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Clear communication is a key ingredient in the recipe to success. If your workflow includes a team of design and production people, it's a great idea to create a production manual, so that everyone working on the pages knows what they're building and how to do it. It's a great resource to have, and it's not that hard to create. I am calling this document a production manual, but some people call these sample pages, other people call them cheat sheets, spec guides, go-bys, bibles, and so on. But whatever you call them, the point is that these pages provide a visual guide to your template pages and elements, as well as rules and procedures to follow.
To create the pages of your production manual, you need to show each page type in your template and label each element; what it is, showing style names, swatches and any instructions that are needed to create those pages correctly. So for my chapter opener page, I just have a reminder on the left side that all chapter opener spreads have this full bleed photo, and they have no folio or no page number down at the bottom left. On the right side I have pointers to each paragraph style with the description of that paragraph style, and I will just zoom in, so we can see this, and these are just screen shots taken from the Paragraph Style dialog box.
So I have the Style Name, what's it's Based On, the Next Style and all the Style Settings here, and a pointer to where it's being used. For my body text page, I have reminders to confirm that the running header is right, and I have which styles are supposed to be used, spacing, maximum and minimum spacing, and instructions on when certain styles are supposed to be used. And a few instructions about the art that it's supposed to be centered on the column, and then it's okay for it to extend past the last baseline of text.
On the next spread I have instructions for which snippets to use to create the photo elements and some instructions on their sizing, as well as maximum and minimum spacing from the photo element to the text below, and some instructions on scaling the photos. So, besides the illustrated page types what goes into a successful project guide? Well, you'll always have to tailor to your specific needs, but here are some ideas about how to document your project in your process. Include things like the expected production process; how many steps are there, how long does each step take, what's delivered at the end of each step and to whom? Are files versioned, who is to be notified? This is going to be something like a workflow diagram and while you certainly don't need it if you work solo, it can be one of the keys to success when you're working on a large scale project with lots of other people.
Also, things like checklists of key steps and procedures to follow at each step of production. Include things like the general specifications for trim, margin, bleeds, your baseline grid, fonts and so forth. And it's always important have a document naming convention if you have one, and possibly naming conventions for art and manuscripts too. Here I have instructions for photo usage, and the expected deliverables. What PDF presets to use and how to deliver files. It's also really important have a contact list of people indicating who's responsible for each aspect of production and how to contact them with questions.
Other things you might consider, including if they're appropriate for your project, are style sheet listing the specs for every paragraph and character style. A list of layers in the template and what is expected to be on those layers, or even a list of project fonts. You can include illustrated step-by- step instructions for the most difficult or important page elements to deal with. You can have warnings of project specific pitfalls to avoid, or style and design rules that must not be violated, and you can include a complete list of resources, including important URLs, download links, FTP links, drop box addresses, book maps, PDF presets, plug-ins, so on, and so on.
Now I want to say something about documentation as it relates to efficiency. Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to long documents, and I've laid out some ideas here about creating really detailed documentation for complex projects. If you're working by yourself, or in a small group or on a simple project, you definitely don't need all this stuff. Just pick and choose whichever ones feel useful in your situation and disregard the things that don't apply. Keep it as simple as possible to still get your point across; even the best production manual isn't going to answer every question that will come up. So expect and encourage communication throughout the workflow.
You can sometimes get better results with a one minute exchange over the phone, or IM, than you can with several painstakingly written paragraphs. Okay, now that we've covered many of the larger issues of workflow, it's time to delve into more of the details. Next, we'll begin our look at building layouts with styles.
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