HvA Open Publishing — Sprint II

Instead of developing a template for the Sausage Machine, a template for InDesign has been developed to use in the HvA Open Publishing Workflow. It would have been cool to completely rely on the Sausage Machine, and not InDesign, to develop the series but the output of the Sausage Machine isn’t useful/powerful enough to be used within the HvA Open Publishing workflow in its current state. It also doesn’t output .pdf’s, so to create one the .icml (which is one of the outputs) needs to be opened in InDesign anyway (and printing from the .html is out of question because it is too unreliable and misses quite a few features). Now, the Sausage Machine is only used for creating .icml files from .docx files that can be used in the InDesign template (which can also be achieved via Pandoc through the command line). I think the Sausage Machine could become a nice GUI for Pandoc – allowing people who are uncomfortable with using the command line to make use of the document converting power of Pandoc (which is amazing).

Benefits sides of using InDesign are that it:

  • is more easy to create a printable .pdf that can be professionally printed. There is still a lot of love/demand for physical booklets.
  • gives you the tools to create a template without having to program makefiles;
  • has a reliable export to .epub and HTML5 that allows you to add a stylesheet for each format;
  • exports to .pdf, which is a functionality that the Sausage Machine unfortunately lacks;
  • provides more opportunities to intervene in the design;
  • reduces a lot of the labour involving into getting metadata correct.

Downsides of using InDesign are that it:

  • is necessary to have InDesign installed, whereas the Sausage Machine just requires an internet connection.
  • has a lot of unnecessary functionalities that make the interface complicated (and therefore someone with knowledge of InDesign always has to oversee the project).
  • requires a more comprehensive guide to be written to understand how it is used in the HvA Open Publishing workflow.

All in all it requires a lot less time to set up a properly functioning InDesign template than to develop a Sausage Machine template.



The font-family, Istok Web, that was proposed in the first sprint, had to be removed and make place for Open Sans because it is the standard webfont of the HvA. Open sans has a bit of a blatant look, in my opinion, but at least it is not Arial – a font that I generally avoid working with. Open Sans has the same benefits as Istok Web making it, logistically, an easy switch. On the eyes however, it did hurt a little bit.

Other than the typography, the design hasn’t changed a lot during sprint II. Based on a meeting with one of the graphic designers of the HvA, some minor changes were made to the headings and other typographical elements of the publications to better fit the branding of the HvA. The aim for uniqueness of the series now lies completely in its cover design.

There was some experimenting with allowing images on the cover of the publications – but this has proven to be a difficult task because the publications all have to be recognisable as part of the HvA Open series and the photography has to look nice and fit within the design (which are two different things. A photo can be beautiful but not fit into the design at all). The photos allow the publications itself to be more unique, stand-alone. It is, unfortunately, near impossible (for now) to add cover photography into workflow. However this will be a consideration once the HvA Open series gets a GO once the pilot is finished



The only output that is still in high development is the .html format. The .epub and .pdf currently work fine and will be adjusted based upon new knowledge obtained through putting through new .docx’s. The reason the .html format is behind is because of the switch to InDesign. Fortunately once stylehseet has been developed, all the publications that already have their .epub and .pdf versions finished can just as easily be exported to .html. Right now three publications are finished. There is still one open spot left for a publication to fill. The publications that are ‘finished’, were rather simple (mostly texts, almost no images or footnotes, etc.) which allowed everything to convert to all the formats quite smoothly without encountering any major setbacks or problems.

Next steps

The next sprint, sprint III, is about creating the next few publications and writing guides for .docx and for the InDesign template (this was initially planned for sprint II but due to the switch to InDesign has been pushed father back into the schedule to sprint III). One of the main difficulties throughout the process has been the communication with the knowledge centres. Because the workflow is still in development nobody is really prepared to deliver a formatted .docx document with all the publication requirements and colophon information. This results into having to do a lot of the structuring by hand. Hopefully this is mostly resolved once the guide for the .docx formatting is finished.

The publications that are planned for Sprint III are more complicated and will put the already developed stylesheets for conversion to .html and .epub to the test – but that’s good – the more difficult situations encountered during the process, the more the conversion be prepared for it next time. I am also quite curious how the printed publications turn out.