Thursday, January 29, 2009

Creatively stranded

Been through one latte and three espressos from the good 'ole Gaggia Synchrony machine in the kitchen. I love/live espresso so much that when designing this house/studio I planned in a "Coffee Bay"—a nook housing a small sink, cupboards for coffee and cups and counters for machines and paraphernalia.

I need to come up with an annual report cover for a hospital foundation. The theme is helping visitor and local alike. I keep going back to "cookie cutter" silhouettes in a spiral or rows — really stock, first idea stuff. I am trying to conceptualize a helping hand, illustrated in typography—names of local and national/international locations visitors arrive from. I am not an illustrator, although I sometimes pull off covers and designs, illustrated from scratch or manipulated images. Know your strengths!

While looking for a digital artist who's site I recently encountered, I stumbled onto a site chock full of MIT designers. Some of the work is quite dull but innovative in its own way. aesthetics and computation illustrates what you get when you cross computer geeks with innovative technology. I have seen this before, when I was struggling with early cold typesetting for a catalog with lots of type runarounds. One of the engineers handling the machines spent a night
creating a grid that would give character counts in any line length on an 8.5 x 11 inch page of text — an aid to typefitting. The only thing was that most typehouses handed out guides for calculating various character counts per inch for various common fonts and sizes. I broke it to him gently—he was such a nice guy, I debated even telling him, but I thought it was my duty to defend my industry.

This all gets back to the idea of illustrating with typography. A touchy business.

I will post the solution when the project goes to press.

Cold type—The evolutionary step up from hand-set lead type. Type on photo paper created mostly by shining light through film masters moving at high speed. (Google "Compugraphic typesetting) You had to calculate how much type would fit in your design space, then hand it off to a specialized "typehouse" who "set" it on a page for paste-up. You marked up the first print to get rid of widows and put in line breaks, paragraphs, leading adjustments, and then sent it back for a final. Sometimes, the typehouse would print out a rough copy first in order to save on photo paper and development costs.

Paste-up—Illustration boards laid out with page/spread sized guides on which you "pasted" your cold type sheets. The cold type sheets were glued in place with rubber cement or wax, and hopefully stayed on the board until they were photographed and plated for printing.

None of this will help you today, as computers do it all very nicely and digital imaging takes several of the board/film/plate out of the equation. Although some print jobs that exist only on film might still be plated the "old way," but not very often.

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