Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

bouncingpigDecember 12, 2005

As I mentioned in my "Bouncing in" post, I will be in charge of doing the layout and all pre-press for our real estate book we are starting. I am beginning to get a bit paniced about it. I was a graphic designer and did this type of stuff for a living . . . pre-kids. Now, almost 14 years later, computers, programs and even methods of transmitting the documents are so different. I need to completely learn several new programs and the terms they use (always abbreviations) sound totally foreign to me. It's like having the stock market explained to me in Chinese! In the good ol' days when I was still in the field, learning another method was fun and exciting. Now, at 42, for some reason I find it quite intimidating. In fact I have tried (without success) to convince DH I am really not the right person for this job! While I feel like I have grown in confidence with "who I am" and am much more able to be myself and am comfortable in my own skin, I seem to have really become intimidated at learning new things.

Do any of you struggle with this or am I just a big ol' chicken? If you have, how did you overcome it or did you?

I know this isn't exactly "organizing", but doing this is going to be a rather large aspect of my life and it will affect how I handle and organize things in the rest of our lives.


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We run businesses, too, and I find myself doing things that once would have been fun, but I just don't even know where to start now. I think part of it, for me, is that with kids and life going on, I just don't have the space in my brain to process more. So I try to keep things as simple as possible. Is there a class you could take to get you up to date? You said you still have friends in the business. Could you hire someone for a private "lesson" or consultation? Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 12:42PM
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Is there a "___ for Dummies" type book you can get to learn the lingo? Once you're comfortable talking-the-talk you'll be more comfortable walking-the-walk.

Know what I mean?

You might also try a place like New Horizons Computer Learning Center to see if they have a one-day class that will jump start your knowledge. I've found, though, that classes are much easier if you have a basic familiarity with what they're talking about.

Good luck to you, and you CAN do this!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 3:10PM
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Brenda, I was in a similar situation 7 years ago. My degree also is in graphic design, by the way. When my FIL opened a print shop, he needed a graphic designer and we "assumed" that could be me, since that's my degree. HA! I felt just as you do now. I struggled with it and did okay, but eventually decided on an entirely different field (teaching preschool). Had I stayed with them, I would've brushed up on my graphics skills by taking classes. You and I are very close in age (I turned 43 in October) so we took our college graphics courses around the same time. It does sound like you did more with your degree after you graduated than I did, however.

Brenda, from everything I've read from you since I joined this forum 3 years ago...you are not afraid to tackle a challenge. I say GO FOR IT! You CAN do this!!!!


    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 2:30AM
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well, I work w/ graphic designers, and it's very true--their tools have changed quite a bit.

Classwork will really, really help.

You know what also might help? Being able to sit at the elbow of someone doing a similar task w/ the software you're learning to use.

Take the class first, but while you're taking it, start scouting out a publication, or advertising agency, or something--tap into those friends!--that uses the same publication you will. Contact a designer there, not necessarily the top cheese in the dept., and call. Explain yourself, and ask if you can come spend a little time watching them work.

I've learned so much by seeing them do something quick, and then saying, "how'd you do that?" They then explain the tool to me, and bingo, I've got it. Seeing it happen in real life is such a big plus in terms of learning.

Bcs I don't even know enough to realize the "tool" is in the program. I'd just figure out what the long way was, and do that.

Then, once you're going, see if you can get them to come watch you design something. They may find efficiencies you could use.

Also, one other thought: Efficiency is going to be really important. Maybe more so than creativity. So, try to spend some energy creating templates you can then simply tweak or use outright, without further fussing around.

Another thing I've found: the PRINCIPLES are the same. We ship files electronically to our separator. We still send the "mechanical" (except now it's an electronic document, the QuarkXPress file)--it is the real, live, perfect thing that they will actually use. And, bcs an electronic file *can* be change and is therefore more vulnerable, the "mechanical" is now two parts--the one they use (the file) and the one they check it against.

That second part used to be a printout. Now, it's a PDF. But the PRINCIPLE is the same as when it was paper. It just has another name. And often digital pictures are sent to the separator instead of actual artwork for them to photograph themselves (and sometimes actual film is sent by the advertiser, here), the principle is the same. Time consuming steps shaved off, that's all.

So, as you learn the system for transmitting to the printer, or a program like Quark, with all the tools inside it (dragging, dropping, drawing, step-and-repeat, etc., try to compare with previous systems and methods--because the parallel is there. The same things are being accomplished.

Also focus on the GOAL of each of these steps and not their names; it will help you understand them. And, you'll be able to mark them up even if you can't remember the term. (Remember the old days? You could write "KO type" on the tissue overlaying the mechanical; or you could have written "type should be white"--and the people reading it would know what you meant even if you didn't use the "KO" jargon)

More random thoughts. Is it that you're intimidated by learning something new? Or is it that, because you are older and a better planner (and not idealistic and unrealistic, which we are when we're younger), that you have a clearer grasp of how complex this could be, and how inefficient you will be at first?

