If you’ve been told that you need to use InDesign to be able to design better documents, there is an element of truth there, but it’s not the whole truth. InDesign will provide you all the tools that professional designers use every day – but just having the tools isn’t quite enough.
Adobe’s programs have always been made for creative professionals to use, and until a few years ago the overwhelming majority of their users would have been professional designers, publishers and so on. But now, as companies increasingly insource more and more of their creative work, there are many users of their programs who are coming from a non-design background. Adobe seem to have been making attempts to make these programs easier to use, but still their underlying approach is to offer you the tools and let you create what you want.
So, for example, when you create a new document in InDesign there are no preset styles for text (Paragraph Styles) within InDesign and minimal colours (Swatches) to use. It’s always been assumed that users will want to create their own Paragraph Styles and Swatches to use within a specific document. But this is clearly different from an approach where you are provided with a lot of assets to make things easier (as you would be with, say, Microsoft Publisher).
It’s this different assumption on behalf of Adobe that makes the tools much better, but it does present quite a learning curve for someone who is outside of the design world. In the program you are offered settings for typographical terms such as Tracking, Kerning and Leading – a designer would know what these are, but it can be quite challenging to have to learn elements of a new language as well as learn a computer program.
For that reason, I almost always find that when I teach InDesign to a class of beginners these days, they are as interested in the context that InDesign is used in as much as the program itself. In other words, they are starting to learn the skills that used to be taken for granted: knowledge of design theory, typography, the commercial print process, and so on.
However you learn InDesign. it’s inevitable that you’ll need to learn some degree of these surrounding skills in order to use it to its full potential. If you’d like to put some time into learning about design, as well as InDesign (and Illustrator and Photoshop, also used by graphic designers) then you might want to look at our “Accidental Designer” course, a free 10 day email course for complete beginners.