Design Automation

There is a variety of products on the market that claim to automate the graphic design process by automating various Adobe products, usually Indesign, or Illustrator. Classifying these products under the generic term of design automation really confuses many of the issues at hand. The only thing these products have in common is the separation of some of the content, usually copy, from the more graphical components of the design. In the present article we distinguish between the main classes of design automation by identifying the fundamental rationale and the basic functionality of each of them. The generic term of Design automation systems is used to cover systems that belong in one of the following four groups:

  • Design customization
  • High volume Design production
  • Design personalization
  • Design augmentation

Let us characterize each of these groups by their functionality and their rationale.

Design Customization provides non-designer with design templates they can produce artwork with without the help of a designer. The templates are constrained enough to be considered foolproof. An example of Design customization is enabling store managers for a retail chain to produce special offers flyers and coupons customized to their store. The store managers have access to the design template and can only change simple content such as the store address, or the number of items available in the store. The rationale behind design customization is to enable non-designers to produce artwork without the help of designers. Example of design customization systems are BrandWizard, and iBrams.

High Volume Design Production is the automation of repetitive design tasks by the application of a design template to a set of data, usually out of a database. An example of this is the generation of product catalogs using a set of product templates, and a product database. The rationale is to speed production and minimize errors and production cost. Examples of High volume Design Production systems are XMPIE and WoodWing’s smart catalog plug-in.

Design Personalization is the automation of repetitive design tasks by the application of a design template to a set of data, usually out of a database, with variations in the design template or the data inserted in the template, based on the data in individual records. The rationale is the delivery of personalized message to the target audience. The records in the data set for High Volume Design Production each represent information to be communicated, usually a product description.. The records in Design Personalization each represent a target, usually a potential client. Whereas High volume design production ultimately delivers the entire set of data, each inserted in the design, to each target, Design personalization delivers one particular record from the set of data to each of the target. High volume design production and design personalization can be combined. XMPIE is an example of Design Personalization.

Design Augmentation is separating the text component from the graphic design component of artwork production in order to rationalize the production process. The rationale is to eliminate copy-centered tasks from the designers’ to do list in order to enable them to focus on design. Adobe InCopy, Esko’s Dynamic Content, and Ubelix are example of Design Augmentation.