Desktop publishing/DTP overview/Planning

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Why plan a DTP document?

All documents have a purpose. Without some sort of plan, it is easy to produce a document which doesn't really meet the purpose. The plan helps us keep focused on the purpose.

In business, DTP documents are usually produced for a client. A written plan is a good basis for discussing with the client what they need and how best to achieve their purpose. The plan serves as a record of this discussion.

A plan does not need to be completed and finalised before you start work on the document - some details may not be finalised until the work is well under way.

Working from a brief

A brief is defined as:

“A clear description of both the desirable outcomes sought and the constraints to be met by the solution. It contains requirements against which the success or otherwise of the desktop published document can be evaluated”. (New Zealand Qualifications Authority 2013)

Example Brief

“Natural Textiles” is a store which sells in imported eco-friendly natural textiles and would like to advertise in the local tabloid newspaper.

Jennifer, the owner, would like the following information included in the advertisement.

Address: 230 Smith Street, Johnsonville, Christchurch Phone: 0800 textiles4u Website:

Please include: The text: “Like us on Facebook” An appropriate graphic

The size of the advertisement booked is 8 cm x 4 cm

The font used is to be Arial

What do we need to include in a DTP plan?

From the brief you would develop a plan which would show how you were going to actually create the publication.

A plan is defined as:

A plan outlines how the requirements of the brief will be realised. For this unit standard, the plan may be informal, and it may be more appropriate to produce evidence of it during task completion rather than prior to starting the task or project. Evidence of planning may be oral, written, and/or graphic”. (New Zealand Qualifications Authority 2013)

Step 1: written plan

1. Project title
It's useful to give the document a name.
2. Paper size, colour, orientation
What sort of paper will the document be printed on?
3. Length (pages)
How many pages will there be?
4. What is the purpose of the document?
What do you plan to achieve with this document?
5. Who is the intended audience?
Who do want to read the document (in order to achieve the purpose)?
6. Key messages
What are the key points that you wish to make?
7. Design constraints and considerations
Given the audience and the purpose, how should the document look? Are there any specific things that need to be included? eg the client may have a corporate colour scheme, logos or fonts that you need to use. The client may also have come up with a sketch plan for the document which you will need to follow.
8. Content sources
Where will the text and images come from? Often, some will need to be created, others (such as a logo or photographs) will be supplied by the client.

Note: in a 'real-world' environment, there are likely to be other details that need to be provided in the plan - eg the client's budget and deadlines.

Step 2: layout sketches

Once you have a written plan, you can start drawing some rough sketches of how each page layout might look. You don't need to include body text at this stage, but you might want to include the text of any main headings if this is available.

Note: the layout sketch is very much a working document - so you don't need to get it looking perfect, and it is okay to deviate from the plan once you start work!

Example Plan

1. Project title
Newspaper ad for Natural Textiles
2. Paper size, colour, orientation
8 cm x 4 cm. Once draft is accepted, PDF to be emailed to newspaper for insertion.
3. Length (pages)
One only
4. What is the purpose of the document?
To generate increased sales through responses from new customers by phone, over the web, or in the store.
5. Who is the intended audience?
Potential customers who are interested in the environment and don't mind paying a little more for fabrics which are 100% natural and eco-friendly.
6. Key messages
Natural textiles are better for the environment and more comfortable to wear. Wearing natural textiles is a sign that you are discerning customer.
7. Design constraints and considerations
The ad is to use Arial font. Need to check newspaper requirements for margins etc within the ad boundaries.
8. Content sources
The client does not have a logo for use. Main text (address and “Like us on Facebook”) is already provided. Will need to source an appropriate graphic

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Take the written plan to the next stage by creating a rough sketch of how it might look:

  1. On a blank sheet of paper, use a ruler to draw up a rectangle of the appropriate size.
  2. Draw simple boxes or other placeholders to show where the main elements of the ad might go.