Best client-updateable design tool options?

Hello all, I’m new here, I’m a part time graphic designer, freelance, a little out of touch with what might be possible currently.

I have a new client who wants a series of well designed brochures (A4 folded to DL) but they want to print in-house, and make text changes. I’m on Mac, they will be Windows no doubt. They need to look as good as possible given that fairly big constraint.

I’m STILL using the last paid-for version of InDesign, CS6, due to it being functional, and I’m not really busy enough right now to justify full subscription. But I might jump to that as I want to get busier, and have just put up a functional website, which got me this client :slight_smile:

Anyway, in the past I might have done a Word template thing and struggled through the nastiness of that, and the restricted font choices etc. My copy of Word is also ancient so maybe it’s better now. I’ve also just now seen that InCopy is a potential thing that looks like it could work, but probably the best functionality of that is with recent releases, and the client would have to be willing to go that route, shell out for it and learn it. There are also cheaper programs out there like Affinity and probably others, maybe the client would be happy to use one of those. I have no experience with them. The web design area seems to have the client modification thing as a prominent feature, but I can’t find much evidence of that in print space. But I might have missed something.

So InDesign plus InCopy… How do people feel about that?

MS Word… have the recent versions got a bit more design friendly?

Is there some fabulous new online design tool I’ve missed out on?

Or is there a good cross platform, cheaper app that both I and the client could purchase that is viable?

Thanks for any input :slight_smile:

From the MS Office suite, PowerPoint got a lot more “design friendly”. For example, it is much easier to align pictures and other layout elements on a grid now, than it used to be a few years back.

InCopy is useful for workgroup situations where there’s a designer, a writer, an editor, and maybe another person or two. It’s useful in that the editors can make changes to the copy without getting bogged down in the InDesign layout interface. There’s a dynamic interaction between InCopy and InDesign, so the writer or editor knows when she’s written too much or not enough for the layout. It’s a reasonably good, pagination system, but from what you’ve written, I doubt that’s what you need.

It sounds like what you need is just something that enables your client to call up the file, make changes as needed and print out copies on their printer. To me, it seems like the printer they’ll be using is the wildcard in all this. That could really put some constraints on what you design for them. If they have an in-house printing department, that’s one thing. If they’re just proposing to print copies as needed on their officer laser jet, that’s another.

Most office printers won’t print all the way to the edge, so you’ll need to know just what the outside margins will be and design everything to be printed within that space. This pretty much eliminates using bleeds, but I’d check with them before proceeding to see just what those limitations might be.

As for InDesign or Adobe CC, yeah, it’s a pocketful of spending money that gets siphoned off to Adobe each month, for both you and your client if you go that route and they agree to it. You mentioned Affinity, which is a totally viable and much cheaper option. I just finished putting together a 96-page children’s book in Affinity Publisher and it’s been fine (the client requested Affinity Publisher). It lacks some of the features of InDesign, but it worked out fine. Combine that with Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo, and you have most everything covered.

PowerPoint is fine for making presentation decks, but it isn’t a good tool for designing brochures, other print work or, for that matter, much of anything else.

Thanks for the replies everyone. Good to have some feedback. @Just-B, yeh the edge printing limitations are something I pointed out them in the meeting, and I’m used to working around some of those kind of things. Basically no bleed of any kind, unlike the in-house sample they showed me with a green background. The cover of course had a white border - on only 3 sides. classy!

@OVOAO, I actually thought I’d see what was on youtube re design with Word. I found a video that does make it look easier than on my current version, with editable shapes and good alignment features. But I should take a closer look at Affinity Publisher too, as an option.


I guess another option would be to design in Pages, and see how well that translated to Word at their end.

Affinity does look good though, I might grab the trial, and they could do the same. That is if the trial is fully functional for a period, rather than feature limited.

It is always going to cause problems. I cringe whenever a client requests this – and they do – for a number of reasons. Not least of which is brand integrity. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. The minute updates are put into the hands of non-designers, they suddenly become the expert – ‘I was good at art in school’. Just wait until they need to make an update about something non-corporate and out comes the birthday cake clip art and Comic Sans.

Remember, your name and reputation is associated with this. ‘Who does your design?’ There’s your reputation in the toilet. Do not put a credit for yourself anywhere near it.

Anyway, back to practical matters, there is a way to do it and maintain integrity and fonts if they only need to change small things like prices or single paras of text where they don’t need other text or element to run-on or move and they can write to length. It’s been a couple of years since I needed to do it, so my details my be a little sketchy, but it wouldn’t be that hard to find out with a search or two.

You can create it in InDesign as you would normally, but build in form areas (if there are lots it can be a fiddle naming them all and setting the tab order). You then export it to a pdf. It may look a bit ugly On screen when opened in acrobat, as the form areas are semi-transparent purple blocks to make it clear where the editable areas are (though I think you can turn them off in indesign, so they are not visible, as they will know which areas they want to edit anyway). These blocks can then be typed into by anyone in acrobat reader. When it prints out, the purple form areas shouldn’t show.

As I say, it’s a while since I did it, but if I remember rightly, you can’t assign the font in indesign for these areas (you can set the size), but you then open it in acrobat pro and you can specify a font. Once this is saved, it can be opened in acrobat reader and the form areas should be in the correct font when typed into.

It’s a bit of a cumbersome workaround. I think cs6 handles forms, so you should be fine, but you will need a full version of acrobat.

Of course, if they are doing rewrites and moving / changing images, this is not really an option. Then again, if they are, it’s going to look like a dog’s dinner very quickly. (Sorry if that’s a British simile, but I’m sure you get the picture). At that point, the request becomes more akin to, can you service my car, but do it so I can take the engine out and repair it myself. I’d be tempted to try the education route, find a different way to achieve what they want (printed leaflet pointing to regularly updated web page), or walk away. It is not going to end well and when they bugger it all up in Word, it will be your fault.

Hope this helps.


No. The technology is changing, but it’s not to that point yet.

You could offer to design the original document in ID, then give that to them along with the images, and a list of fonts. Then they will need to acquire ID and the fonts for their own use on their own computers and make all the changes.


Thanks… I’ve presented them with some options, including just getting me to do everything and how that will probably be easier and best for them.

Plus they could subscribe to ID monthly as and when required. I’ve presented a few options, we’ll see what they say.

I’m also designing them a logo and a professionally printed rack card, plus a website design. So some things will be suitable to use in my portfolio, hopefully!

It’s a mental health NGO, so I can understand their need to be cost conscious.

Thanks for the input everyone.

The alternative, if they have the skills in-house to update (well), is to look at doing it all in Affinity (won’t be a massive learning curve for you). The would, of course have to buy a copy of Affinity Publisher, but as it is pretty inexpensive ($49.99), it might be a more palatable option for them.

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