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by Emerson Welch  |  April 25, 2024

Creativity Without Boundaries: Jim Yarwood’s Evolution from Print Compositor to Design Freelancer

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From Jim Yarwood’s roots in the print industry since the 1960s, his career journey has soared from a compositor to a seasoned digital design freelancer.

Dive into our latest Creativity Without Boundaries blog series to explore Jim’s desktop publishing world, where he combines traditional craftsmanship with modern tools like QuarkXPress to craft his horticultural magazines.

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How did you get started in print and design, and can you tell me a little bit about your journey?

I have been in print since the 1960s, in fact since the hot metal days, and served a six-year apprenticeship as a compositor. I do not consider myself a print and design person, but I do know, and can see good quality design when it’s presented.

After my six-year apprenticeship I moved to a regional newspaper Kent Messenger as a Linotype operator. Print, in the UK, was at the forefront of electronic innovation back in the 1970s. The Kent Messenger was one of the first newspapers to go electronic and quickly established itself as a front-runner in the new technology, and as employees, we were swept up with the change from hot metal to photocomposition – it was heavy days.

Then in came the fluidity of the computer with the ability to do all kinds of things with type electronically bending, extending type and images, which was unimaginable in the older times!

How has your career developed over time with the transition from traditional printing to digital design?

I ran my own design and typesetting business, initially from home in a spare bedroom, using Compugraphic equipment, then after a one year I moved into commercial premises. This was from the period 1982-1994 when desktop publishing had not been invented and my business was doing well, mainly producing monthly periodicals, a weekly property newspaper, and supplying smaller art studios with bromides to be able to paste down on to blank layout sheets. At the time I employed 9 staff, and all was well until, desktop publishing really took off (mainly Apple), so virtually overnight companies were able to produce their product in-house and we were no longer able to compete.

Semi-skilled personnel were able to create impressive layouts, designs etc. with the advent mainly of Apple computers, which now is more-or-less the industry standard. With debt, I had to fold the company and seek employment. I went back to Kent Messenger and here I was introduced to QuarkXPress as it was their choice of software.

Fast-forward a few years and I left to work in London and moved around working at various studios. I then returned to the Kent Messenger in around 2002, until I was made redundant they had changed to InDesign which was not as user-friendly as QuarkXPress.

Semi-skilled personnel were able to create impressive layouts, designs etc. with the advent mainly of Apple computers, which now is more-or-less the industry standard.

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Tell us more about your current freelance work?  

I was doing some freelance work at a publisher in my hometown, ACT Publishing whilst working for Kent Messenger newspaper, they were using QuarkXPress. I agreed to work on a part-time basis, mixing that with semi-retirement. And here we currently are!

I produce two monthly horticultural magazines and use QuarkXPress as the publishing system. At the start I’m given a dummy, this shows the positions of ads, articles, number of pages, etc.

From this brief I assemble the story, headings plus any pictures and place the ads in pre-located positions. When finally approved by the ad sales team and editor, it’s off to the printers!

I produce two monthly horticultural magazines and use QuarkXPress as the publishing system.

graphic design

What is it about the world of design that you enjoy the most?

What I enjoy about modern design and technology to sum it up is ‘flexibility’, to be able to manipulate type/images and create shapes that were previously not at the fingertips of the layperson.

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Can you tell us why you enjoy using QuarkXPress?

My introduction to QuarkXPress is based on re-joining the Kent Messenger newspaper, the biggest feature was that QuarkXPress’ original programmers based the program on hot-metal rules e.g. point size, leading, indents, kerning, etc. This was so important, us older hands understood the program immediately, and could grasp what was required to output new, previously unattainable layouts and designs!

Whoever were the initial designers, they were spot-on with the program. I felt very comfortable with its operation and, in fact, although a newbie, at times I was being asked what/how to do or change things within QuarkXPress from other operators at Kent Messenger, I elected to work on the permanent late shift and became supervisor.

…us older hands understood the program immediately, and could grasp what was required to output new, previously unattainable layouts and designs!

Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear from you, so let us know what you liked or what you would like to read more of in this series? And, if you would like to be featured in an upcoming post, get in touch! Contact us at qxpsales@quark.com

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