Tech Tools: We've Come a Long Way!

If you are under the age of 35, you will probably not be familiar with any of the tools in an old school designer's repertoire: paste-ups, hand waxers, desktop publishing systems, etcetera. Before the information age emerged to transform this toolbox into an efficient computer, these now primordial terms were commonplace in graphic design and publishing industry conversations. Since I began my design career before the cutting edge wiped out classic design jargon, and thus the tools that created its terms, I thought I would use my own personal experiences for this post, laying out a nostalgic blast from design's past! 

Beginning work as a freelance artist in the 1980s, the industry was just on the precipice of becoming "digital." Until this digital revolution, everything written and graphic was created by hand. For instance, printing a brochure was expectedly not the quick process it is now. One would write its content and then hand it off to a professional. This professional would typeset the brochure in the format specified, creating a finished product with the chosen fonts. This process took at least a day and sometimes more. I would pick up the sheets of formatted text, making myself comfortable at my drawing board. Using my trusty but messy hand waxer, I would apply a thin coat of wax to the back of the typed sheets. After this step, it could then be adhered to a "paste-up" board, a tool similar to card stock sheets. Once the sheets of type were laid out and burnished, it was necessary to check that everything was straight with a t-square. Someone would then proof the nearly finished product. If there was a correction or change, one would use an x-acto knife to cut out the mistake and replace it with a very small, waxed piece of type. The finished product would then be covered with a sheet of vellum to protect it until its delivery to the printer. I learned a very hard lesson after leaving a stack of complete boards in a hot car for too long... What a mess!

Creating actual graphic images was an entirely different story. This is where the radiograph pens, graphic tape, and drafting templates came into play. A good example of the graphic imaging process of time's past is designing a logo without a computer., To draw its curves and intricate lines, the artist would have to use every one of these tools, utilizing vellum so that any mistakes could be scraped off with an x-acto knife. If the logo required several colors, every step would be different! The designer would cut rubylith and apply crop marks manually! 

Throughout the mid 1980s I worked in a design partnership with a friend. We were lucky to have purchased one of the first desktop publishing systems, a big and clunky black & white printer that ran Ventura Publisher. Our monitor looked like an old television set! We would often dream about owning a fancy color printer, as printing in color was not doable without a professional's assistance.

Since then, look how everything has changed! My skills have certainly evolved with the advent of web design and the evolution of design software. The amount of work I produce today would have taken much more time, money, and effort if produced the old school way. 

 

Metal Type Setting

Metal Type Setting

Hand Waxer

Hand Waxer

Graphic Art Tape, X-Acto Knives and Rapidograph Pen

Graphic Art Tape, X-Acto Knives and Rapidograph Pen

Typesetting Machine

Typesetting Machine

Apple Computer

Apple Computer