The Old Studio

Great piece in the New York Times today by Michael Bierut. Made me think of my days running a commercial art studio:

And, as in every design studio in those days, we sat in the middle of a complex ecosystem of other businesses: typesetters, retouchers, paper makers, printers. All of these were based squarely in the physical world. As I got better at my job, I spent less time with my T square and drawing board and more time in meetings with clients. Still, I was proud that when a deadline was near, I could jump in and knock out a flawless paste-up as fast as any kid in the office. Like a chef, I brought my knives with me.

One day, some carpenters came into our open-plan studio and started framing up some walls. Behind those walls we were about to start a top-secret project for a top-secret client. The client was I.B.M. and the project was the packaging for the introduction of its line of new personal computers.

All of us assumed that these machines were just fancy hybrids of typewriters and calculators. We did all the artwork with rubber cement, colored paper and paint. We had no idea, but we were looking at the beginning of the end, and the end came quickly.

Read the story. That’s what it used to be like at Clark/Leonard Associates (a successor to Beacon Studios), and pratically any creative studio on 45th Street in New York.

My grandfather’s cousin, Vladimir (Bill) Tytla, in his studio during his Disney days.

One of the studios we used to compete with in the 60s and 70s was Sales Graphics, which has today blossomed into one of New York’s top presentation studios, complete with their own system (Custom Show).  Interestingly, my mother worked there as a freelancer many years ago.  Other studios, such as Chartmakers and The Presentation Department, are long gone.

I still have my T-square and some old steel rulers (with inches, picas, points and agate line measurements on it). Yes, I still use them when I’m matting and framing at home. The kids use the old oak drawing tables, too.  Oh, and I never use an Exacto — I much prefer a straight-edge razor.

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2 Responses

  1. Clark Leonard Studios! I worked there as a young art apprentice in 1982-83. Great to learn from the old pros… little did anyone know it was the last gasp of traditional hand-drawn art in the graphics industry. The digital tsunami was about 4-5 years away. It’s amazing to think of how old-fashioned it all was… people don’t remember what life was like without the ‘undo’ button, especially working in ink. And half my job was just delivering everything to the various offices; no faxes, no e-mail, no Internet, you couldn’t even show clients a color print… they could only see the work if it was physically in front of them. Ideas, comps, layouts, finished art… back and forth each time. Lots of subway rides uptown!

  2. […] Years ago, when we did things with pencils, boards and rubber cement, we all had our favorites and typeface opinions. Our layout man, George di Girolamo, liked Mistral. I’ve always liked Baskerville and Helvetica. […]

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