How to communicate effectively with a DTP specialist

18 August 2021

DTP specialists are often portrayed as kind of digital bookworms. They are glued to their PC screen all day with the headphones on and they use their own jargon that only other DTP experts can decipher.

They love Mac no matter what and will be delighted to work on InDesign files and annoyed if you saddle them with Quark Xpress or a Power Point files. They are slightly fussy and inflexible about fonts, this a touchy subject for them.

And if you want to make them really angry, dare give them a very urgent job and tell them: ‘it will only take you a few minutes!’.

Witnessing a dispute between a client (often represented by a project manager) and a DTP specialist is an interesting anthropological practice that will show a big main problem: poor communication.

Having experienced this issue firsthand, we can now summarise some of the most frequent mistakes made by both sides and we can confidently state that all people taking part to the conversation should put in some effort to effectively communicate. So, make yourself comfortable and read our tips.

Shared expectations

The lack of clarity regarding the goals of a collaboration often leads to possible misunderstandings. Disappointed expectations coming from a lack of communication is a recurring theme in our work.

When you assign a job to a DTP specialist, what do you expect from him/her? In our opinion, it is worth arranging a project briefing, possibly before the start of the project, to share the goals of the collaboration and provide him/her with all the relevant information and details about the project. This will offer you a good chance to explain to the DTP specialist what you expect from him/her, what kind of support you need in the initial phase of the project and what needs to be done on the files.

And the same goes for the DTP specialist: after a thorough project briefing, he/she will be immediately able to let you know if any information is still missing and what he/she needs from you or from the client.

Moreover, if a project lasts for a long time, it would be good idea to regularly take stock of the situation and assess the progress of the work done to make sure you’re not missing any piece of the puzzle.

Speak the same language

Use clear language, don’t take anything for granted and put yourself in your listener’s shoes. Although this may seem obvious, communication works as long as both interlocutors follow the advice above.

The DTP specialist may keep using obscure words, such as vector file, high resolution, editable, etc.. Right, don’t be afraid to let him/her know you don’t understand and ask for a clear explanation.

In general, everybody should avoid using a jargon that may sound too technical or obscure, showing no consideration for the interlocutor who may not be able to follow.

We should all try to make ourselves clear and change vocabulary, if needed, to be 100% sure that the message is delivered correctly, because our interlocutor may be too shy or embarrassed to admit that he/she is not following.

It is quite common for clients (or project managers) to become attached to a specific DTP specialist and ask to work only with him/her, especially if he/she is able to explain what he/she’s doing clearly. This is reassuring for the client and allows him/her to really understand what’s going on and to establish a long-term relationship of trust.

Let’s meet half-way

On the one hand, a customer should never underestimate a DTP job because it can be fraught with pitfalls which can be overcome by the DTP specialist thanks to his/her expertise in the field. His/her skills, years of study and practice deserve to be acknowledged. Are you willing to be guided by his/her experience?

On the other hand, a DTP specialist should never underestimate the doubts and fears that a client – or project manager- may feel when outsourcing a big chunk of project, knowing little or nothing about DTP.

As we have seen from the examples above, an effective and friendly communication will lay the foundations for a strong and close working alliance between a client and a DTP specialist.

Scritto da Davide Giovannini

Davide Giovannini has been collaborating with Editha for 9 years. He has always been involved in IT and has specialized in the use of XML-based writing softwares and CMS. With a passion for astronomy and science fiction, he continues to scan the sky in anticipation of the next supernova.
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