Desktop publishing versus graphic design

What is Desktop Publishing?

Desktop Publishing (DTP) is the placing and positioning of text and graphics on the page to produce paper publications such as newsletters, magazines, brochures, books, etc.  It can be adapted to create other paper publicity such as leaflets, flyers, postcards, networking material, business stationery, adverts, cards, posters, signs and other visual communication.

How is it different from graphic design?

Graphic design uses art and creative forces to combine shapes, colours, text, pictures, imagination, fashion and other images to produce new graphics and art, such as graphics, logos, illustration, concepts and design. It conjures up something new specifically for the client. The design is then used to create paper or web marketing material.

Whereas DTP takes the designed graphics, logos, illustrations and concepts to combine it with text, layout and other materials onto the page.  Desktop publishers excel in arranging the material available in the most efficient, effective and attractive method ready for the printing process.  It is mainly paper based, but other media can be used and explored, such as plastics, clothing or whatever.

So in a nutshell, graphic design creates design, desktop publishing takes that design and puts it into a paper format!


9 thoughts on “Desktop publishing versus graphic design

  1. ..Not so sure about DTP being attractive!

    Desk top publishing is ideal for the monday morning meeting, or for some bland corporate publication, but anyone producing work in this manner and then branding themselves a designer should be truly ashamed.

    Graphic Design is the thoughtful application of the sort of elements you mentioned in your post, but hopefully (if it is a successful piece of design) to a higher degree of quality, fulfilling the brief to a fuller extent than a simple, anyone-can-do-it, desktop publishing program.
    Successful graphic design uses the freedom of the more-design-aware programs, such as the Adobe Creative Suites and QuarkXpress etc, to allow the designer to create the best solution to a problem, also allowing the designer’s imagination and creativity flow and be able to be applied.

    …Great blog by the way!


  2. It’s typical that graphic designers see desktop publishers as that kind of low life that crawl beneath their desks! But don’t forget that graphic designers themselves do desktop publishing but disguise the fact because they are using the designs they created in the first place!

    I’m not ashamed to being a desktop publisher, because I think the profession is much misaligned. Not all graphic designers are good at desktop publishing, even though they may think they are! (But again there are some really excellent graphic designers who can, and are an inspiration to us all!) But desktop publishers just recognise the fact that there are a lot of much cleverer people at graphic design out there, but they have a knack in being able to set text and graphics effectively.

    It is an art (even though you may not think so), and I’m going to prove that over the coming months. I often despair at bad layout setting I see in magazines and newsletters done by graphic designers who really should just be concentrating on their creative skills.

    There is a place for everybody, and the world would be better if people just did the jobs they are good at, and not other’s.


  3. Oh goodness, I of course agree that there are some shocking graphic designers out there and nothing pains me more than to see badly laid typography or poor layout setting in magazines, but absolutely nothing is worse than when a desktop publisher has been forced to some extent to create a poor piece of design due to the restrictions that desk top publishing programs have.

    A desk top publisher would I feel be totally liberated if they were to look wider than simply their desk top publishing software, and I guess set themselves free, as a graphic designer does, because the two job titles really are so very similar.

    In response to your closing line, I really find it difficult to agree. Why can’t people dabble into other areas and try things? That is surely the great thing about the age we currently live in, that we are able to, and if life is as blunt as to live and then die (sorry to be morbid), but where is the shame in trying to cram in as many experiences as you can and try things out!?


  4. I use QuarkXPress which serves me very well as a desktop publisher. I cannot work with InDesign as I find it too restrictive, whereas some graphic designers swear by it (especially as it can be used with Photoshop, Illustrator and other associated programmes and is much cheaper to buy). But surely it depends on what you expect from that software, what is available on it and what kind of end-product you are trying to achieve?

    Please don’t confuse what a graphic designer needs to those a desktop publisher uses. There are, of course, a myriad of design packages available for all kinds of artwork and design, but if one particular kind is used effectively, and absolutely fantastic work is produced through it, then is there necessarily a need for that ‘designer’ to use any others? Wouldn’t combining too much software be as bad as mixing together too many fonts or colours?

    I was a little hasty in saying nobody should step over their line – certainly if we didn’t we wouldn’t learn new skills, styles, methods and concepts to explore other worlds.


  5. I too prefer to use QuarkXpress and am seemingly one of a minority of designers doing so, with most choosing the Creative Suite packages. I do like the fluidity in workflow between the Adobe range, the being able to simply drag and drop files between programs quite freely, but until I convert to the ways of InDesign, it’ll first have to establish a far better type-setting and print setup, something which Quark far excels in!

    I don’t see any problem in mixing software packages though, if you know what you are doing and can take full advantage of, for example, Photoshop for image manipulation, Illustrator for any vector-based imagery and Quark Xpress for page layouts and typography, then there is no problem, just some of the quality can sometimes be lost between Adobe software and Quark, so it depends solely on the job in hand I guess, but mainly down to the idea at the core of it all, and which choice of software would do it most justice.

    I would be interested to know why you refer to yourself as a desktop publisher, when in fact it would seem to me that you are infact more a graphic designer using Quark rather than some other, less professional desktop publishing software that would usually be the reasoning behind the Desk Top Publisher title.


  6. Enlighten me! Do you really think I am doing myself a misservice by branding myself as a desktop publisher? OK, the general public haven’t a clue what it is, so that is not a good start. I honestly thought that someone who isn’t very good at creating original material (eg logos) but was excellent in designing newsletters would therefore be termed a desktop publisher.

    Thank you very much for these posts – I am grateful for your input regarding this. I am in the middle of rebranding myself and want to concentrate on layout design. As part of my clear, concise and uncluttered theme I hope, through this blog, to educate my readers into how a publication, whether it’s a newsletter or a leaflet, should be properly laid out for legibility and readability purposes. And not only that, but to take into consideration basic marketing theories such as a catchy headline and strapline, benefits rather than features, a relevant picture, an incentive through a call to action and clear contact details.

    What terminology would you say I should call myself then?


  7. The great thing about graphic design as a term is that it covers a multitude of areas, editorial design, web design, corporate design, packaging etc… you get the idea im sure, but you don’t have to be good at any more than just one of them in order to be considered a graphic designer. And you would be more than eligible to call yourself a graphic designer, probably one specialising in marketing or promotion?

    I definately feel that you will get a whole lot further with the title of graphic designer, especially if you state the areas you specialise in, it sounds far more professional than desk top publisher, desk top publisher just sounds like someone sat at home using Microsoft Templates to whip things up in their spare time.

    …And from the sound of things, you seem far more serious than that! And therefore should give yourself a fighting chance, probably more so if you go to companies offering your services as someone who can improve their existing brochures etc, or can design new things for them to improve their marketing. I feel you could slip into quite a niche, one that combines the design qualities, and your apparent marketing knowledge and confidence.


  8. Thanks Sean for everything! You’ve given me much to think about. Join the RSS of my blog for future posts (and please comment on them too! – they’re both valid and welcome) and I will change my banner once again!


  9. Your very welcome, if theres one thing i’ve learned so far, its that networking is crucial, so the more you get your name out there, the more you comment, the more people you meet, the more you are likely to get a nice break!

    Good luck with everything, I shall be sure to keep an eye on your blog!

    Feel free to take a look at mine too and comment on anything that catches your attention, again its all design-related, and im hoping to try and build it up to become somewhat of a reference to other designers with many links to other blogs/websites, so might be a good place for inspiration in the future??


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