Desktop publishing job

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Paul Wilson works as a desktop publishing operator for the Informa Group, a national publishing and conference organisation. He creates newsletters and magazines using a professional desktop publishing computer program. Great attention to detail is required to ensure stories fit, are correct and follow the format of each title.

What do you do?

My role involves taking the stories written by our journalists and laying these out onto the pages of the various publications using a desktop publishing computer program. I need to make sure the stories fit the page and that they are styled correctly. This involves liaising with the editorial departments of the various publications I work on, to agree on any cuts or additions needed to the copy, for instance.

Adverts, graphics and photographs may be needed, and these may have to be designed, checked by external clients, corrected and scanned before they can be put on the page. Once a publication has been finished, an electronic file is made up of the issue and sent to one of our printers.

What is your working environment like?

It is an open-plan office with eight people working in the department. Most are in their 20s and 30s. The atmosphere is quite fun but we know when to get our heads down too! I work a normal 35-hour week, starting at 9am

Who do you work with?

Our department consists of other DTP operators working on other publications. It is not uncommon to help other people out, or cover work, if someone is on holiday.We also work closely with the editors, writers and advertising department.

What are your main responsibilities?

I am in charge of three publications, all of which need to be sent to press at a certain time to meet deadlines. My job is to make sure the production of these publications runs smoothly. It is important to turn around the work quickly so that the editorial teams can see how their pages are filling up. I prioritise the work depending on which publication is going to press next, but must still find time to keep the others ticking over.

What special skills or qualities do you need for your job?

Computer literacy and good keyboard and graphic design skills are the main qualities needed. You need to be accurate, have an eye for detail and be able to keep calm when deadlines loom.

A willingness to learn about the other aspects of the production process will help. If you understand what happens when the printer takes a job off your hands you will have a much better idea of how to do something right!

What are the particular challenges in your work?

The most important challenge is remaining calm while working to very tight deadlines. You are at the very end of the production line when a publication is going to press, and may have to make up time that has been lost waiting for late news stories. Meanwhile, printers are waiting, sometimes impatiently, for your files to start production.

What do you like about your job?

It can be very satisfying to see your work in print, and the technology used is constantly evolving. You can spend your own time learning new techniques too. Luckily, there are plenty of books and training courses to update your skills.

Paul's route to a career in Desktop publishing

  • Worked for a local newspaper selling advertising space.
  • Various City and Guilds training courses on printing and desktop publishing.
  • Worked for a printer.

Paul's Desktop publishing tips

  • Understand the need to remain calm under pressure.
  • Take time to develop your DTP skills outside of work.
  • Make sure you know how to use the software programs used by publishers

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Desktop publishing salary information

  • Salaries for DTP operators start at around £14,000, rising to £18,000 with experience.

A career in Desktop publishing

  • There are no set qualifications and entry requirements for DTP operators. Some companies accept an applicant from a word-processing/clerical background backed with sound computer skills, arranging on-the-job training in the two main DTP computer programs.
  • There are a variety of short courses and City & Guilds DTP training courses. Many printing and journalism training courses include DTP training.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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