1985, Vancouver witnessed; Rick Hansen, beginning his round-the-world Man in Motion tour in a wheelchair, Mike Harcourt was Mayor of the city, the rapid-transit system SkyTrain, opened and design work began on Canada Place the future Canadian Pavilion for Expo 86 and we where experiencing a terrible recession – nothing like 2008-2010 – and I was invited to join Baseline as a graphic designer, at the time a 12 member cooperative, typesetting and production house.
Baseline was located on the second floor, in what was known as the old Harry Hammer building, an unappealing slab concrete structure, where walking up the flight of stairs was faster than waiting for the elevator to access Baselines cavernous, 1200 square foot space. Uncovered concrete floors, unpainted concrete pillars, an uninspired 1970’s paint scheme and the hum of what was at the time state-of-the-art Agfa phototypesetting equipment, a stat camera and darkroom, paste-up stations with home-made light tables and not a great deal to inspire a young graphic designer, other than the professional and incredible skills of the typesetters and other equipment and knowledge required to produce design for print back then.
Baseline had a very rudimentary identity and limited marketing material to sell our services in what was a very competitive Vancouver market. Clients consisted of book and magazine publishers primarily, individual designers, and the odd small business or service provider. A few of these clients required minimum design work, certainly not enough to keep a young and determined creative designer challenged and gainfully employed.
So a few months into the job, I set about convincing the other members we needed a unique identity, a general brochure/typesetting style guide poster and a professional stationery package for attracting new clients. We had to convey good design skills, technical capabilities and the dexterity to handle all aspects of work for print or display and hopefully a pay cheque for all, commensurate to all the new clients we would draw to our door.
So Baselines first identity (colophon) was born, a combination of typesetting, hand drawing – using rapidographs – solid paste-up skills and the ability to test the artwork at all the necessary sizes using the stat camera. We did a small market test with existing clients, internalized changes and alternatives as a team and finally sent our print ready artwork, via courier, to press with a prayer.
All the marketing items, double-sided, single fold business cards, stationery, poster and brochure would be printed using 3-pms colours plus black, an expensive affair in 1985. I slowly added larger and more rewarding design assignments, fully utilizing our internal capabilities and always proudly handing out my unique business card when the opportunity presented itself.
Clouds were brewing though, and the advent of what derogatorily would become known as desktop publishing started to creep into view as the next big thing in the graphic design and production business. That will have to be another blog, but it dramatically changed Baseline from being a 12-member, multi-talented company to two members, David Lach and Ian Bateson, to ponder the adoption and huge learning curve the new fledgling desktop technology would demand of us, if we wanted a part of the brave new world.
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