Working with the writers magazine

As a junior designer, I don’t have a lot of magazine designing experience and I’m curious to hear more from the seasoned designers.

What’s the best way to communicate /recieving feedback with the writers inhouse while you’re designing the magazine? I’m talking about the process:


  • minor mistakes/changes in text, mostly the writers point out the text they wanna change and I edit it directly in Indesign.

However isn’t this very risky? Why not edit the text in the original document? (even the mistakes are minor?)

We tried sticky notes in adobe acrobat for pointing out mistakes or just comments
…but that method of communcating with sticky notes isn’t working for me because it becomes messy very fast.

For now we just sit together and edit the text in Indesign directly. But I think that consumes way too much time from both sides and perhaps there is a better method to do this.

I’m gonna communicate the writers about this, they are very open for other suggestions. Maybe you guys have ideas so I can present it to them how to work better together.

Love to hear suggestions.

have a nice weekend

The Adobe CC solution to this problem is InCopy.

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Establish a single point of contact and everything goes through this person. I would imagine there’d be a chief writer/editor?

Adobe InCopy, as @HotButton HotButton said, is Adobe’s solution. I’ve been in several publishing situation where it’s worked reasonably well. The writers/editors make changes to the text in InCopy on their computer and those changes are reflected into the final InDesign document without you, the designer, needing to get involved. Everything is tied to a database, so it’s all reasonably seamless. The writers and editors can see in InCopy how their text changes affect the layout, as in whether or not the story is too long or two short.

Every publishing situation is different, and in some environments, like, say, technical documentation, where various specs are refined and updated over multiple versions, InCopy can be a huge time saver. In other situations, though, like a magazine or newspaper, InCopy can perpetuate the bad practice of writers being able to constantly meddle with what is supposedly finished copy.

If there are workflow problems in your environment (and from what you described, there are), InCopy can tend to institutionalize the bad practice of writers meddling in the editing, design and production. I’ve been in great, well-managed workflow publishing situations and bad, disorganized ones. A good workflow of writing > editing > design > production works extremely well when those sequential steps are adhered to and only overlap when genuine problems are identified. When that workflow gets scrambled with back-and-forth changes that ignore deadlines and the boundaries between the different steps, chaos always ensues and the end product suffers because of it.

So…, InCopy can either solve your problem or make it worse. The real problem I inferred from what you wrote is that the writers need to finish writing before you get their copy. Once you get the copy, their part should already be finished. The best situations have copy editors that serve as a buffer between the writers and designers, as @Eriskay Eriskay said. In other words, writers write, editors take what the writers have done, fine tune it for spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc., then pass off the finished copy to the designer for production. By the time the designer gets the final copy, it’s finished and any changes need to be negotiated with the copy editor and absolutely not with the writer.

If you’re in a situation where you’re working directly with writers instead of a copy editor, you’re likely working in a dysfunctional situation. I can’t even begin to stress the importance of a copy editing position in a publishing environment. If I were starting up a magazine, the very first person I would hire would be an editor/copy editor.

I insist that each round of changes/corrections be sent by one key person, in one document. The person can give me one marked up hard copy, or one pdf with comments, or one email with a list. But I won’t accept multiple formats, or changes by multiple people. I send them back.

It often pisses them off, but shrug oh, well.

And someone needs to be responsible for signing off. So I send a final version for final approval.


Yes and no. There is 1 editor but she tends to go back and forth sometimes. This is a good advice, thank you Eriskay.

Pfew, you gave me a lot to think about Just-B.

You’re absolutely right of course. A tool could help/speed up the process, however if there are problems in the workflow like you described, the new tool(s) won’t be much help.

Thank you for taking your time to reply my question, I appreciate it.

I wish this was the case, but it isn’t that simple. I have to be flexible about the text changes due to broad informations from different experts. This information from the experts goes to the editor of course, but because everyone have a say on it, making my life difficult (and the editor lol) - therefore i have to change the text a lot. :dizzy_face:

Also the editor want to see the layout with the raw text beforehand.

I can’t tell much about my work but let’s say it’s almost impossible to get a final text in one time. I’m gonna look into Incopy…

Thanks, this looks great! Gotta farm some knowledge here.

As of the November update, you can now import PDF comments into ID.

You send out a PDF asking for comments. The editors can mark that up with the commenting tools and send it back to you. You import into ID, then run down the list, accepting each change. ID makes the change. You don’t need to bounce back and forth, cutting and pasting between a PDF and ID.

The sticky notes cause problems though. There are bugs that Adobe needs to work out.

You might also look into Wordsflow Pro from EM Software. The writer leaves their Word file in a shared dropbox where it stays. You place it into your layout, creating a link. The changes you make to the article in ID will also be made to the Word file, and the changes they continue to make to the Word file will be updated into your ID layout.

But you really need to enforce hard cut off dates or it will get out of hand. That’s the role of a good editor-in-chief who knows how to make deadlines stick.

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