How to Do a Fast Design Refresh in InDesign CC

Whether your branding has changed or your simply tired of looking at the same brochure over and over again, a design refresh can offer a simple solution to giving your sales materials a fresh new look.

The term “design refresh” gets a bad rap — along with “redesign,” “retool,” “tweak” and so on. Many designers will roll their eyes at the mention of a design refresh — typically because the phrase makes their jobs sound overly simple. Which they’re totally not. While there is some serious effort and incredible talent that goes into updating a design, the simplicity of a refresh is implied by the more simplified process overall. Instead of diving into detailed research about an audience or rewriting the entire playbook, we leverage old content and assets to build a brand new tool.

I recently completed a design refresh for a fashion market sales brochure. See the redesign process from start to finish in my latest video:

The initial layout process likely took about 3-4 hours. This clip condenses that down to 3 minutes. While it looks like a crazy ball of awesome, there is a ton going on here. Let’s break it down.

Give an old project new life with this simple design refresh strategy from @marketmox!

Before I started recording, I opened a new InDesign CC file and set up my pages for a horizontal 11″ x 8.5″ layout. Caving to the Rule of Thirds, I usually default to adding a three-column grid to my pages — even though I don’t always use it. I also pasted the old layouts for each page into the pasteboard next to my new page. You’ll notice that the image links are broken and some stuff looks really wonky. That’s ok. I use this as a checklist of sorts. Once everything on the old page is accounted for in the new page, it gets deleted to avoid confusion and issues at the printer.

Then, we start. You’ll see that I dive into the design process instantly. I pull inspiration from the old page — a photo, copy emphasis, general content positioning. Some elements, I will pull directly from the old layout while others will be recreated from scratch.

It’s worth noting that, before beginning, I had some design requests from the client. They specifically asked for the horizontal layout and a new, clean appearance. To me, that meant we needed to ditch a lot of the gradients, introduce their new color palette, take advantage of their gorgeous photography and add some good white space.

Around the 18-second mark on page 2, you’ll see that I consider one layout option, then things quickly change. This is all part of the process. A design refresh is more like putting together a puzzle — except that all of the pieces could fit together in infinite ways. The initial idea was already looking too busy for my taste — and you can see in the right that I still had a lot of content to add to the page. The change up allowed me to get everything in while still keeping the layout and visual flow very clean.

As we continue, gaps and FPOs (For Placement Only) become huge lifesavers in this layout. If you pay super-close attention around :30, I leave a giant hole in the blue column on the left when I move to the next page. I knew more content would come into this page later — so, I planned ahead by not filling the entire page. I didn’t know if the content would work in the blue bar, but the page would be much easier to reconfigure if it wasn’t 100% full already. The same happens again on page 3 around :50.

On page 4, around 1:10, I toss in several gray boxes labeled “FPO.” These boxes let the client know that I’ve planned for them to include images here, but that I don’t know what those images are or I don’t have the intended assets. FPO is a saving grace in new layouts because you can reserve space and maintain visual flow without redoing your design over and over again when the images are added later.

Throughout the video, you’ll see pages shuffling, content jumping between pages, copy sizing, tables and more. Near the end, I slide back through all of the pages for a final tweak. In fact, you’ll see me wrap on on the cover page which was the first thing I addressed at the start. This ensures that consistency is carried through the entire document and that the visual flows nicely from page to page.


That’s it! Once the initial design was complete, I exported a PDF and sent it off to the client for review. The client would help to fill in any missing elements, review a couple of rounds of edits, then BAM! A brand new brochure is born with an on-point design and message — and all done significantly faster than if we’d started from scratch.

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