The DIY graphic design/publishing revolution of Letraset

Did Letraset invent the process of rub on letters, or get it from elsewhere? Because I think before I knew about the letter, in the late sixties I was given some sets of animal rubons that worked the same way, but I can’t remember if they were branded “Letraset”. Thise were great fun, animal artwork that you could place where you liked, without needing to be an artist.

I never did much with actual letters, but in the eighties one coukd get rub-on traces for laying out printed circuit boards. Rub them on, and it would act as resist when you put the copper circuit board in etchant to dussolve the copper where you didn’t want it.

This really was “revolutionary”.

6 Likes
2 Likes

I know they’re not letters but these were the absolute best cereal prize ever when I was a kid.
My mother may not agree, they got put on everything
http://cerealoffers.com/Cereal_Partners/Shreddies/1970s/1975-79/Battlestar_Galactica_Action_Tr/battlestar_galactica_action_transfers.html

6 Likes

I could never bring myself to use rub on transfers (they looked too cool), just like I couldn’t cut up magazines or comics to get coupons.

6 Likes

Back in 1974 I had a summer job, just me, white cardboard and what turned out to be hundreds of sheets of Letraset.

The multi-storey Provincial and County courthouse was due to open in September of that year and the interior signage was not going to be available. So I was hired to make up temporary signs, that included Floor directories, door signs, court signs, directional signs and some emergency signage. Got it done and months later the permanent signs started to arrive.

Things I learned:
When using large letters don’t move the sheet a hair while transferring a letter.
New fresh sheets are the best!
Government signs use a lot of O’s and R’s which can quickly disappear from a sheet making it junk.
Always have somebody else proof read a sign, misspelling in public view in such a place just is unacceptable.
The local distributor of Letraset must have had a good mark-up on the expensive sheets they seemed really, really happy to see me ordering more.

These days it would have been a much shorter duration job with computer graphics and large format printers, it was a good tool for the time though.

Still remembering it with a smile all this time after, but I have never shaken of my fear of embarrassing Miss Pelling. (-:

4 Likes

I went to design school in the early 90s, which was a weird transitional time; most of my professors had taught since the late 60s or mid 70s and insisted on teaching us to use Letraset, rubylith, hand-spec’d type, etc. We weren’t allowed to use computers at all. But then the young TAs would sneak us into the computer lab and show us Quark and Illustrator when the profs were out.

The weirdest was working at the school paper in 1994. We’d lay it out in Quark, print it out, then paste that down on big sheets with hot wax and use letraset, rubylith, and rub down shading as needed. No PDFs yet! That was years away.

6 Likes

Back in the 1980s, I remember being told, by the lecturer who took us for typography, that everything we learned about movable type would be pointless by the time we finished the course.

4 Likes

I still have boxes and boxes of Letraset. Hundreds of sheets.

1 Like

I was a little after this. We had lots of computers but were taught to set things manually using wax paste-ups and the PMT machine. I’m very glad I got that education.

This post sent me to eBay, which happily informed me there are still oodles of dry transfer decals out there in the model railroading world.

1 Like

Never had a Letraset. But I did have its heir-apparent:

marvel%2001

6 Likes

nothing worse than doing a headline and realizing you left a letter out. still gives me the sweats 30 years later.

3 Likes

2hvdz7

5 Likes

Or, the kerming.

4 Likes
6 Likes

Kerming is my favourite Muppet.

8 Likes

5 Likes

I was in school about ten years ago, during a window in which they had stopped teaching Quark but were still using Flash (shudder) for the bare-bones web design instruction we received. I don’t think I ever saw a job listing that called for Quark skills.

2 Likes

I save all my Ctrl X items in a file. That way I can Ctrl V them back in some future document. I detest wasting anything.

3 Likes

Ah yes, Letraset! That really takes me back, I got a job with a small print/publishing firm in my home town, and the Letraset catalogue was one of the most used publications we had, along with the Mecanorma catalogue, which had some different fonts/type styles which would occasionally come in handy.
The company had a primitive photo typesetting system, made by Addressograph-Multigraph, but the range of fonts were limited, and there were no display fonts, so Letraset was essential. Helped develop a good eye for kerning as well.
Anyone remember PMT’s? Photomechanical transfers?
Absolutely essential with Letraset, if you found you were short a few characters, you could do multiple PMT’s of what was available, then carefully cut out the needed characters and stick them in place with Cow Gum or a hot wax machine. Or Spraymount, but that could get very messy!
So could Cow Gum, a favourite trick was to carefully slice through the paper label, and stick it back on upside down, then take the lid off and quickly invert the tin, and put the lid on the bottom, which is now on the top.
Then wait for some hapless soul to pick up the tin… :crazy_face:

3 Likes