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Is Your Content on Double Duty? - 5/24/2011 -

Offering content in both print and electronic formats is a cost-effective way to stretch your budget. Here are some design tips for making a successful conversion.

By Lynn Riley

With print, you have a finite, predetermined size and shape in which to present your content – an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, for example. Everyone who sees the print format will see the same thing. Web-based products, however, are more challenging. Readers are using different computers, browsers, and monitors of different sizes and resolutions. The publication has to look good with all of them.

Images—From PDF to Print

If your starting point is a print publication, you won’t need to alter your images for the digital version. But if you’re starting with a standard-resolution PDF for the web and want to take it to print, it’s not so easy. You will need to obtain the original, high-resolution images from your original source. An image can be downsized from 300 dpi to 72 dpi, but not vice versa.

Color is another issue. A computer monitor displays color in RGB, so if you’re starting with an electronic version and converting to print, all colors will need to be converted to CMYK for printing.

Choosing a Font

The best typefaces for the web are different from those for print. If you know ahead of time that your publication is going to be in PDF, then choose typefaces that display well on the web.

Some good choices for sans serif typefaces for web applications are Verdana, Arial, and Lucida. Georgia, ITC Charter, and Utopia Serif are good selections for serif typefaces. Keep in mind, too, that while these fonts work well on the web, they may look awkward or amateurish if used in printed versions.

The best fonts are specific to either print or web. To better serve your readers, you should create two versions: one print and one PDF. For the web PDF version, choose from the web-friendly fonts listed above. For print, use a typeface from your association’s branding guidelines or go with your designer’s recommendation.

Choosing a Digital End-Product

One of the most common digital formats is the flip page book model. Others include e-books (good for mobile media), HTML viewers (which can only be viewed on a website), and PDFs (which can be printed out or read on a computer monitor). The digital provider typically uses your press-ready PDF files (the same ones sent to your printer). There’s no extra work on the designer’s part to prepare these files.

Many publishers choose the easiest option: a printer-friendly PDF version of the publication available on their website. To ensure quality graphics, decrease the size of each image to 72 dpi, or "save/optimize for web” in Photoshop. Higher resolutions won’t make it look any better, but it will create bigger files with longer download times.

If your graphic consists primarily of line or flat colors without gradients, such as logos and line drawings, use a GIF format. JPEG graphics are best for photographs or images with fine tonal variations. The right file format is also important for keeping the image’s file size to a minimum.

Save your pages in standard resolution mode. This will create a document that is much smaller than its high-resolution counterpart. Adobe Acrobat will automatically make hyperlinks out of all of the email and web addresses. It’s a good idea to make your links stand out with color so the reader knows it is an active link.

Design Software Recommendations

InDesign and Quark Xpress are the two most widely used design software programs. The process of making PDFs from Quark or InDesign files is simple. Ask your printer or digital provider for a script to automate this process.

In summary, here’s what you need to keep in mind: High resolution graphics are needed for print, but you should convert them to lower resolution for electronic applications. The best fonts for print publications don’t usually work well on the web, and vice versa. And using the right software and finding the right digital provider can make the job much easier.

Lynn Riley is creative director at Lynn Riley Design, Inc. and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee.


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