Optimizing a $200 million workflow with InCopy CS2 in 7 days.
Optimizing a $200 million workflow with InCopy CS2 in 7 days.
In addition to publishing Quark VS InDesign.com, articles and books for other publications, and freelance design and publishing, I am a creative workflow optimizer. In the simplest of terms, I’m a consultant who comes into your shop, studio, agency, or office, examines what you do and how you do it, and helps you and your staff make your workflow more efficient, cost-effective, and creative.
InCopy has been a key element in several workflow transformations and optimizations I have executed. This is a case study of one such workflow optimization.
The Omega Industrial Environs (not the company’s real name) workflow includes designers laying out graphically rich 250-600 page proposal books, brochures, and DVD-hosted web content that include editorial content from a team of proposal writers; financial charts, graphs, and tables from the accounting team, and; floorplans, maps, and schematics from the engineering and architecture teams. With copy, financial data, and even technical drawings changing throughout the proposal process up to the very last moment, the existing Omega Industrial Environs workflow put tremendous strain on the Design department to constantly update and revise large portions of the bound proposal books.
A few months ago, I was brought in to optimize the Omega workflow. By optimizing the workflow with comprehensive staff education and solution deployment, including the migration from Microsoft Word to Adobe InCopy CS2, I helped Omega remove the burden of updating other departments’ content from the shoulders of the creative team, drastically speeding the proposal generation process and leaving the creatives and all personnel to focus on what they do best. In the process, overtime hours consumed by the Design department plummeted from an average of 770 per proposal to 50.
Although the name of the company and certain details of this case study have been altered to preserve confidentiality and “Omega’s” competitive advantage, it is based upon an actual workflow optimization at a real company.
Personnel: Design: 3 print designers, 1 print and Web designer; Copywriting: 3 people; Accounting: 2 people; Engineering: 4 people, and; 1 project manager.
Deliverables: Offset- and digitally-printed detailed and graphically-rich 250-600 page bound proposal books, as well as brochures and DVD-hosted Web content.
Output: InDesign CS-native .INDD layouts and .INBK InDesign book files and their assets (TIFF, EPS, PDF).
Incoming Document Assets: Copywriting: Microsoft Word .DOC; Accounting: Microsoft Word .DOC and Microsoft Excel .XLS; Engineering: Microsoft Access (converted to XML), Microsoft Visio (converted to PDF), and AutoCad and other CAD and schematic file formats (converted to PDF, TIFF, or EPS formats), and; Design: InDesign .INDD documents, and Photoshop and Illustrator documents (converted to PDF, TIFF, EPS).
Systems Environment: Design and Project Manager: Macintosh OS 10.4; Copywriting: Divided between Macintosh OS 10.4 and Windows 2000; Accounting and Engineering: Windows XP Professional.
Issue 1: Omega’s proposal generation workflow consists of four departments and a project manager working concurrently to produce content- and design-rich long documents on tight deadlines. During the process content from three of the departments frequently changes, and is provided to the fourth department, Design, which must just as frequently change and proof the layout to reflect the updated content. All departments work in different applications that have little (if any) automated integration. This process is inefficient, error-prone, and results in substantial and unnecessary work hours per proposal.
Accounting, Copywriting, and Engineering departments all work in disparate, best-of-breed applications independently of one another. As they draft, revise, and finalize their respective portions of the proposal, they feed each version to the Design department for layout within InDesign CS. As Design receives each updated asset, they place it into the in-progress layout and export PDFs from InDesign to initiate PDF-based reviews with content authors. PDFs are e-mailed to destination departments, who mark-up the PDF and return it–often with replacement assets–via e-mail or sneaker net to the Design department. Design affects the changes, including importing and re-formatting new assets, exports new PDFs, and sends them out for a subsequent round of review.
Simultaneous with managing the proofing, review, and update of existing pages, Design creates new pages as well as illustrations and other creative assets not provided by other departments. The Omega designers report significant difficulty concentrating on creating content due to the frequent changes and proofs required by other departments. The salaried creatives also incur overtime in excess of 20 hours per week, per employee during the proposal creation process.
Issue 2: Content changes may include the addition, subtraction, or relocation of several dozen pages–often at the last minute. Not only do such changes cause text to reflow, but the Design department must also go back through the document moving all accompanying assets and changing alignment of objects and text that swaps between left- and right-read pages (for example, a sidebar text frame in the outside margin must be manually repositioned to follow its to main text story to which it belongs).
Issue 3: The Design department is Mac-based, as is the project manager, while all other departments in the proposal workflow work on Windows. All departments actively work, to varying degrees, on their own creative content, and are eager to participate more in the layout process. The Copywriting department, for example, typically assists in the selection of site and construction photographs.
Accounting, Copywriting, and Engineering departments all work in disparate, best-of-breed applications that lack more than import/export integration with the Design department’s InDesign CS, Illustrator CS, and Photoshop CS. Often non-importable formats are provided to Design for conversion to compatible assets. Additionally, even non-design personnel who could or would assist with the layout process are prohibited from doing so by the incompatibility of their fonts and operating systems.
Between the two types of fonts available, PostScript Type 1 and TrueType, the Design department has standardized its library to the higher quality Type 1. Type 1 fonts are not cross-platform, and even parallel, operating system-specific versions, result in text reflow and glyph substitution when InDesign and other creative files, which are cross-platform, move between Windows and Mac computers. As a result, other departments that could relieve Design of some of the burden, are unable to render assistance due to platform and font incompatibilities.
Additionally, several non-creative members of the team have difficulty understanding how to install and manage fonts (both Macintosh and Windows system users).
The proposal workflow was already as efficient as the Omega team could make it with their existing technology, which was only recently outdated. Specifically:
- All proposal layouts and assets are stored on, and opened from, a central server repository.
- Both InDesign layouts and corresponding Word documents are based on a standardized style sheet, reducing the restyling work every time the Design department must re-place updated Word documents from other departments. The outline-like styles remain aesthetically the same in Word from proposal to proposal, while style definitions are altered in InDesign.
- Hardcopy proofing and review had long ago been abandoned in favor of PDF-based reviews using Acrobat 6 Professional on all desktops.
- Dynamic content is stored in a network-accessible Microsoft Access database, and exported via scripted command to XML for manual import into InDesign.
- DVD-hosted Web content is created efficiently in GoLive CS (move to GoLive CS2 is pending) by combining packaged content from InDesign (utilizing InDesign’s Package for GoLive feature), Word, Excel, and Access content exported to XML, and ImageReady-based batch conversion of digital image content.
Solution to Issue 1:
- Upgrade the Design department to Adobe InDesign CS 2.
- Replace Microsoft Word with Adobe InCopy CS2 in all departments.
- Institute assignments-based collaborative workflow allowing non-linear, concurrent work in all departments.
- Eliminate the PDF-based review in favor of live collaboration.
- Leverage existing skills to distill disparate, non-integrating applications’ output files into workflow-compatible assets at the content creator creation phase instead of requiring conversion in Design department.
Solution to Issue 2: Anchored objects, object styles, and align to spine features.
Solution to Issue 3:
- Convert all fonts to cross-platform OpenType.
- Install hands-off, server-side font management and activation.
The first step was up-training the Design department from InDesign CS to their recently purchased InDesign CS2.