The subject of production is hardly one to rouse an editor's passions. Nevertheless, it has to be mastered, if only so that you can entrust it to others. Production is central to the magazine editor's job. Editing a magazine is an essential part of a manufacturing process: it adds the value that turns a bundle of compressed tree pulp into an object worth buying.
As an editor you may not be responsible for the physical quality of that object, its printing and its binding, but you do require it to be done well, and on time, if your work is to achieve its optimum effect. That means the editorial part of the process has to be completed with the maximum efficiency. Editorial pages must be provided at the right time, they must occupy the right spaces and they must match the physical requirements of the printing process, in terms of size, shape and colour. This is a matter of copy-flow, scheduling and the flat-plan.
Copy-flow is a complex matter. It determines the whole sequence of events from initial ideas to the final departure of whatever the editorial team releases, be that old-fashioned pasted-up pages and bags of transparencies, optical disks full of page layouts, words and picture-handling data, streams of electronic digits down the telephone line, or even, in the near future, finished printing plates.
There is no single linear thread. At various points in the process, things happen simultaneously. There will be numerous 'feedback loops' where work, once done, has to be assessed and if necessary done again. And, to add to the complications, the schedules for several issues will almost invariably overlap one another.
Given these difficulties, it is no surprise that most editors inherit someone else's sequence of events and decide to stick with it, rather than to start with a clean sheet of paper-or perhaps a stack of paper-and work out the most logical way of doing things. The tried and tested way may work, but it may also depend upon a particular combination of circumstances and