Longing for My Letraset

“Companies who understand the creative mind have always been rare but, in our 50 years of publishing, it is hard to remember a time when they have been more scarce. Changing technologies and tightening economics are creating dislocations, established brands are disappearing faster than Twinkies, and many companies who once embraced our magnificent market have lost their focus.” – Gordon Kaye, GDUSA Publisher

Every year GDUSA compiles a list of Designer-Friendly Companies and it seems to me that each year the list gets a little shorter. I hail the companies that have continued their commitment to the design industry but as I pore over old issues of GDUSA what sticks with me the most is the number of industries within the design world that have simply disappeared. Photo retouching studios, annual report companies and pre-press production department have all fallen to the wayside.


There is no denying that the computer as a design tool brings unparalleled opportunities but every so often I long for my Letraset. Yes, life is easier now that there is no film and I don’t have send out for type over and over until it comes back error free but there is no replacement for that varnish high. You know the one, when you are stuck in your office with no windows and have to coat that mock up before it gets shipped out. All kidding aside, the hands-on approach that I savored at the start of my career seems to be lost in this ever fleeting digital era.

I was very fortunate to begin my career at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Department of Special Publications, a division of the Museum that published gift books, children’s craft kits, notecards and postcards, featuring images from the Museum’s collections. Pure heaven for a recent Art History grad who also loved anything craft-related. Before the big book fair in Bologna I would mock-up spreads for potential books. The layouts were printed out in black and white (there were no color printers back then) and then I would have to send out transparencies of the artwork that would be scanned and output in color. I would have to size each image and then mark the transparency with a grease pencil to let the copy shop know the correct percentage for output. I would then use my trusty x-acto knife to silhouette the images and rubber cement them to the black and white print outs. And this was the new advanced way of doing things!

I am not suggesting that we go back to the “olden days” as my children like to call my younger years, but I do lament the the lost arts of the design world. Gone is the rubber cement and the art markers. Gone are the hours spent searching through Dover clip art books. Gone is the master type setter and the comp artist that could make anything look good. And gone is that varnish that used to make me especially creative!