Vintage Graphic Design Tools – Tribute to paste-up artists. 

Came across my old reduction wheel the other day and realized how long it been since a mathematical calculation was required to resize a photo to fit a page layout even though I continue to crop, size and adjust photos every day in my career as a graphic designer.

In the mid 1970’s I worked at the Mississauga News on the night shift with the job description of paste-up artist. At the time it was Inland Publishing but merged with Metrospan in 1982 to form the community newspaper chain called Metroland Publishing Company owned by Torstar.

Newspaper publishing was very different in those days, it took a large staff of “composing” and “prepress” professionals. Most of these jobs are completely obsolete now. Thinking back now, it was certainly not the most environmentally friendly operation. We used stacks of broad sheet and tabloid sized cardboard page flats once and discarded, rolls and rolls of chemically treated typesetting paper and photographic paper not to mention the gallons of processing chemicals. To top it off, most of us chain smoked cigarettes, so it was a smoke filled environment where cigarettes were left burning in ashtrays constantly over a 10 or 12 hours shift.

We used hot waxing machines to wax the typesetting paper ready to cut and paste into columns and border tape cut with exacto knives to make boxes or border a photo with mitered corners. Every photo, clip art and logo had to be sized to fit (with the reduction wheel) and shot on a stat camera in a dark room, processed in chemicals, waxed, and cut and pasted onto the page flat. It was really a fascinating process if you followed the production of your weekly or daily newspaper from start to delivery to your door. It was huge business in those days before the internet, newspapers were our main source of news, advertising and information.

Enter Adobe Photoshop

In February 1990 Adobe Photoshop 1.0 was shipped, digital imaging was born, changing the publishing industry forever and many print production workers across the world, myself included were force to make difficult career altering decisions. As I saw it, there was two choices, find a new career path or embrace the technology. I chose the later with no regrets.

Enter QuarkXPress

In the 1990’s QuarkXPress was the dominant software in desktop publishing. Newspaper publishers, magazine publishers, graphic design firms – everyone used QuarkXPress. This was the beginning of pagination and desktop publishing was the way of the future.

Enter Macintosh

QuarkXPress early versions were developed only for mac and a Windows version was not released til the mid 90’s. Mac computers were first to display a variety of fonts with smooth on screen display which is how Mac became the computer for “for artists” and every production house was armed with one or 30 as in the case of Metroland.

This was really the end of the era when you could choose one profession and stick with it for your entire career. When composing and prepress departments closed and digital publishing took presidence there was a constant learning curve. As anyone in technology today will tell you, things change every 20 minutes and you have to constantly change and evolve to stay in business.

So any of us that have survived in this industry deserve credit for staying flexible and open minded and willing to learn something new and keep learning and asking questions.

Eventually almost everyone I know was “let go” from our jobs at Metroland, many have successful careers as artists and some took a different path completely. I got my package in 1995 and NextPage Desktop Publishing was born that same year. 25 years later, still in business but dropped the word desktop from my name because all digital publishing is desktop now a days. But if anyone out there is still cutting and pasting for a living I’d love apply because those were the good ol’ days for sure.

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