This past Friday, along with Louise Fili, Paula Scher and Seymour Chwast, I spoke at Typographics at Cooper Union on a panel titled “The Good Old Days, The Bad Old Days,” moderated by Roger Black. It was “a conversation about the days before everyone could set their own type on a Mac. They all have different perspectives, and the experience and anecdotes to back them up. Was it wonderful to get foundry repos from the typesetter, and mix it with headlines from Photo-Lettering Inc? Or is it better now?” We each had our own betes noir.
My focus was on ruling tape and all the damage that one could do with this less-than-perfect way to make thin and heavy rules and borders on layouts. Here are the culprits:
When used somewhat responsibly, they were a comparatively easy way to make a thin or bold rule. When used with a shaky hand, the tape would never be straight, and if using parallel rules, the space would never be right, even when following grid lines:
Compounding the problem, in my case I had no training in how to make the type break the rules. I just cut out type and pasted the galley over the rules. These days it would be called Vernacular or New Wave.
There was also a tendency to use too many rules in the wrong places. The bold ones just looked so graphic and laying down tape was so, well, easy.
Thing is, these rules were not bad per se, they were the analog equivalent of computer filters, rules and gizmos without understanding either the theory or practice of editorial design. I plead guilty to that. Blame the shooter, not the gun—although the tapes were complicit.
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