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In 1987 I was working in a professional studio and was for the first time introduced to the wonders of fonts. The bible during this time was the Letraset catalogue, just like you would choose a font on a word processor this tome allowed you to select fonts at leisure, comparing type styles from an ever changing range.

It was a skilled job, a font could make or break a product so it was important to get an eye for such things. I was generally tasked with the job of typesetting the Letraset on whatever product or campaign the studio was working on, a laborious task given only to the lowest but over time I came to appreciate the skill that went into good typesetting.

For a simple job it wasn’t easy, for a start you needed a good understanding of English as each letter had to be rubbed into place from a transfer sheet. Any mistakes had to be erased using a scalpel and everything had to be straight and perfectly spaced out. A far cry from the ease with which we adjust text today. Most computer users will be used to capitals and italics all changed at a mouse click, ours required a new transfer sheet, one for annotations and I some cases one just for numbers. But the results were to behold, my previous letting experience was using mapping pens and templates when producing architectural plans so the absolute neatness was something I loved.

It didn’t stop there though, Letraset was big stuff and went on to produce architectural symbols, art sheets and something else I loved called Letratone and Instatext. The Letraline bottom right is not a CD, we were still on cassette tapes during this period, it’s actually a roll of rub on lines. The only computer in the studio was an early Apple and was used just as a design detail storage in text only.

These were exciting, they allowed you to rub varying degrees of halftone or patterns onto accurate areas in days before printers could effortlessly produce them. I spent hours creating my own cartoons and half toned them like the professionals. So a simple drawn cat was transformed into a scribbly haired character in seconds.

But the big change in learning all these new things way back in the late 80’s was this, Pantone reference shades. The studio I worked in had all 500+ of these shades and they were guarded like the Crown Jewels. They allowed designers to accurately replicate colours used in the printing processes and each came with their own code that helped harmonise to whole system through the design industry. This was where I first started to learn and understand colour. Although Pantone references shades are now incorporated into software the 500+ shades I worked with all those years ago will contained in large felt tips with hard nibs. The feeling of holding one of these chunky professional felt tips for the first time and being entrusted to colour in a project was awesome.

I only mention this as I have just found my old Letraset catalogue where these images come from and it made me realise just how far we have come in such a short time. Twenty six short years and pretty much all the skills I witnessed and learned are now done in a fraction of the time and all on computer.

It’s a faster evolution than the first Industrial revolution which occurred from around 1760 with new manufacturing processes up to around 1830-40, a period of some seventy or so years. It caused turmoil with its speed of change then, imagine how the period of change we are part way through will be described.

Although I embrace change, technology and the benefits it brings I cannot help feeling we are bordering on overload. Already I have over a hundred passwords, pay almost every bill online, conduct my business through social media and talk to my bank through a telephone controlled computer with voice recognition. My websites take constant maintenance, emails require time for replies and generally the older I get the faster more things become. It’s not an age gap, everyday life is now based on reaction time rather than being given time to react and that I find quite sad.

Anywayz, spk2u 2mrow, google it doofus. Amazeballs, lol.


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