We had Apps for everything in 1985/86.

1986 provided me with the first large corporate logo assignment since joining Baseline in 1985. The tools and skills necessary to carry through successfully on this assignment seem antiquated now and were far less forgiving than the wonderful Mac and apps I use today. No command Z’s (multiple undoes), if you made a mistake, you simply had to try to fix it or start over.


(click to enlarge)

1986 tools and our design for the Miraclean and Alberta Plastic Logo identity. (click to enlarge)

Through review of this project – not the most compelling identity package I’ve designed – I wanted to demonstrate how much dexterity, knowledge and shear determination was required in the 1980’s to design a logo and produce the myriad of artwork required for all applications to print, vehicles, building signage, etc.  The visualization of these tools are a small sampling of the required skills  to effectively start and finalize a graphic design project from start to finish. Other professionals required in completing a similar project required; typesetters, stat camera operators, paste-up artists, prepress houses, all employing highly skilled individuals.

With the introduction of computer generated design and illustration, a seasoned designer now takes on most of the roles described above and more, using applications such as (but not limited to) the Adobe Suite, for print, display, multimedia and the web. The time it took to visualize concepts, present to a client via pdf, to final production on approvals has been so condensed you can’t begin to grasp that a simple identity assignment for a new company from start to finish would take at least two months in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Meetings at the beginning, through to the end of a project, would take up an inordinate amount of that time, sending a pdf and video conferencing wasn’t an option then.

Making minor changes to design elements essentially meant redoing the work over for a second time – from scratch in most cases – and lo and behold a typo within the body of a complex 4, 5 or 6 colour, complex brochure. Proofing was an absolute key to your survival along with appropriate hard copy sign-off from your client, at all stages, ensured that they too were diligent before moving a project forward to an ever increasingly expensive change.

Print and display production was very expensive in the 80’s and the majority of large identity packages where designed using one or two colours only. Logo’s had to work in basic black and white (as they still should today) and be equally effective in news print as well as 175 to 200 line screen high end lithography. Now with stochastic printing those limitations have virtually disappeared. News print technology has improved to such a level that 4 colour logo’s stand up well in most print mediums. Of course there are still challenges facing the designer when working with colour such as RGB and CMYK variables, interpretation across a much broader range of applications. But to have gained the broader freedom from the restrictions imposed as a result of line screen settings, and the liberation from cost prohibitive use of colour, the designer of the 21 century is only limited by imagination.


1 Comment

Filed under 25 Years of Baseline

One response to “We had Apps for everything in 1985/86.

  1. The photographic lack of apps for 1985,1986 was also nonexistent. Art directors of the time, including those at Baseline, demanded transparency (slide) material. Slide film was and is extremely sensitive to exposure (called poor latitude in photography) so we photographers had to make sur before we pressed buttons. In many cases the photographer could not return to re-take photos that were not salvageable as they might be now. But there was one advantage .There was no hit or miss type of approach (wasteful it is) to photography where one took many shots to see if one good one would result. This old technique of making sure was a combination of consistency and discipline.

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