Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Heritage in Typesetting

For some people, it's the happy tune of Green Sleeves as the ice cream truck comes hurtling down the street which reminds them of their childhood. For others, it's roller skating up and down the driveway for hours on end in the afternoon, and refusing to remove said skates at dinnertime. For me, it's the smell of fresh ink, climbing on dusty piles of paper in storage rooms, and the loud CLUNK - CLUNK of the letterpress machines which takes me back to the good ol' days.

I don't know about the whole nature/ nurture debate, but I believe I was quite possibly destined to be a graphic designer. It's in my blood. Back in the days before 'graphic design' was even a career option (and one could change a font with the quick click of a button), my grandfather, Alf Pausey, was a typesetter and printer. He ran his own print business, and donned his blue overalls every day to head to "Poppa's work", where he'd carefully set letter by letter, line by line using copper and zinc printer's blocks. I remember his hands were always covered in ink. When the pages needed to be collated, it was done by hand in the back room – overseen by Margaret (who always had an Arnott's biscuit for me).

When Poppa wanted a new typeface, it wasn't quite as simple as downloading what he wanted from myfonts or dafont. He had to invest in a few new timber drawers full of letters – in all the different point sizes he thought he'd use. And I get the feeling that when a client made a change, it was never as simple as opening an Indesign file and re-typing.

Thanks, Poppa – for the precious heritage you've passed on to me.

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