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Page composition goes digital

In the old days of hot metal printing, the compositor was one of the team that physically assembled the printing plates, gathering the individual type blocks of single letters that made up the words, sentences and ultimately full pages of type for production.

Today, we live in a computerised world and so the concept of page composition is somewhat different. Gone are the physical needs to assemble printing plates, as page composition is done on computer screens, printing machinery is increasingly able to work effectively from a virtual plate and photo setting is commonplace.

For those old enough to have trained in the days when changes to layout were an expensive, time consuming addition to the page composition process, there was a discipline taught, of the value of getting it right first time. In contrast, today’s computerised systems, with page layout being carried out on screen in a piece of software such as Quarkxpress or Indesign, offer almost too much flexibility for anyone planning layout or page composition. The skill today is in having the discipline, of using the many opportunities with care and ensuring that a page composition is still effective at communicating what it needs to do.

One of the specialists in adapting to the new digital formats is HL Studios, which provides a comprehensive range of support services for educational publishers. That range includes the provision of page composition and graphic design services, which take account of the need to design layouts to suit the new formats on screen, as well as more traditional on paper design. In addition, the company offers project management, and can execute other vital elements such as animation and illustration in order to deliver a complete package to create educational materials. The company has its own interactive software, to create a whiteboard including video, images and activities on the page of an e-book.

Among the issues faced by those involved with page composition are how to present material clearly and logically. For online material, there is the need to consider how to link different pages and illustrations, perhaps arranging for them to open in new windows or on new pages. In this respect, a page composition specialist may need to work with website designers or programmers, to ensure that links work correctly, and ensuring that the consumer can find a route back to previous points of interest. In a virtual world, a reader will lose the facility of thumbing back to previous pages, which will always be a virtue of printed material.

Links between pages will depend today on how material is being viewed. A website format is familiar to most people, and those viewing it via a computer terminal will normally expect to interact using a computer mouse, clicking to move down a web page, to move onto a new page and so on. However, formats are changing all the time. Only during the last couple of years have people started to become familiar with the touch screen, as employed on an increasing number of smartphones, led by Apple’s innovative iPhone, and by the company’s equally ground breaking iPad. For those involved with page composition, such as the team at HL Studios, the challenge is in staying ahead of developments, and of the way users interact with new technology as it emerges.

Contact HL Studios


Phone: +44 (01993) 848260

HL Studios, Witney Business Centre, Windrush House, Witney, Oxon, OX29 7DX.