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InDesign on MTV


Photoshop is the program you see all the time on television, especially detective shows. “Can you zoom in on the license plate?” they ask the electronics geek, who obligingly drags the Zoom tool around around a cloudy blob and runs the CSI Filter, snapping the numbers into crisp focus.

But when do you ever see Illustrator (“Can you live trace that license plate?”) or Acrobat (“Can you OCR that license plate?”) or InDesign (“Can you wrap some text around that license plate?”) – never! is what I would have said, until last week, when I spied a tell-tale overset text frame right there on channel 245.


On the MTV teen reality show (a guilty pleasure) called The Paper, you’re a voyeur in the cutthroat world of high school journalism. Okay, this is MTV, so most of the time you’re in the hallways or at a house party, listening to the angst about why they weren’t chosen to be editor-in-chief, and how Amanda’s nose job wasn’t worth it because it looks exactly the same. (I thought the doctor did a fine job, myself.)

But once in a while you get to see them actually lay out the newspaper, the award-winning The Circuit, Cypress Bay High School’s paper of record. During a scene in the 3rd period journalism class, iMacs on every desk and thirty kids running around yelling and texting and making out in the corner (the teacher is seldom shown, she’s more like an extra), the camera looks over the shoulder at someone actually working on the layout. I was idly wondering what software they used, when the camera zooms in on the page and shows the student enlarging a text frame.

Two seconds later the camera is elsewhere, so I rewound (all hail the Tivo) and stepped through it, scene by scene … until finally, a-ha! Look at the little overset box towards the bottom of the right side of the frame (barely visible in this screen grab from their site, but it’s there):


Unfortunately, they don’t mention the name of the software, nor how great it is. (Adobe, get over there and pay for some product placement!)

As far as general layout production and design are concerned, there was one unintentionally funny scene where the well-meaning but secretly despised editor-in-chief goes around with a printout in hand, asking people to “print out their grayscales” to make sure they match the one she’s waving around, because “it makes the paper look professional.” What she wants, actually, is for everyone to use the same tint of black in their sidebar backgrounds.

Why aren’t they using Object Styles? I wondered. That would solve the consistency problem. In fact, I think a great episode would be where the famous InDesign trainer comes to the classroom for a 30 minute tips and tricks session, and the students are all amazed at how cool she is, and cute-as-a-button Trevor gets a crush on her, leaving his snarky girlfriend Gianna (the “clubs editor,” give me a break) to follow the trainer around like a puppy and bring her coffee, begs to be her intern for the summer, and then later … ummm, hmph. Where was I?

Anyway, it was a minor geek thrill to see InDesign finally make it into a television show. And congratulations, Mrs. Weiss (the harried journalism teacher), for deciding to go with it!

Anne-Marie “Her Geekness” Concepción is the co-founder (with David Blatner) and CEO of Creative Publishing Network, which produces InDesignSecrets, InDesign Magazine, and other resources for creative professionals. Through her cross-media design studio, Seneca Design & Training, Anne-Marie develops ebooks and trains and consults with companies who want to master the tools and workflows of digital publishing. She has authored over 20 courses on on these topics and others. Keep up with Anne-Marie by subscribing to her ezine, HerGeekness Gazette, and contact her by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @amarie
  • Andrew Herzog says:

    This article reminds me of the days when MTV was all about music and WordStar was all the rage. Does anybody else miss Ctlr-K-B and Ctrl-K-K? But I digress, this site is all about InDesign, Sorry.

  • Steve Werner says:

    I’m so proud of this website. It truly covers “All Things InDesign.” ;-)

  • Lenin Garcia says:

    Great article, I really wants the CSI filter. :)

  • But why do they always type so much to use the tools? It’s not keyboard shortcuts, it’s actual typing!

  • Neil Oliver says:

    You have definitely take indesign secrets to the next level… :)

  • RodrigoMC says:


    I’m so proud!!
    (but… why???)

    thanx Anne-Marie!

  • Roland says:

    I find myself checking tv shows to see what software they’re using also. Haven’t found anyone using ID yet, but I’ve spotted several other programs I use (or used to use) which is cool in a very strange way.

  • lauren says:

    This reminds me of my Photoshop 5 days back in high school, my first-ever layout lesson on Page Maker, and holding a digital camera for the first time wondering what the heck its supposed to do. We were lucky to have a really great graphic design program, and I specifically remember an entire class period dedicated to learning key commands, complete with a quiz the next day!!

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Aren’t shortcuts great. I was showing someone how to use InCopy the other day and I was using the shortcuts. And they were fascinated, they wrote them all down and declared it would save them hours of work.

    I also showed them where they were in the Menus of the program, but they weren’t interested, shortcuts all the way.

    Wouldn’t it be great to have voice recognition programming for InDesign, you could then talk to indesign and get it to do stuff without lifting a finger. Maybe in CS4?

    Anywho, cool that InDesign is getting some air time that is generally aimed at the youth of America. I’ve never seen this program, I must watch out for it.

  • Jessica says:

    I know that a newly launched teen magazine aimed at latinos and latinas is designed in ID. They call it “LaTeen” The editor told me that some of the kids behind the magazine would be on TV, but I missed it.
    When watching TV, I love the novelty of seeing everybody using laptops, most of them with the Apple logo, but on kid’s show Zooey101, Zooey uses a laptop with a pear with a bite taken out of it. And that’s the exact logo I thought I came up with to use in my personal Cafepress shop called “OS Upgrade”.

    On kid’s short show “This is Daniel Cook” I think I saw them using Director or maybe it was AfterEffects. But alas, I’ve not spotted InDesign in actual use on the tube.

  • Debbi says:

    Hey there,
    Cute-as-a-button-Trevor’s MOM here! Loved your article, and thought I would just let you know that Trevor is an InDesign GURU. He just won 1st place at FSPA for his doubletruck, and everyone at states was amazed at how great it was. I’ll post your article on his page, he’ll appreciate the comments.

  • Debbi says:

    Hey Anne-Marie!
    Trevor’s mom here again!
    That was GREAT!! Thanks so much! We laughed the whole time. Trevor will be stopping by to add some comments, and would love if you would put up a copy of his award winning double-truck. And yes – FSPA was the Scholastic Press competition for all Florida high schools. It was great! Thanks again for the publicity. We’ll be sure to put everything you do out on our Facebook and MySpace pages.

  • Excuse me, who cares. The last thing I want as a designer is to have my secrets revealed to the world. We designers dictate trends, not the other way around.

  • JoeSuraci says:

    Wow, Indesign…High School? Way cool. Can ya imagine what will be produced when they’re in their mid-thirties and forties?
    We don’t stand a chance! Resistence is futile! Quickly… master CS3 and we might be able to hold em off for a while!
    GODPEED! :)

  • Cool stuff! I would love to get my hand on the CSI filter! :P

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