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Desktop Publisher Duties and Responsibilities

Regardless of industry, desktop publishers are tasked with more than just specialized design duties. Our analysis of listings reveals the following as core responsibilities expected of a desktop publisher:

Lay Out Page Elements One of the primary responsibilities of a desktop publisher is to lay out page elements for published materials, including books, brochures, and magazine pages. Desktop publishers use specialized layout and editing software to place various elements including text blocks, illustrations, and other images, and are tasked with ensuring that these elements work together on each page. They may recommend changing layouts to make materials more accessible and improve their overall presentation.

Check Page Proofs Throughout the publishing process, desktop publishers check page proofs to eliminate errors and make sure that the design looks right. For the most part, this is accomplished using computers, but desktop publishers may also examine printed materials to ensure that the design elements remain intact between the computer program and printed materials. Desktop publishers then make any corrections and approve these proofs.

Collaborate with Writers, Designers, and Editors Most desktop publishers collaborate with a number of team members to prepare materials for publication. A writer may provide the text for a publication, while editors and proofreaders make sure that text flows well and is free of errors. Graphic designers and illustrators may provide images for use in the publication. A desktop publisher works closely with these team members to modify the text and incorporate images while providing feedback and direction throughout the process.

Determine Text Designs Frequently, the desktop publisher is responsible for making decisions about text sizes and fonts in the final publication. They may receive written elements in plain-text format and decide which font colors and sizes to use based on client specifications or intentions. This aspect of the role requires a high level of familiarity with the principles of text design and knowledge of how specific fonts can influence the way a particular publication is viewed by its readers. They may also make decisions based on whether the project will be published online or in print.

Confer Directly with Clients Another duty of desktop publishers is meeting directly with clients throughout the publication process. This begins with an initial meeting to gather requirements and specifications while examining existing materials provided by clients. Later in the process, desktop publishers may provide proofs to clients to receive feedback and creative direction, incorporating client suggestions into later versions.

Edit Graphical Elements Desktop publishers may also be responsible for modifying graphical elements using graphic design and image editing software. They may resize an image to make it fit better on the page or change larger elements of an image to improve the overall look of a publication. Familiarity with image editing software can save a lot of time since images will not need to go back to the graphic designer or illustrator throughout the publishing process.


Desktop Publisher Skills and Qualifications

Desktop publishers are detail-oriented and excel at working with both graphical and text elements. Companies typically hire candidates with a bachelor's degree in a related field, along with the following skills:
  • Graphic Design - Desktop publishers are familiar with the principles and best practices of graphic design to ensure that page elements work together and are laid out attractively
  • Spatial Reasoning - Much of a desktop publisher's work involves spatial reasoning, particularly when placing page elements like text blocks and graphics on the page
  • Editing - Desktop publishers also have some familiarity with editing text since they may need to make changes to words on the page throughout the pre-press process
  • Team Collaboration - Desktop publishers work closely with writers, editors, and artists, so the ability to collaborate across teams is vital in this role
  • Communication - Effectively communicating with team members and clients is also important in this role, from the initial client meeting to delivering updates throughout the publication process
  • Attention to Detail - This role requires a great deal of attention to detail, particularly when reviewing proofs and checking to ensure that published materials are free of errors

Desktop Publisher Education and Training

Desktop publishers typically have at least an associate degree, although most have a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as graphic design or editing. There are many opportunities for on-the-job training as well. If a desktop publisher works directly for an organization's design department, this training may consist of learning the company's style guide and standard procedures.

Desktop Publisher Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2016, the median yearly wage for desktop publishers was $41,090. The top 10 percent earned over $70,290, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $23,230. Desktop publishers typically see their annual wages grow with further training and expertise. Employment for desktop publishers is expected to shrink significantly between 2016 and 2026, with a 14 percent decline. This is largely due to more companies using web designers and graphic designers to complete desktop publishing tasks.

Helpful Resources

If you're interested in learning more about a career as a desktop publisher, check out the following articles and books:

"What the Heck is Desktop Publishing?" - This blog post examines the basics of desktop publishing and provides links to further reading and resources.

Adobe InDesign CC Classroom in a Book - Learn the basics and advanced techniques of Adobe InDesign, one of the most widely-used desktop publishing software programs, with this text by Kelly Kordes Anton and? Tina DeJarld.

"Why is Desktop Publishing Important?" - Read about how desktop publishing can be used effectively to communicate ideas and present information to readers.

Designing with Type, 5th Edition: The Essential Guide to Typography - This book by James Craig and? Irene Korol Scala examines typography and fonts and how they relate to graphic design.

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