When I Was a Designer, Life Was Nice

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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I stopped actually making graphic design 20 or more years ago. Being an art director meant that I could keep my hand in but did not have to do it. The film Graphic Means, the wonderful new documentary by Briar Levitt now showing around the United States, reminded me of the blood, sweat and tears of designing when the technology was slow and cantankerous. It also inspired me to look up a few of the hundreds of things I did between the age of 17 and 21, some of which are below.

For ROCK magazine, where I was art director, I designed The Original Rock ‘n’ Roll concert programs—cheap little two-colors-plus-black items on 50-pound newsprint stock. We would gather as many of the old doo-wop groups as we could into a photo studio and try, if they’d let us, to do now-and-then photos. Brad Holland did one of the covers, Don Lewis did the other.

Every quarter we’d produce a Media Report for ROCK. I had a thing for Busarama type. I also drew the number 4 with my own tools. Since I never learned drafting in school, the results were oddly proportioned. The photographs were made on a Stat King and printed with a continuous line screen for high-contrast results. The color was made with ruby overlays.

We had a Phototypositor. It was the greatest typographic invention since moveable type. I could optically play with the scale inside the machine and if necessary cut and paste elements that would further quirkify the type. I loved making advertisements for ROCK. Aside from the poor wordspacing in the body copy, these ads still look kind of cool.

I was co-publisher and art director for MOBSTER TIMES. My greatest joy was extending the ‘R.’ Other than looking like a malformed leg, it had no purpose other than to line up with the word Times. Nonetheless, why not? It was my magazine. This was a promotion for the magazine that mixed crime, politics and scandal … you know, everyday life.

For a number of years I designed the original Video Documentary Festival catalogs. Global Village was a pioneer in video journalism, and its director, John Reilly, was a good friend. This cover was illustrated by the surrealist Phillipe Weisbecker, who was well-known for his New York Times Op-Ed illustrations. The rest of the pages were based on some image that represented each video; whether or not they were taken from the actual video did not matter. Everything was a paste-up using veloxes (halftones) that I carefully cut with an X-Acto knife and waxed on the page.

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