The Importance of Templates: A lesson in continuity…

There are two sides to every story, and using templates in Quark is no exception. What I am about to propose will not fit for every publication. In fact I think it depends entirely how many people are working on a publication, and I’ll explain why.

Here is the scenario:

The layout artist at a daily newspaper has the job of making new blank pages for the team to work on. Let’s say they come in early in the morning before anyone else, and they make the pages for each section, save them separately so that no one has to wait for a multiple page document to close so that they can open it, and they also place the ads on the page. If the layout artist picks up yesterday’s Sports page, or even last Tuesday’s, and deletes everything, changes the date, maybe the page or section, and resaves it, there is room for error. Let’s say that last week they changed the tracking of the text on the header Sports, mistakenly changed the shape of the text wrap around a headshot that was on the edge of the page, changed a paragraph style, or even changed the way the line tool works so that instead of making .5 pt rules, it now makes 1 pt rules by default. These little changes they made would carry over into the new document and compromise the continuity of the look and feel of a publication.

I have personally seen this many times. I’ve sat down with the Editor of many newspapers to make command decisions on the look and feel of a publication. For example, we may change a paragraph style so the text was bigger or had tighter tracking applied. Or we would decide that every line must be .5 pt and not hairline, and so we would change it in a copy of a recent issue. Unless we distribute that document to everyone, these decisions are futile. If everyone just opens yesterday’s issue and starts working, our master changes will be lost.

Here’s how to introduce quality control:

Use templates! When you save a Quark project as a template, it always re-opens as a copy of the original, with a new name. That’s your control. If the page layout artist makes all of the design changes to the template, then saves the template over the original by giving it the same file name, they change the master template. Then, when the layout artist needs to make new pages for Tuesday’s edition, they open the master template, make new pages, assign the correct Master pages, and then save new documents. By not picking up yesterday’s document they are guaranteed to use the current style sheets the current defaults for each tool.

However, any style changes made to this project by the layout artist will not be reflected in the template unless they pass those changes along to the keeper of the template.

What if there is a change a certain section of the publication needs?

Let’s say that in today’s issue, a new style is made for tabbed information. In the scenario I just proposed, the tomorrow’s page layout artist will not have access to the new style they made, or to a logo they imported yesterday. Here is the solution: You need to teach each layout artist that if they want to add a style or recurring item, they must contact the keeper of the template, who will append that new style or item to the master template. And it is in this that the true control over your pages lies. Nothing new sneaks in. No mysterious Microsoft Word styles appear on your template. New logos, headshots, or other recurring items could be added to the pasteboard area on the master template – or better yet, added to a shared Library with all sizing, cropping, and other styling applied to it.

Where it doesn’t work…

I admit that this plan is too cumbersome for some workflows. It works great for controlling the look of a publication when many hands are in the cookie jar, but when only a few people are working on the documents, it would be a lot of extra work to remember all the little changes you did yesterday, add them to the master template, and then add the new logos to the Library. In this case, it would be easier to just pick up yesterday’s publication and work on it. However when there are many people working on multiple Quark documents, templates are absolutely the best way to ensure the continuity of your publication.