Los Angeles InDesign User Group

A Fireside Chat with Erica Gamet and Jonathan Levit

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Los Angeles Valley College, 5800 Fulton Ave, Van Nuys, California 91401

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By Alvin Takamori


On Thursday evening of May 18, in a continuing effort to spread knowledge about InDesign across the county, the Los Angeles InDesign User Group held a meeting at Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys. It was a prelude to a special full day workshop the following day. The guest presenters, Erica Gamet—in L.A. from Colorado—and Jonathan Levit, were eager to share their expertise gathered from over two and a half decades in the graphics industry.


Erica brought a digital fireplace video befitting the advertised informal fireside chat atmosphere of the meeting. They began by touching briefly upon their personal backgrounds. Jonathan started out as a college student teaching Pagemaker to high school newspaper staffs. Erica began in production at a print shop.  At some point in their careers they came across InDesign and eventually adopted it in their workflow.


It didn't take long for Jonathan to state an objective that encapsulated the theme of the meeting and the workshop. While using InDesign, he never wants to do the same thing twice. There has to be a way to automate any repetitive process. Working inefficiently actually takes more time and effort. Jonathan prefers being lazy and getting things done fast. Erica reaffirmed the point stating that she'd rather, "go to Starbucks."


There was a brief discussion on the importance of not losing sight of the utilitarian function of design. Ask the question, "where does the design live?" In other words, how is it used? The mixed up envelopes at this year's Oscars were a case in point. A better design would have provided more obvious visual cues to distinguish the envelopes for one category from another and helped to avoid any confusion.


Speaking of confusion, when companies use designs created by outside design companies, the in-house designers often have difficulty working with the designs. The problem is that although a design may look okay, the unseen structure behind the design is critically important for anyone who needs to work with the files. In InDesign a key aspect of the structure is the Master Pages and Styles. You don't want to see "+" signs next to the names of the Styles. That indicates that somewhere in the document, modified versions of the Style, Styles with added features were used. Try to untangle what is being changed if you decide you want to edit the Style. For the purpose of future editing, it's better to create new Paragraph and Character Styles than to modify existing ones.


Structural problems are a common issue in templates created for InDesign files. This leads Jonathan to subtly suggest, "All templates are horrible!" Even the ones included with Adobe InDesign. So you may want to think twice before using templates.


Erica introduced the topic GREP, which stands for Globally search a Regular Expression and Print. In plain English it's computer commands called scripts that search through text looking for patterns described by the script. Once it finds them, it makes changes to those patterns, which are also dictated by the script. It's a more sophisticated Find and Change tool.


A few other random topics came up. You might want to be wary when you paste graphics into your InDesign files. Potentially they can import unwanted Styles. If you are sharing files you might want to clean out unused colors to avoid confusing others. Pre-flighting files is a good way to check files. There was also a  short debate about the merits of the Content Grabber (the transparent donut shaped tool) in InDesign. Jonathan was clearly not a fan. if you agree with him you can turn off that feature.


The evening was an opportunity to casually interact with Erica and Jonathan and ask any questions about InDesign. They were very knowledgeable and also very approachable. It bode well for the, "Full Day of InDesign Coolness" workshop that would follow the next day.



Farthest Attendee Prize Winner


Mighty Deals—Melise Gerber



Raffle Prize Winners


eDocker CREATE! 6 month subscription. Value $774.00—Robin Schiff

Stock Layouts. Full access to Stock Layout template library. 3 month subscription. Value $299.00—Robin Schiff

Markzware. 12 month subscription. Value $199.00—Robin Schiff

Expo Creative Asset Manager for Mac from Insider Software. Value $149.00—Robin Schiff

Font Agent Pro 7 from Insider Software. Value $99.95—Robin Schiff

InMotion Hosting. Web hosting and free domain. Value $90.00—William Baughman

DTP Tools Cloud for InDesign. 6 month subscription. $77.40—William Baughman

TypeDNA. Font management software. Value $49.00—Jeff Marcus

Adobe Stock. 15 image licenses. $44.00—Robin Schiff

InDesign Magazine. 6 month subscription. Value $30.00—William Baughman

Pluralsight. 1 month subscription. Value $29.00—William Baughman, Robin Schiff

LA Web Professionals Group meeting ticket. Value $7.99—Hardy Uneta


Note: Only a few people bought raffle tickets, and among those who did, Robin Schiff bought the most and William Baughman bought the second most.


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