Word vs InDesign

I’m often asked about using Word for print design… I’ll go out on a limb and buck the trend and say yes it can be done.

Graphic Designers will mostly disagree.

I’m a designer. I’ve been doing it for 22 years. And while I think Microsoft Word is the devils work, I will try and make a case for it.

Comparing Microsoft Word to Adobe InDesign is like comparing a toy car to a Ferarri

Designs and layouts can be made in Word – but it has huge limitations. The biggest being you cannot professionally print from Word. And, if you want to print full bleed (to the edge of the paper) that’s a nightmare no one should have to experience.

So if you want to create an amazing Annual Report or Document, that’s great, but when it comes time to printing it to a professional standard, it will never work.

I found this 12 year old article that summarises it in great detail but it gets into technical issues pretty quick. What’s surprising is that in the last 12 years Word has only become worse as a program. (IMO)

The short versions is: Print layout in Word = $$.
Any complex designing in Word comes with increased time and stress because of the amount of time spent in trying to achieve a reasonable layout or design and trouble-shooting the program’s drawbacks. It would be more beneficial to train someone in your marketing team to learn to work in InDesign using templates than use word for professional marketing comms.

Side note: I charge four times more for doing things in Microsoft programs than any other program.

What is Word good for?

I will often create basic templates for clients using Word. This is the standard software after all and not everyone has tons of cash to spend on a designer. I always caveat that they’ll never achieve the same level of finish as my work in InDesign.

The two arguments in a nutshell:

Microsoft Word should only be used for simple page layout with very straight forward designs. The ideal use is text heavy single column reports or contracts – the kind of thing a lawyer might do! Overall, It is difficult to control, doesn’t play well with imagery and can’t be used for professionally printing documents in a CMYK colour space. The final result will look less polished and could be detrimental to your brand’s equity.

InDesign is specifically created to make professional, technically accurate, layout and design. It is so powerful that it is the global standard in visual design when it comes to creating layouts. It can literally do anything. If you’ve ever read a book, magazine, annual report, newspaper, brochure, billboard, display stand, ticket stub and more, it was probably created using InDesign.

Closing argument

Go forth and build in Microsoft Word. I dare you. Team up with a legendary Word expert, add macros and coding. Push it to its limits. Tear your hair out. Pay a premium price. Hand it over to the client and watch them copy and paste from one document into the document you just created and then the whole thing breaks.

The alternative is just use Word for drafting and editing then move the project to a professional piece of software to make it look good.. You can bet on the life of your children, over at Microsoft, they don’t use word for professional documents.


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