Upsetting Typesetting

Having had my MW Publicity interview with Mary, and then spent an afternoon with studio manager (and future mentor) Rod the deal was two more trial days (a Thursday and Friday) and then start work on the Monday. During those two days I was taught the very basics of a paste up artists art, that is the pasting up. In these pre Mac days we used artboard, blue pencil, Rotring pens, prints from the darkroom, photo traces, and phototypesetting. All held in place using a wax based adhesive applied with a heated roller.

Rod was already well ahead on some datasheets with the boards drawn up and all logos and phototraces in place. He was just waiting on the typesetting to come in. So my task for those two trial days was to paste the words in the right place. On very strict instructions I was to find the correct typesetting for each datasheet, carefully cut it out with a sharp scalpel, wax it on the back, position correctly and squarely, roll it down and clean off any excess adhesive with a patrol based cleaning fluid.

This was all terribly exciting, for as a kid I had made my own magazines and comics by cutting pre-typed text and drawings from paper and using Pritt Stick to stick them on A4 sheets ready to photocopy. Although there were differences this was the professional version of what I had done before and I felt like a proper commercial artist. Of course being new there were occasions where I would be told to redo a page because the text wasn’t square, or I had mis-positioned it, sometimes by only about a millimetre. All a great learning experience.


Monday came around and I started work properly. Basically doing the same thing, cutting and pasting text on artwork. I also had my first training session in the darkroom and progressed to pasting logos in situ as well! Now I can’t remember the exact situation, either Rod was out for lunch, or in a meeting, or dealing with a supplier. Anyway he wasn’t around when the production manager turned up with a very urgent job. Quick turnaround, no time to wait for Rod, had he shown me how to paste up typesetting? Bingo! My chance to shine.

InstaText_21We produced a printed newsletter for a client in the medical industry and they had changed a lead article at the very last minute. The printer was on his way to collect the artwork so it had to be now. I was given the artwork and the new typesetting with instructions on what it was replacing. I carefully removed the old article, gently cut around the new one, waxed it on the back, really concentrated as I put it in position on the artwork, and rolled it down safely. Then it all went wrong.

I got a clean cloth and the artwork cleaning fluid and gently cleaned the wax off the new typesetting. Were my eyes deceiving me? Did the text look a little fuzzy? I must have got something on it. So I gave it a proper rub with the cloth and felt my stomach drop in horror as all the type ran and smudged in to a black, unintelligible mess. Panicking I tried to clean it some more before I realised that I was making it worse. The artwork was ruined and could not go with the printer.

I was convinced my fledgling career was over and I felt sick. I was horrified by what I’d done and couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. Of course I confessed and, as always in these situations, those who could fix it did and I was left until later. The printer was told come back on the Tuesday, Rod took the ruined typesetting off and cleaned up the artwork, replacement typesetting was ordered which would be there first thing. All through this I sat to one side wondering if I could get my job back at the library.

Of course, once the crisis was averted and everything was going to be OK, if a day late they came back to me to explain. It wasn’t my fault, as it happened. No one had explained that we used two types of typesetting, phototypesetting which I had been using the previous week and what was know as IBM typesetting which was far cheaper and used what was essentially fancy typewriters. It was this IBM typesetting that was used on the newsletter and as the type was a form of ink rubbing with a petrol based cleaner would cause the ink to smudge and breakdown alarmingly. My career was safe, no one blamed me for not knowing about the different types of typesetting and not knowing how to use this different type of system. It was just mistake and I was to stay with the business.

The following morning I bottled the offer of re-doing the page with the new IBM typesetting and left Rod to do it. I had been pretty shaken and it would be several weeks until I felt confident enough to deal with that kind of typesetting again. Not the best first day at work.

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