Desktop Publisher

Desktop publishers, or electronic originators, produce professionally designed and presented documents, according to specified design and presentation requirements, using desktop publishing software.

Due to technological advances, especially in the area of computers, almost all the preparatory tasks previously done by hand and on printing machines are now done on high-powered computer systems. The desktop publisher performs a range of functions, both creative and technical, in meeting the needs of a client.

In the concept phase, they may talk to clients to obtain a clear understanding of their requirements. Clients’ requirements may include preparing booklets, brochures, advertisements, in-house magazines, newsletters, training and technical manuals, stationery, and books ready for printing or publishing. They will then prepare quotations for contract work and negotiate with the client for the approval thereof. A desktop publisher may also prepare a concept document that includes the preparation of sketches and design concepts.

Once the client has approved the concept the desktop publisher can then get on with the work of designing and arranging layouts to meet clients’ requirements. In some cases the documents and drawings are provided by the client. In such cases this means the manipulation of available drawings, photographs, texts and artwork to produce a final product.

Detailed work may include type-setting, the preparation of lines or half-tone pictures in single or multi-colour separations (colour printing), making positives and negatives and preparing the printing plates for the presses.

Graphic Designers need to learn how to use computer packages such as Adobe In-design and photoshop and various drawing packages such as Illustrator. The focus of this type of design is on printable items such as business cards, brochures and posters and in the manipulation of web images to be used on websites. However, as technological advances are being made more and more design is moving online and digital media skills are required to produce websites. This does not mean that graphic designers need to become programmers. They do however need to be able to programmes such as WordPress and HTML coding to be able to build websites and which plug into the programmer’s code to make the website look good and function efficiently.

Personal Requirements

  • able to adapt to the changes in technology
  • some artistic flair
  • good colour perception
  • analytical mind
  • good concentration
  • able to work quickly and accurately even under
  • pressure
  • interest in photography

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Art or a related subjects is highly recommended
Recommended subjects: Art, Design Studies, Engineering and Graphic Design


  • An art portfolio is required to demonstrate your creativity, abilities and commitment.
  • If you intend studying towards a degree in Fine Art at university, you will need to a Bachelor's pass in matric. If you intend studying a diploma in an art-related field, then you will need a Diploma pass in matric.
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university or requirements set by the college.

What to Study

Degree: Universities offer a degree Fine Art. For example, the University of the Witwatersrand offer programmes in Digital Arts, Fine Arts as well as Film and Television at undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels.

Diploma: N.Dip: Graphic Design - most universities of technology, e.g. CUT, CPUT, TUT, VUT.

Certificate courses are also offered at various TVET colleges around the country.

Alternatively, to qualify as a photo-lithographer / electronic originator, registration with an employer providing suitable training is required. Training consists of theoretical and practical work:
  • Theoretical training: At the Southern African Printing College (full-time for 10 months) or through their Distance Learning Department (part- time)
  • Practical training: In-service training under supervision of a qualified tradesman (Competency-Based Modular Method)


  • commercial printing plants
  • book and magazine publishers
  • newspaper plants
  • stationery and envelope manufacturers
  • government departments
  • government printing works
  • manufacturers and other firms that do their own printing

Further Information

SA Printing and Allied Industries Federation 
575 Lupton Drive
Halfway House Midrand
Gauteng 2191 South Africa
Tel: (011) 287-1160

Media Skills for Africa
PO Box 289
Parys, 9585
Free State, South Africa
Tel: 084 245 2490

Southern African Printing College
Kweper Avenue
Laser Park
Honeydew, 2040
Tel.: (011) 794-3810

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work with a graphic designer
  • make an appointment to speak to a graphic designer about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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