Getting Started

When faced with a design project, many are stymied not by the printing, or the color choices, or the font selection, but by the very first step: opening a program. Which program should you use for your design? What’s the difference between them?

There are three programs we recommend for design work: Adobe InDesign, Adobe Spark, and Canva. In order to determine which is best for you, there are two questions to ask yourself:

What is my skill and comfort level with design?

This is perhaps the most important question. Being mindful of your knowledge and limits will prevent wasting precious hours of your day problem-solving a design question with our dear friend Google.

Adobe InDesign: We recommend using InDesign only if you’re familiar with the program; InDesign has a very steep learning curve, and is incredibly challenging to learn without formal training. That said, if you’re thinking about long-term professional development, marketing and recruitment, or other internal office needs, it might be worth investing time into learning the software. You can find tutorials and courses on Adobe products through online learning platforms like LinkedIn’s Lynda (which we have access to for free with Mason!).

Adobe Spark: With a much more accessible interface and premade design templates, Adobe Spark is a good option for those with access to the Adobe Creative Cloud but who are either uncomfortable with InDesign or who need to make something faster than their InDesign skills may allow. One of its most useful features is the ability to create a “Brand Kit,” which makes applying Mason logos, fonts, and brand-approved colors to your designs very easy. This does require you to have access to the Mason-approved fonts.

If you‘re interested in using Adobe Spark, let us know and we can provide you with the font files. Adobe Spark is limited in what it can do, so be mindful of that when creating.

Canva: Canva is a great beginner-friendly tool with more creative flexibility than Adobe Spark. It is a fantastic alternative to Adobe products because of its more intuitive interface. Canva is a tiered system; while there is a free version which will suit the needs of most, some of its features are behind a paywall.

What are you doing with these materials?

Your comfort level with the various platforms matters, and so does your plan for the materials. Where you are using this material matters in what platform you choose. Creating a complex document for print such as an annual report should be done in a professional program like Adobe InDesign. A course promotion flyer that will only be digitally distributed, or a social media post, can be made on Canva.

Working with a freelance designer is a great option for those with big design dreams and limited experience, time, or resources.

We have resources to support your design journey, from planning to printing, including templates for both InDesign and Canva, in our resource repository.