Writing about Web 2.0 technology over the past several months I am reminded of what the “new” technology was when I began my career and how it impacts us today. I graduated college in 1990 with a degree in communication and public relations. When I started college was already using computers for word processing and some basic programming. The computer at that time was a good tool but there wasn’t anything really cool until the Apple Macintosh came along with the first generation of PC based desktop publishing tools.

I purchased my first computer, a used Apple Mac for a whopping $2,500 and it was used and two years old! But hey it allowed me to start a career in desktop publishing which is what I did for the next few years. I spent most of my time learning about design and layout, pre-press technology and interfacing with various service providers and printers to deliver a finished, printed product. The various deliverables were newsletters, sales collateral, direct mail pieces, promos, stickers, giveaways, booklets, if you could put a logo on it I did that for my company using a Mac II and what is now called the Adobe Creative Suite. The only change is that PageMaker is now InDesign but the basic tools of Photoshop and Illustrator are still there.

The influence of desktop publishing was that it was a major shift in how companies and organizations developed and created their marketing communications. Prior to desktop publishing, producing communication involved more people to create and produce the image, especially for the commercial printers who employed two to three people for the job I was now doing on my computer. Also the marketing department had greater control of the finished product look and feel as well as the production schedule. We still had to get it to the printers at a certain time to get it printed but the time spent revising drafts was greatly reduced. Overall our cost per printed piece was reduced as we spent less money outsourcing production tasks to a printer, agency or pre-press specialist.

Now I must state that my experiences are more from the smaller company marketing department perspective. For most of my career I’ve worked in a department of three to five people and many times I’ve served as the entire marketing department, including now. I’ve done stints at agencies where I’ve been the outsourced resource for a large, multi-national company as well and had to justify my value if the client had a resource in house with similar skill set as mine. Most times it was dependent on time and not skill constraints.

With the growth of web sites and now social media technology what place does desktop publishing hold in today’s marketing? Why are we still producing printed collateral and business cards and other physical communication pieces? Well the answer is simple in that it’s part of the overall marketing mix and maintains the need for desktop publishing tools to produce collateral even if it’s a PDF download from the web site. The major shift is that the development of printed materials is less of a focus and priority for today’s marketing departments. We spend less money on printed materials and have better measurement on electronic communication that has a growing audience.

What influence did desktop publishing have on your career path and how much do you use it today?

Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald started Square Jaw Media to document strategies and techniques he had used over his experience working in marketing and communications since 1990. During this time Brian wrote about many of the exciting Raleigh social media events where great knowledge was being shared and tries to share some of the tips and tricks. . Read Brian's full bio.