That doesn't mean you should quit--just that you should STOP deciding this is an age-induced character defect, and start thinking of it as a "signal system" that's telling you something. It's telling you where the difficulties will lie which hopefully will help you tackle them.

What software will you be using for your page design? I'm curious. (oh, and...if your printer can handle more than one software, you guys should use the one that your friends use, so you can use them as coaches)

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 10:59AM
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Thanks for the input everyone. It is encouraging. I am going to get my old buddy from the ad agency to come help me. He WILL laugh at me, as this is his nature, but in the end I know he will be a ton of help. I think a lot of my struggle is because quite honestly I find this type of graphic design very technical and BORING! It to me has very little to do with creativity. I think I am just such a "free thinker" that these type of tasks seem mundane. So it is probably adding to my feelings about it. But I know such simple layouts like these will go very quickly once I learn how to do the software. Plus, even if I am eventually able to hand this over to someone else (my goal!) I need to know it so that if they ever quit or couldn't come through for us, we could still complete it each month. This is proving to be a very lucrative business with a ton of future potential, so I really do want it to succeed.

Talley, the software I THINK I will be using (unless I am directed in a different direction), is the latest pagemaker (7.0), Acrobat Distiller (Professional Version) and some type of photo program (Probably photoshop, but not sure what is the best with the Adobe programs.) I am used to Adobe products from my "past life" but they have definitely changed since then!


    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 2:29PM
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Photoshop *is* Adobe--this package is growing in popularity among the big publications, and lots of places to doing w/ Adobe's "InDesign" instead of Quark's "XPress" because of its abillity to integrate all those pieces of software.

Honestly, once you get that format set up (and creating the basic design *is* the creative part, though of course less creative that doing a different story every day), you should bow out and let some junior-college or continuing-ed graduate do it part-time.

Look at the very recent issues of Body+Soul--a VERY nice text-based design, esp. in the front-of-book text pieces. Deb Bishop used a sleek "Table of Periodic Elements" she found somewhere to guide them. It really is great, esp. for a text-based treatment. (Deb's designs on Martha Stewart's Kids magazines have won the SPD's "Magazine of the Year" award *twice*, plus ASME's Nat'l Magazine Award for Design. She's great)

I'll keep my eyes open for other things that might be inspiring for you.

And don't get discouraged. The Martha Stewart organization discovered (or knew all along, probably) that *design* is what makes their publications "upscale," and able to command a premium ad-sales price.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 4:05PM
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Don't even let age enter into the equation! Totally irrelevant. I made a career change six years ago, to go to work in the administration of a school. A couple of years into that, the head created a new position and tapped me for it, putting me in charge of all of the school's publications (marketing, advertising, design, layout, everything). And this despite the fact that I had no previous graphic design experience. I jumped in with both feet, taught myself to use the Adobe software, then upgraded to the Creative Suite...I just kept hammering away at it, trying and failing, reading Adobe forums, using every book I could lay my hands on, picking the brains of our printer and the advertising folks at the various newspapers and magazines we placed ads in, and loving every minute of it. Who knew someone who'd worked as a paralegal for sixteen years could do graphic design and layout!? It was my dream job. Oh, and did I mention I'm in my fifties? Like I said, age is irrelevant; the creative urge isn't affected by time...you can do this, and enjoy it. I just remember times when I mastered something and just sat there grinning at my computer. What a feeling!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 9:47AM
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Thanks for the input. Talley, I will have to check out Deb Bishop's work. I am somewhat limited in creating a "new" look, as we have to fall within the perimeters of the corporation. If each distributor totally went their own direction, there would be no continuity for the overall publication. But, that doesn't mean there isn't some room for change. I did design what I think is a pretty good logo, simply because their "logo" was just type and very boring. I am not sure if I can use it in the book or not yet (still finding out.) But it is on all our letterhead, business cards, etc. I also need to check into "InDesign".

BAE909, thanks for the encouragement. I certainly don't feel like I'm old at 42, but I just seem to struggle taking on things outside my comfort zone more than I used to. But I WILL learn this and I know I too will be grinning once I do!


    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 10:14PM
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"InDesign" is a design program that incorporates all the programs, plus provides an architecture (or linkage) between a copy-only program for editors, and a design program for designers. I'm thinking it's mostly for larger operations, with several sets of people working on the very same file.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 3:30PM
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My friend who I thought was going to help me learn this seems to have fallen off the face of the earth . . . I have left several messages, have mentioned that we will pay him well . . . so now it is on to plan B . . . oh wait, I have no plan B!


    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 11:27AM
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Oh Brenda I'm sorry. I will have DH take a look at this and see if he knows anything, I'll email you his phone #. Speaking of old dogs... I got a new job! I'm in a brand new Home Depot and I'll be in flooring. It's ironic because of all the departments in a hardware store I know the least about flooring and math. Looks like I'll be doing some serious cramming over the next few weeks.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 6:38AM
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