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Word Is Not Enough: Learning To Design With QuarkXPress

Updated on March 20, 2011

QuarkXPress Is Extremely Capable... Are You?

QuarkXPress has become the page layout software that is the industry standard, and truly has no competition in the professional arena. You would be hard pressed to find too many periodicals which are not laid out on Quark. The interface is fairly simple and straightforward and the learning curve is not too steep at all considering that this is software that can handle any circumstance that the most obstinate pre-press challenge can throw at it.

You don't take a Ferrari to a tractor pull, and you don't use QuarkXPress to lay out web pages. There are third party conversion programs that let you do that, but they're best forgotten. QuarkXPress is a print professional's software. Full stop. Whether you're designing a flyer or trifold brochure, or a 1000-page annual bridal catalogue, QuarkXPress can handle it all with style and aplomb, never losing its composure.

QuarkXPress is not a word processor at all and its page layout capabilities leave competitors like Microsoft Publisher eating dirt. It is designed for point-perfect positioning of text and images on a page. Quark XPress can position any element to within a microscopic 1/72,000th of an inch. The accuracy of QuarkXPress actually exceeds many presses' capacity to register!

Starting a page with QuarkXPress is simplicity itself. You draw a box on the page to accept text, image or nothing at all (for spacing). You can make the box rectangualar, curved, polygonal or Bezier. Once you have it where you want it, you just pour the text or image into it. QuarkXPress will take care of all the flowing of text from page to page, etc. Before you know it, your page is done, and you're free to go play World of Warfare.

Unlike many other major software application, QuarkXPress is highly customizable right down to the nth degree. You can play around with the settings to create the exact environment that you feel most comfortable working in. You'll find that almost every QuarkXPress professional has their own personal way of setting up the application to best suit their Quark Quirkiness.

I was one of the die hard Aldus (later Adobe) PageMaker fans. I always found PageMaker even easier and more intuitive to use than QuarkXPress and at the time, just as capable. Adobe purchased PageMaker from Aldus, and then let it wither on the vine, allowing it to go for almost a decade without a major upgrade, and finally killing it in its latest Creative Suites and replacing it with the far Quarkier InDesign. A real shame as at one time, PageMaker was the best way to lay out a periodical.

It seems that not only has the age of the internet brought about a schism between literacy and illiteracy, but that it has created a dichotomous situation between great and horrendous page design. At a time when award-winning art directors of major periodicals can pull in CEO-type salaries, there has also been a proliferation of totally blind numbskulls who couldn't design their way out of a wet paper bag. The result of this atrocious so-called design is the overwhelming number of smaller-circulation magazines that even though they were laid out on QuarkXPress, look like they were pasted together on a kitchen table with an old hot wax roller machine.

Just because you can use a software application like QuarkXPress, that does not necessarily equate to your end result actually being a good, or even passable design. There is no substitute for education, intelligence and taste in design and before anyone is allowed to launch QuarkXPress, they should have to key in their diploma number from a nationally accredited art and design institution!

Please. I beg you. Learn how to design well. Future generations will thank you.

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