on the page, it doesn’t meant that it is going to print once you get it to the printer. It just isn’t that easy. If you’ve got a blue background and you want a white box on top of it and then blue text on top of the white box, unless you know what you’re doing, your blue text will simply disappear due to something called knockout. I’m not talking about anything attractive.

It’s my job to figure out what all of the potential problems are going to be before we ever get to the printer so they can be prevented instead of fixed. And I really, really, really enjoy this. I love the program InDesign. I used to enjoy using Quark (although I chafed at its limitations) but then when our company went to InDesign I leapt for joy and my knowledge bloomed and my geeky tendencies blossomed like ragweed in August. I mutter things like “I’ll nest that style”, “I’ll use an applescript to create the postscripts”, “I’ll create master pages that are clean and spare and perfect” as I see sketches and snippets that designers come up with.

And during the many years I’ve been with the company I am lucky to work with I’ve occasionally gotten to bump into a young man named Michael Rankin. And this man geeks in much the same way I do, but he’s like on level 9 and I feel like I’m struggling to get past the bad guy at the end of level 3 of this crazy video game of geekery. He’s been an inspiration to speak with, he’s been delightful to learn from, and I found myself nervously in awe recently when he emailed me and said “Hey, I’m creating this website that deals with all the things I’m interested in. Would you be interested in joining me and writing on occasion?”

“Oh wow. Oh holy wow.” was my personal reaction. But since the fangirl doesn’t get to come out very often, I surely couldn’t present her to Michael. So I put her aside and gratefully accepted the invitation. And I’ve been reading what he’s written for the last few weeks. And I’m giddy that I have someone who is so willing to teach, and so good at, asking me to consider writing for this site.

But this anxiety isn’t pretty. And this offer truly is fantastic. So I have agreed. And now I’m going to go to InDesign and mock up something that I was presented with recently so I can send screenshots his way with some text that hopefully lives up to my expectations, let alone his. So, in case you geek out with InDesign, or if you’re a print designer looking to learn how to be better at your job, head on over to Publicious. I have no doubt that you’ll learn a thing or two.


03 June 04

A lighter load

. . . a law was passed in California limiting the weight of textbooks?

I’m sure many of you have seen, or maybe know, students who now resort to rolling luggage instead of knapsacks or backpacks because they have so many super-huge books to carry. The average weight of one high school textbook I work on is ten pounds. That’s for one class, and no students rarely make it through half of the pages during the course of one year.

One answer is to create several smaller books so schools can simply purchase the sections they want instead of an entire book. E-books are discussed but rarely an option for most school districts. It’s a great idea that each student would simply carry around a two-pound screen with a couple of keys and a stylus and they’d have their texts and their workbooks and their assignments beamed to them each day by their teacher. In reality this technology is being utilized by the wealthier school districts while most schools are lucky to have a small out-of-date computer lab. Paperback versions of books would make things lighter, but schools aren’t willing to purchase paperback because it limits the number of years it can be used due to wear and tear. Some teachers are calling for an end to designed books. For example in a literature classroom, a teacher might prefer to have the students carry black and white books that only have the reading selections in them. The teachers would have workbooks and handouts with the before reading and after reading text that most students ignore anyway. But these books aren’t pretty, at all, and they aren’t popular with teachers who want their textbooks to compete visually with all the other distractions.

There’s no easy answer on how to make books smaller while still providing teachers with a wide variety of teaching aids and readings that can be chosen based on state requirements. But I don’t blame California for limiting the weight of books. It’s a necessity.

I’ve mentioned before that I have scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. Think Denny by Judy Blume. It wasn’t discovered until I was out of high school. During the initial check-up the doctor informed me that I probably would have it better if I hadn’t carried almost all of my books in my backpack and used only the right shoulder strap.

It’s a good law, it’s a good step. I’m not sure where it will end up, but I like where it is starting.

Wanna know where I’ve been lately, check this out.