New documentary on the history of graphic design and technology

Originally published at:


Sent this onto my dear Wife, 30 year Graphic Artist for the Gov.

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That looks like a waxer over her right shoulder. I spent a few years working in graphic production before and during the transition to Mac publishing – proportion wheels, line gauges (AKA pica poles), rule tape, boards, rubylith, acetate, light tables, x-acto knives. Looking forward to seeing this!

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my training spanned both the old and the new, so i must be a bit older than her. my first year or so i learned old-school paste-up with rubylith, x-actos, swipe files, letraset, and hot waxers. then we came back the next year and our department had a new lab filled with the original macintosh and photoshop and pagemaker. i don’t miss cutting ruby, but i still use my x-acto all the damn time.


My students always seem impressed when I demonstrate pre-digital techniques for making comps and whatnot. Even now there’s an awful lot you can’t do with a computer and digital printer alone.

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Rapidograph pens
The old Letraset machines that used photosensitive paper and a giant camera to produce type. You changed out the wheels inside to make different typefaces. The paper spooled out into a lightproof canister, then you ran it through a chemical bath without exposing it to light and let it dry. Waxers let you paste the type into place.
Giant cameras that created reverses for printing plates.
Non-photo-repro blue pencils, and preprinted templates also in blue.
Light tables, triangles and T-squares.


There are showings of the film on May 4th and 6th at the Living Computer Museum in Seattle. The May 4th screening is on First Thursday, meaning that both museum admission and the film are free! The May 6th screen will feature the film’s director for a Q&A… this is a small theater and they are using reservations for seats at the Living Computer Museum website…

Yah we had one of those photo paper processors too. Occasionally some unlucky person had to clean it. I was always shocked by the waste when a 12" wide roll of photo paper was used to print out 2-3" wide galleys.

My masters’ project involved printing whole pages (via PageMaker/Quark & a Postscript RIP) onto this paper – the composing room guys had never seen anything like it. I wonder now whether any of them saw the ends of their careers.

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