We live in a world where we’re constantly surrounded by graphics and design. It’s natural to be curious where those designs come from, especially when they’re often creative and beautiful. This is where Adobe InDesign comes in. 

Adobe InDesign is the industry standard for layout and page design, like those you see in magazines and books, for both print and digital media. With advanced capabilities for typesetting, the software has been innovating layout design, especially in the print world, since its debut in 1999. 

In this overview, you’ll learn about what InDesign is, who it’s for, how to learn the software and reputable places to look if you want to add this useful skill to your resume. 

What is InDesign?

Adobe InDesign is the industry-leading software for page layout and design in both print and digital media. The publishing program is versatile, and users can create a number of different types of media including things like posters, books & eBooks, digital magazines, interactive PDFs, catalogs, and even resumes. 

According to Adobe, the program is “built for”: 

  • Designers
  • Prepress and production professionals
  • Print service providers like newspapers, ad agencies, and book publishers

To: 

  • Do corporate design
  • Do commercial printing
  • Innovate leading-edge publishing environments

InDesign is essentially the meeting place for type and graphics, and excels in print design. Users who know the basics of the software can create multi-page documents with text and images, such as a brochure. More advanced users can customize designs to do formatting for larger projects such as books and digital catalogs. 

Its biggest strengths are in typography and long documents. InDesign dominates the industry in typography because of the customization you can do with fonts and typography, creating exquisite type and placing it on the page within the design. Combined with the beautiful words, InDesign is built to handle long documents—even novel-length books. Publishing houses, for instance, can design the covers and interiors of books in the program with ease. 

Within the InDesign “publishing family,” users can also access the professional writing and editing program InCopy and InDesign Server. InDesign Server is a “high-end composition and layout to a server platform” which essentially allows users to fast-track the editorial process. These programs integrate seamlessly with InDesign and the other Creative Cloud apps if you use them as a set. 

Because InDesign has excellent cloud-based collaboration and supports OpenType fonts, it can be a great tool to customize documents both with an eye for creative aesthetics and strategic branding. 

Creative professionals across several industries use the software.

Key Components of InDesign

InDesign is a dynamic tool and one that works exceptionally well when used in conjunction with other Adobe products. Unlike Photoshop, InDesign serves a fairly specific purpose: text and image layouts. 

It’s less feature-heavy and performs best at the end of a design workflow when most pieces or assets have already been created. Essentially, it does the heavy lifting of bringing content together into a presentable package, although you can do lighter design work as well. 

These 5 elements are critical to understanding where InDesign fits in with overall design workflows, and what it does best. 

Publishing

InDesign is a leader in the publishing industry. It has the capabilities to do print and digital designs, and almost any kind of formatting you could want before you publish a piece of content. 

Some of the most popular uses of InDesign in the publishing world are newspapers, magazines, and books. Most publishing houses use InDesign for book design, and it’s an important skill to know if you’re a designer wanting to go into the publishing industry. 

InDesign also allows for eBook design, which can appeal to small businesses who want to have professional reference materials without the hassle of going through a traditional publisher to get a book published. There are many ways to self-publish books, such as on Amazon and BookBaby, which means users who know InDesign can create and format their book quickly in a way that’s helpful for their customers and business. 

The program has design options for materials going into print, and for those that will only ever be in digital format. In addition, you have the option to design interactive documents, such as fillable PDF forms and enhanced eBooks for tablets like iPad.

PDFs

InDesign is great at producing long documents (like books), especially in the publishing world. What might be surprising is that it also excels at creating PDFs. 

You can save your InDesign documents as a PDF file, which can be useful for reviewers and for general backup purposes. You can also create fillable PDFs, like those you see by companies such as DocuSign. When you have the text positioned, you can create a form layer, which allows the person to fill out areas you want them to, but not be able to edit the rest of the text.

Integration with Other Programs 

InDesign offers excellent integration with other software, especially Photoshop and Illustrator. These three programs are often listed together in job postings for desired and required skills because while they’re all great programs on their own, each offers its own strengths to this design triad. 

InDesign seamlessly connects with the other design programs to make creating page layouts and finished products easy and efficient. Photoshop allows you to manipulate and adjust photographs for Production. Illustrator allows you to create high-quality and scalable graphics like logos, icons, and illustrations. Together you can design practically anything. 

Within the program, you can import documents from Microsoft Word and Excel in their native format, which means that if you’ve been working on a project and want to take it to the next level with InDesign, you won’t have to start from scratch. You can import almost any type of image file, including Photoshop PSD and Illustrator AI files—a major advantage when you’re using multiple design programs.

Layout

When you look at a book or a magazine, or even a newspaper, there are certain aspects you expect to see. You know there will be text, perhaps in more than one column. There will be tantalizing images that tie in with the text. There will be headings that tell you exactly where to go on the page, and what each section will be about. 

