3 Replies Latest reply on Jan 18, 2012 2:17 PM by samallen3

    Updating a Catalog workflow process.

    samallen3 Level 1

      I have just started a new job that involves creating an annual "Church Supplies Catalog".  My predecessor had been doing this job for over 25 years, since the days of Xacto knives and film.  She had moved over to using computers of course, but I feel that her process could be streamlined quite a bit with the use of InDesign.  Most of her work was done with Quark, but now that Adobe has greatly improved on InDesign it has now become the industry standard for layout and print production. 

       

      I am just needing help figuring out the most efficient way to take her process and make it mine without causing too much confusion.  My supervisor said that she is usually doing catalog stuff from March until about September.  I feel that the project is big, yes - but not that big.

       

      Now for some background about the project.  This catalog is a Church supplies catalog.  What we do is we sell pages to vendors of different products and they send us their artwork/product images/UPCs etc. and we plug them in and format them so the pages look consistant and apply our page templates.  The way it was done in the past what she would do was create a quark file for EACH PAGE and then update pricing/images/fonts/etc. as she saw fit and apply the template for the correct section of the catalog.  We had a total of 14 "sections" in the 2012 catalog.  This, needless to say, was a time consuming and tedious process.  I cannot use many of InDesign's automation features due to the nature of the catalog, or at least I haven't found that they would make things any more efficient.  We have everything from Bibles to chairs and tables in this catalog, which is what makes it so difficult to automate. With each individual product, we have a label, a UPC or ISBN, and the price.

       

      Due to the volume of pages (over 210) and the amount of images on each page, she found that the easiest way was to create an individual file for each page.  I am wondering if someone can come up with a solution (using the books palate) that could make this process a little less time consuming.  When we send pages to the printer we have to organize them into "signatures" or sections of pages.  The best solution I could come up with with my limited knowledge of InDesign was to use the book palate and create a separate file for each signature to maintain pagination.  The problem with this is that each signature is 30 pages and with all the images and text it will most likely run really slow and cause problems. 

       

      Another issue I'm not sure how to solve the most efficient way is how to easily apply the page template with the correct header and subheader within signatures.  Right now, I have a "master file" created with each master spread (each section has a different color) and I plan on using that somehow (?) by just creating the content and applying the right Master page to each one.

       

      I know this is a lot of information, but thanks in advance to those who can make sense of this and give me some direction.  If you need more information let me know!

       

      Thank you!

        • 1. Re: Updating a Catalog workflow process.
          SuperMacGuy Level 2

          There are several different catalog solutions available. I've not used them but I have heard of some before. You could be looking at a pretty large dollar amount to automate all that, but also the time savings could be tremendous. If you're using a Mac then there are a lot of Applescript options that could do things from automating page layout, to inserting data from a Filemaker database of your products, and/or making a layout of sections or applying paragraph styles. I write Applescripts, and I know a few other guys that have done very large automation for catalog upward of 1000 pages,  or the same magazines week after week.

          When you say that "you haven't found a way to use ID's automation features" I sort of chuckle/am perplexed. I bet a lot of things could really help, but the key will be to have a format that is condusive to using them, and I bet 200 1-page documents isn't one of them. ;-)  Organization of your document and data is really key to making anything automation work smoothly.

          I think there's no one answer I can give that will be a magic bullet for you. Look into some automation options, there are some that are demo's for ID, or some might involve a meeting with someone who will really build a system custom tailored to your need.

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Updating a Catalog workflow process.
            Joel Cherney Adobe Community Professional & MVP

            When you say that "you haven't found a way to use ID's automation features" I sort of chuckle/am perplexed. I bet a lot of things could really help, but the key will be to have a format that is condusive to using them, and I bet 200 1-page documents isn't one of them. ;-)  Organization of your document and data is really key to making anything automation work smoothly.

             

            I was trying to find an encouraging, non-bleak way of saying this; SMG did a better job than I could, by far. The aforementioned automation features work quite well when the source of the data is uniform and perfectly clean. You don't have that, I think. How does new data from vendors get to you? If they were all uploading their UPCs and their plaintext descriptions of their products and their new prices into a database, or even inputting 'em into one big Excel spreadsheet, then those automation tools might be pretty useful.

             

            When we send pages to the printer we have to organize them into "signatures" or sections of pages.

             

            ... why? Do you have a page-limit-per-signature? Speaking honestly here: do you have the freedom to pick a new printer? In 2011, I'd expect to export a single PDF of my hundreds-of-pages catalog and hand it off to my printer, and they'd do that kind of work.

             

            Another issue I'm not sure how to solve the most efficient way is how to easily apply the page template with the correct header and subheader within signatures.  Right now, I have a "master file" created with each master spread (each section has a different color) and I plan on using that somehow (?) by just creating the content and applying the right Master page to each one.

             

            That sounds kinda like Quark thinking to me, honestly. I'd have one master page for each generic layout of images or whatever that didn't change at all from page to page. Headers and subheaders would be live text on pages, so that they could flow with the text when we added 20 new products at the beginning of the catalog in 2013.

             

            The best thing I can think of here is for me to give you a file that is already set up in a way that makes sense for easy annual revision of lots of finicky text. I'd send you one right away, but unfortunately I can't think of one that I can share without violating any number of non-disclosure agreements, but I'll root around in my archives tonight to see if I can't find a share-able document of this type.

            • 3. Re: Updating a Catalog workflow process.
              samallen3 Level 1

              Thanks for your input, guys.  Around here we haven't changed much over the years with this process, mainly because the same person was doing the catalog for so long, and she had her "best methods" for her skillset.  I am trained slightly more on Adobe than she was and I know it has great capabilities I just want to utilize it to its fullest.  I am not sure why we do signatures, however I think one reason has to do with us receiving content at different times.  We might receive some vendor files in April, while others may have to wait (for instance Vaction Bible School curriculum is not develeoped until late spring).  We do signatures (I think) because we can send a couple to our printer, have them start running those, and then later upload the rest.  This cuts press time, I suppose.  I don't think it's a matter of us doing their work, it's just time contstraints and convenience for us when it comes time to mail the catalog to churches.  Also the fact that "that's how they've always done it" .  Hopefully with a new skillset, and automation I can cut the process in half and press time shouldn't be a problem.

               

              Most of what was done in the past was in Quark.  The president (when he edits pages) likes things to be in Quark, but I'm trying to convince him otherwise since most of our layed out files come to me in Indesign anyway. 

               

              As far as automating ....data gets to me in a number of different ways, none of them in a format that allows me to easily input them into a database or excel speadsheet.  Sometimes it will come in the form of an InDesign document with he lage already layed out by the vendor, in which case I will just make that document fit into our template.  Sometimes it comes in the form of mailed materials.  Sometimes companies allow us to use last year's layout and they tell us to just update the pricing and drop certain items.  It really varies with each vendor. 

               

              There are so many vendors, items, and differences with them all it's hard to know how to set things up to work the first time, I suppose it will get better with time.