Fascinating video of graphic design process in the pre-Photoshop Mad Men era

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That’s how I learned to do it at a JuCo in the mid 90s.

I was in design school in the mid-90s, just as the shift from physical to digital printing was happening; half of my classes involved early versions of Illustrator, Photoshop and Quark while the other half were taught by the “old guard” who taught us how to use rubylith, letraset, and rapidographs (often with a young TA rolling their eyes the whole time). I’m happy that I had a few years of working at the college paper, which still used mechanicals; we’d lay out our type in Quark, print it out in chunks, and paste it onto newsprint-sized graph paper with a thin layer of hot wax.

While I’m nostalgic for the days of Xacto knives and hand-cut lettering, I’m so glad PDFs exist now.


Rubber cement? pros had a hot wax machine!

I graduated from DAA at the University of Cincinnati way back in 1986. I moved out west to be closer to the epicenter of the digital revolution after co-op experience in NYC and Chicago. We did a video for our senior project and it was made with two massive VHS players and a finger on the pause button. Now that was tech by gum!


As a '96 grad from DAAP, I’m a little freaked out by the distinct possibility that you and I may have used the same ancient hot wax machines :slight_smile:

(And by the “old guard” in my previous post, I mean Profs. Salchow, Schenker, Probst, and Bottoni)

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  1. Dilute your rubber cement 1:1 so it dries quickly and very thin;
  2. Use it to assemble your presentation mock-up;
  3. Pickup all the excess rubber cement of your work;
  4. Stop worrying about the thing coming about apart while it’s sitting in your hot car.

I worked in a design house for a while in the late 70s. There were some amazingly talented crafts-people there.


Robert Probst is now Dean of DAA§

I have a funny story about Gordon Salcow. I nearly dropped out after the first week of his lectures. Man it was hard to sit still for three hours while he went on and on and on. But I persevered, learning to wander an increasingly elaborate internal mindscape, traversing fantasy worlds more vivid than an Oculus Rift. In my senior year we had a fund raiser: a chili dog eating contest at Skyline with the students pitted against the professors, Gordon being one (he was actually a good sport under his safari jacket facade). We enlisted my neighbor Frank, an architectural student and a veritable mountain of a man. Bets were that he could eat 20, no 30 conies in 8 minutes! On the morning of the contest, I went to the shop to act as his judge, just to ensure he wasn’t taking a few home in his pockets. But Frank didn’t show, and didn’t show. So as the starting time approached, the guy who coordinated the whole thing sez, “You’re taking his place” “But, I just ate a bacon and egg breakfast!” “Sit! Eat!” and so I did. A few minutes in and suddenly the crowd is screaming “you’re winning! you’re winning!” so I ate faster still. Eight conies in eight minutes (no onions or hot sauce, no time). Harder than it sounds. At one point the guy who coordinated the contest is eating next to me, looks over and sez thru a mouth full of cheese “You’re a machine!”

I had to be driven to my girlfriend’s apartment where I lay for about a day digesting this enormous bolus of Skyline. I heard later that Gordon ‘relived the entire experience at 3 AM’. Revenge!

The best part was as the winner I got a $100 gift certificate for the rotating restaurant over in Covington. The runners up all got gift certificates for Skyline. Revenge! best served with hot sauce and some oyster crackers (we actually have a big container of ‘spice packet skyline’ in the fridge right now - mmmm lunch!)


Oh man, I can’t tell you how much I miss Skyline here in Boston. They think Cincinnati style chili is heresy out here.

Here’s my little Gordon story. The day before our classes started, we had a little “welcome to DAA§” lecture by someone who’d graduated in '90 or so. They told us “Ok, don’t worry about Gordon. He has his schtick that he’ll pull on you to scare people off. The first day of class, he’ll lay down on a table or some desks and yell ‘DECISIVENESS!’. He’ll probably write it on a chalkboard, too. And when you have your first crit, he’ll look at all the art on the walls, then tear it all down, stomp on it, and storm out without a word. He does this stuff every year. Pretend to be shocked.”

So we were all prepared when he did exactly those things, in order, as described.


You can get the spice packets to make your own skyline on amazon, look for Cincinnati Recipe (will bb get an affiliate link spiffback?) I add some cumin and dark cocoa powder, use a potato smasher to get that not quite blended texture.

Your Gordon story made me laugh! He was doing that in the fall of 1981! I’m sure he refined it over time, but that is hil-a-ri-ous that he did that year in and year out for decades.


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Front page? Copyfitting anyone? Sheesh

[quote=“enkidoodler, post:4, topic:63776”]
Rubber cement? pros had a hot wax machine![/quote]
I only ever used diluted rubber cement for constructing mock-ups or mounting stuff. For composition, it was a waxer all the way.


shhhh! I’m concentrating on cutting this rubylith for the seventh time

I always pick up a few spice packets when visiting home in Ohio; they have them in the airport and in grocery stores. My friends love the stuff as long as I don’t give it to them on spaghetti, which they think is just too weird. Coneys are okay, however!

So, weirdly, my class was the last one to go totally “analog”. We weren’t allowed to touch computers in any of our classes until 3rd year; we were expected to learn how to use Photoshop and Illustrator on our co-ops (which I did). The rest of our classes were taught using Plaka paint, xerox machines, and rapidographs. The class behind mine had a whole different curriculum, all computer-based as they transitioned to “communication design” and the short-lived “computational design” majors. It feels weird to be part of the big transition and then to go off and co-op at web design firms in SF, but it was an amazing experience.

Was a trade magazine editor in Montreal back in the early '80s, worked pretty closely with the art department, did a number of the illustrations and often helped with the layout (my background was fine arts). Hot wax it was. No worries about mechanicals in hot cars - the printer and their offset presses were next door (in the same building).

No worries about typesetting turnaround either - the Linotronic typesetters were in a room off our offices, and we had a brand new IBM PC running Wordperfect so we could sneaker-net PostScript files on floppies to the typesetters (how modern!). I believe we had to massage Wordperfect’s output a bit, but it’s so long ago I could be wrong. I wasn’t working on or with computers back then. My copy went in longhand to the secretaries (!) who entered it.

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Pleased to find there are still those who say ‘swell’. And in colour too.


Sadly, this is a little short and cursory (I’d love to see the whole actual process!), but still extremely enjoyable to watch. Takes me back to the few times I’ve visited my mother at work when she was still using her huge drafting table before her architectural office switched to SPIRIT and later AutoCAD. I’ve always been in awe of the precision instruments and tools people used for graphical work before computers and the craftsmanship/artistry involved.
Every now and then she still gets out her Copics and Rotrings instead of printing out a 3D rendering to present finished work, and these hand-drawn pictures are simply works of art.

Where’s his glass of scotch?


Inside him, most likely.


Just an FYI. There are a few companies (like the one I work for) that still make custom Letraset style dry transfers.

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