These are all elements of layout design. InDesign allows users to customize all of these things—paragraphs, fonts (with integrated access to Adobe fonts), font size, and other aspects of typesetting you might not even realize are editable, such as tracking (or word spacing).

Within InDesign, you can easily adjust the page itself. Orientation, whether you see the page in a portrait or landscape format, and size are important aspects to be able to change without having to redesign the entire page. 

Layouts are a foundational element of InDesign, and Adobe has templates to help designers work more efficiently and inspire ideas. There are some free templates in Adobe Stock, and more designs in the Stock program if you want/need them, although it’s an additional fee because it’s not included in the Creative Cloud subscription. 

You don’t have to design with a template, though, if you don’t want to. There’s always the option to create custom layouts, too. 

Collaboration & Feedback

One of the most useful parts of InDesign is the ability for easy collaboration and feedback, which is especially helpful for distributed teams. 

The Share for Review feature, which was introduced in 2020, allows multiple reviewers to look at a web preview of a document and comment at the same time. Rather than having to send PDFs, collect comments and suggestions, and resend documents via email, document designers can simply share a link with anyone who needs to review a design. 

This kind of simultaneous collaboration saves time, in fact, Adobe commissioned a study about it that shows this particular workflow is more than 3 times faster than other kinds of document sharing and revision. 

Careers that Use InDesign

InDesign tends to be used most by creatives and designers, but you may be surprised by the types of careers actually using the software

Consider that one of the primary goals of InDesign is to design pages with text and images. You may not often pick up a magazine in the grocery store, or buy a newspaper at the gas station, but these kinds of design work are still happening virtually—it simply comes in a digital package. 

These are some careers that commonly use InDesign: 

  • Newspaper Page Designers & Magazine Editors work with print and digital publications to create layouts for newspapers and magazines. They ensure each page is not only free from errors but also eye-catching and easy for readers to follow. These designers use programs like InDesign as a primary design tool.
  • Graphic Designers create digital materials and artwork for printed materials and websites. They often work with clients on coordinating branded products, like stationery or notebooks, frequently using InDesign to complete projects.
  • Content Marketers typically focus on creating a strong online presence for businesses. They work on projects such as creating an identifiable social media presence, writing blogs and other website content, as well as advertising efforts. They can use InDesign to create things like advertising brochures.
  • Technical Writers can do a number of writing tasks for businesses such as designing documents, creating training materials, and keeping company documents up to date for technical and compliance topics. Tech writers can use InDesign to create document templates and design polished training materials. 
  • Production Artists design and manage the production of branded materials and artwork, for instance, outdoor signage on the side of a building. These artists use InDesign on a regular basis to design attractive and on-brand products for their clients. 

How to Learn InDesign

With all the bells and whistles InDesign offers, you might be wondering how to begin learning it. Even if you’ve heard of it, or maybe seen it, it’s a lot to take in all at once. 

If you don’t want to go to (or back to) college to learn, a great place to start practicing the basics is free online through the Adobe website. They have a helpful user guide that’s updated as new software releases come out. They also offer a number of tutorials and courses that range from design basics to more advanced topics such as printing techniques. 

Additionally, there are free learning opportunities, including InDesign, through Noble Desktop’s free online courses for topics such as InDesign Intro Course, Working with Photos & Graphics, and Type Formatting.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth course, Noble offers several paid InDesign training options live online and in-person in New York City.

Popular topics include: 

  • InDesign in a Day
  • Adobe InDesign Bootcamp
  • Graphic Design Certificate 

Where to Learn InDesign

Ready to grow your InDesign skills? There are many great options in-person, live online, and even as part of certification programs. 

Noble Desktop offers several InDesign courses. For those looking to pick up knowledge quickly, InDesign in a Day might be a great option. If you want a deeper, more foundational understanding, Adobe InDesign Bootcamp is a longer, more comprehensive course. In addition, there’s a Graphic Design Certificate option, which includes InDesign coursework.

Not into learning in a classroom? Live online courses offer similar benefits to being in-person, with the flexibility of being able to learn from the comfort of your own home or office. You can use the Noble Desktop Classes Near Me tool to find live online InDesign courses or InDesign classes near you. The Classes Near Me tool is an easy way to see what training courses are available in a specific subject area from reputable training schools. 

How Do You Purchase InDesign? 

To use InDesign, individuals must purchase the program through a Creative Cloud subscription, or on its own—a la carte, so to speak. 

For professionals who want or need to do design work with pages and layouts, InDesign is a must. The program requires a subscription, which costs about $21 per month if you decide to purchase it without the Creative Cloud. 

If you need more than one Adobe application (for instance, InDesign and Photoshop), you may want to purchase the Creative Cloud Subscription. Although the $52.99 per month subscription fee may initially seem high, it could be worth it if you use multiple tools on a regular basis, and will be cheaper in the long term than subscribing separately.