Photo Typeface?

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  • Cory MaylettCory Maylett Posts: 213
    edited February 13

    The superior cameras were horizontal...

    I realize that this is very boring info, but I write it here for the historical record!

    We always called those cameras process cameras. At the newspaper where I worked, they were reserved for the union people's use in the back shop. Those of us in the editorial side's art department needed to make do with an Agfa stat camera. It was still in a darkroom, though, since the PMT paper was light-sensitive.

    As for boring, yeah, I suppose so — at least for those who weren't there.  ;)
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,478
    edited February 13
    I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I sometimes removed pages from specimen books for my DIY headline type—not valuable old books, but cheap trade paperbacks sold in art stores, such as Dover editions or similar—if they wouldn't fit under the stat camera.
  • Mark, I'll forgive you if you forgive me. I'll say that it led to the good types you make now! 

    One shouldn’t be overly sentimental about such things, but I should say that we learned a lot about letterspacing that way and, if we were really persistent, about ALL of the typefaces that were out there. (One could legitimately claim to know such a thing—or something close to it—back then.) We weren’t just browsing, we were hunting in earnest. The knowledge served me well forever after.

    Photography and type hung around together for a while, but they were never such good friends. One of the problems was the chemistry, which if you let it get old, would produce gummy or faint repros that didn’t match the earlier ones. Another problem, of course, was that it was a one-size-fits-all world, controlled by an enlarger lens.

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,415
    The Robertson we used for camera copy was pretty good, but it took 2 men and a boy to run ;-)

  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,867
    The other thing those who don't remember the photo type era may not realize is how much time was spent just making sure things were square and straight. With digital production, it takes extra work to make things crooked or uneven.
    I’ve always been amazed at how well manually composed pieces were put together. When I was in high school I took drafting classes and I couldn’t even keep my work straight with straight edges and triangles.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,415
    and you don't even have to do paste-up ;-)

  • I began working with metal type/letterpress in the 1970s, when it was being phased out as a commercial medium. For me, it was the deliberate stance of someone who was deeply interested in historical books and music. Along the way, my metal type would be used mostly for repros that would be pasted up for offset printing, sometimes combined with headlines produced by other means. Eventually, the economics of my graphic work—no longer a sideline—dictated that I make use of photocomposition for text and I struggled to find types that were acceptable to me, yet I managed to make do. It was an era of mediocrity, and I often detested it, but it was also a time of constant change, which I welcomed hopefully. That hope was fulfilled by the Mac and PostScript, which even in their early incarnations showed the potential for making things as good—and eventually better—than ever. 

    I do remember a time, in the late 1980s, when I was using a Mac happily, but missed all the types I had at my disposal via my photocopier. The photocopier was replaced by a scanner and I assembled type by hand in Photoshop and Illustrator, just as I had on the paste-up board. But I have to confess that I missed the tactility and it took a while before I adjusted to looking straight across the desk rather than downward. It was around that time that a colleague of mine, a very accomplished designer and later a highly regarded teacher of graphic design, told me that she really missed paste-up. I could never say the same thing. 

    Mark Simonson said:
    With digital production, it takes extra work to make things crooked or uneven.

    For sure! The period between the decline of metal and the advent of the Mac really sucked, yet it worked brilliantly for those who embraced its intrinsic grittiness. Doing work like the famous example below was a natural for the medium of paste-up, whereas I can’t help but see the same thing produced on a computer as an imitation or an affectation.


  • The period between the decline of metal and the advent of the Mac really sucked, yet it worked brilliantly for those who embraced its intrinsic grittiness.

    Today, the design and production phases of any project overlap to the point where there's hardly a distinction. I've always missed the paste-up and mechanical-building parts of the job — the tools, the materials, the processes, and tactile aspects of building a physical thing as opposed to moving pixels around on a computer screen.

  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,478
    edited February 14
    I miss it too, but not enough to go back. :smile:
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