Here's a common design workflow problem, probably most relevant to in-house designers, but also to agencies who have a lot of non-design writing or research staff, or freelancers who work with in-house writers. Many designers encounter it and have a way of dealing with it: I'm interested in what our collective design experience can come up with for the best way to deal with it.
Here's the problem:
- I'm making a text-and-images layout, and I need to send early drafts to writers for copy editing.
- These writers don't have design software and never will: buying it in isn't an option. Assume they have MS Office, and that maybe one person in the office has Acrobat but they can't access it easily. (In my case, these people are writers and research experts, there are loads of them, and copy writing and editing for designs is a small portion of what they do)
- The copy editing is somewhat dependant on the layout: the writers need to be able to see the flow of the page to see how each chunk fits in, and how much space they have for each chunk. I'm thinking of cases like infographics and diagrams with detailed labels where the text, imagery and layout go hand-in-hand, rather than cases like books or magazine layouts where we'd just say "give the designer between XXX and YYY words and trust them".
- The layout at this stage doesn't need to be exact on their end, but they need to be able to get an idea of it. It doesn't matter if what they send back to me is a bit of a mess visually, I'll just be extracting and using their editted text
So, what are the best methods for giving people an editable rough approximation of a layout?
Any answer should ideally be better than my current method - which is to email around PDFs showing the rough layout alongside flat Word documents with the text, hoping that the writers will understand and respect the layout and understand how much space they have... They rarely do... and since copy writing and editing for designs is a small portion of what they do, this is not likely to change.
Ideally, it should be less clunky and time-consuming than creating a separate PDF form and re-creating every text box as an input element to create a sort-of editable PDF, or, re-creating an approximation of the layout by hand in something like Word.
I'll accept answers starting with any common design software. In my case it's mostly Illustrator, but tricks that work starting with designs in InDesign, Photoshop, Corel, Inkcape etc are all relevant.