12 Replies Latest reply on Feb 2, 2016 6:23 PM by Migintosh

    Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?

    CarolineLomba

      When laying out an annual product catalog with 90% same products, should you:

       

      A—start with text from last year's catalog (with all kinds of formatting, like increased leading to fit column lengths, etc., even different alignments, which you would have to undo in order to reformat for this year)

       

      OR

       

      B—take the time to create clean files either in Indesign or Excel, etc., that can be flowed into columns cleanly then formatted?

       

      Thanks in advance.

        • 1. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
          frameexpert Level 4

          Hi Caroline, To me, it depends on where the data originates. If it originates outside of InDesign, I think B is the better choice. If the data is maintained in InDesign, then I suppose you could choose A, but I would still remove the formatting overrides so that you have files with "fresh" formatting. Where does your data originate? Thanks. -Rick

          • 2. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
            CarolineLomba Level 1

            The files originated in Indesign, but were put together by the client. There were little hand drawn illustrations interspersed throughout the columns as well, that was where the differing alignments came into play. I was the 3rd designer this was handed off to in a matter of months.

             

            Any time I've been given a project like this in the past it was a new project and I was given clean files and had no problems. It just seems like most issues on this project arose from something having to do with all kinds of wonky formatting from the past. I'd like to advise the client as best possible, more for the future than anything.

            • 3. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
              CarolineLomba Level 1

              Each year the client changes out 10—20% products, and adds another 10—20% new products.

               

              To my thinking, I'd begin a clean grand master list to draw from new each year, hand the production designer the list of what I wanted to include and access to that master list. Then the only thing that needs to be changed from the client's perspective is adding the new items and their illustrations to the master list. Seems like it would save time and confusion in the long run to create the master list.

               

              I could still be wrong, thus my inquiry.

              • 4. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
                Danny Whitehead. Level 4

                A bit of a sore point this, being over 100 hours into a similar job!

                 

                Personally, I'd want to start again, 'clean' for this year's catalogue. That way you can strip out all the nastiness that has built up. It might not be the quickest way, but it will probably be the least frustrating. Next year, I don't think I'd start over again. I'd figure out the best way for the client to communicate the additions, deletions, and changes, and supply the necessary 'clean', unformatted content just for those parts.

                • 5. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
                  Willi Adelberger Most Valuable Participant

                  I would choose to rebuild it from a new file, also because InDesign has changed and new functionality with each new version. Old files have often trash styles which are causing a lot of problems.

                  • 6. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
                    frameexpert Level 4

                    If you could work with some kind of master list of product information., you could devise a way to automate much of the production. Of course, this would depend on the consistency of the products and desired layout. If you would like me to look at what you have offlist, please let me know. I may be able to give you some suggestions. Thanks. -Rick rick at frameexpert dot com

                    • 7. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
                      CarolineLomba Level 1

                      Thank you for the kindness! However, the job is over and done. I'm just sifting through the 'what went wrong' and 'how could those things have been avoided' so I can advise the client for her to take into consideration for next year should she choose. And so I can move forward and do my best to learn best practices on my end.

                       

                      Apparently I was the 3rd designer pulled onto the project in a matter of a month, which should have been a huge red flag of course. It just seems in retrospect every issue originated from working with old files with all kinds of formatting going on, and all that could have been avoided had we started with clean organized files. So I thought I'd touch bases with others to see how they would approach the same type situation.

                      • 8. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
                        frameexpert Level 4

                        I understand. Hopefully, the job worked out well for you. If you are interested, I would still be willing to look at the files and help you with your postmortem. Best regards, Rick

                        • 9. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
                          [Jongware] Most Valuable Participant

                          Different graphic designers all have different workflows. Some stick to the golden rules of using paragraph and character styles rigorously (.. me, for example - I have been found to be very vocal about that) where others like to take it as they go. While the latter can be useful for an "anything goes" project, for any recurring order you'd better stick to fixed rules.

                           

                          But over time, you will find even yourself changing and fine-tuning your InDesign skills. There is nothing more frustrating than picking up a yearly repeating project and muttering to yourself "now what was that style for again?" So you create a new style, and let the old one exist because it got used in some unchanged parts. And after a few iterations, you'll have reams and reams of folders in your Style panels named "old", "obsolete", and "could still be useful"...

                           

                          At such a point you are best off starting with a totally new document and copy only what you need from the old file. As Willi says, InDesign files have the nasty habit of acquiring "cruft": old styles, images, font references, and even entire snippets of text that should have been purged from the file long ago still remain, and as the file grows larger and larger, it becomes more instable with every next iteration of work.

                          • 10. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
                            Joel Cherney Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                            I am in complete agreement with the estimable posters in this thread (hi, folks!). I am really in frameexpert's camp - I take the source files, extract the data, flatten to raw text, and then import said raw text into a db or spreadsheet, and then automate the re-flow of updated content in an appropriate environment (Data Merge, translation memory tool, or something along those lines).  Maybe it's the shared background in Framemaker that makes such automation appealing?

                             

                            But sometimes, when you're the third pro called in to put out a fire, there's nothing to do but pile working hours on it until the flames are smothered. Good luck with your postmortem.

                            • 11. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
                              BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                              I’ve had a few of those in the last several months and indeed all you can do is triage and get it done.

                               

                              • 12. Re: Annual product catalog in Indesign—start with clean or dirty text files?
                                Migintosh Level 4

                                One thing you should do if you are working on last years file is do a Save-As (safer if you do it with a different name or location, so as to not over-write the original, which you would want as a back-up). That will clear out some of the unused data that builds up in a file over time. Bloated files are more likely to go bad.