It’s been roughly 30 years since the desktop computer revolutionized the way the graphic design industry works. For decades before that, it was the hands of industrious workers, and various ingenious machines and tools that brought type and image together on meticulously prepared paste-up boards, before they were sent to the printer.
The documentary, Graphic Means, which is now in production, will explore graphic design production of the 1950s through the 1990s—from linecaster to photocomposition, and from paste-up to PDF.
Message from the director.
I have amassed a vast collection of design production manuals (1960s, 70s, and 80s) from the Goodwill over the years. As the stack grew, it became clear I was naturally drawn to this period of design, and the skills and processes that went along with it. I missed these production methods by about 12 years (I started studying design in 1996), and worked almost exclusively with a computer during my education and after.
I had some vague knowledge about production before the Mac, but it was only based on brief references my teachers made, or the little-used-tools that remained in various studios I worked in.
It occurred to me that if I knew so little, my graphic design students know even less! So with this, I set out to document the tools, processes, and people, of this brief moment in the design world.
I hope you join me along the way!
PS: Major props go to Doug Wilson and his team, the makers of Linotype: In Search of the Eighth Wonder of the World. Watching that film clarified so much of what I'd missed in the previous decades of typesetting. And it charmed, and entertained while doing so. If you haven't watched the film yet—go do that ASAP!
Graphic Means will premiere at the ByDesign film festival in Seattle on April 15th, 2017. New screening dates are being added all the time, so check back. The ByDesign website is still in production, but you can see last year's line up here.
April 16: Streaming link to eligible Kickstarter supporters (anyone who donated $25 or more)
Spring/Summer 2017: Film tours festivals/events/institutions worldwide (get in touch if you would like to host a screening: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Summer 2017: DVD (and other incentives) mailed to eligible Kickstarter supporters
September 2017: DVD for sale online and Vimeo On Demand streaming available
Early 2018: Availability on other streaming platforms like iTunes and Amazon
Paul Brainerd: Co-founder of Aldus (producers of Pagemaker)
Steven Heller: writer, educator, designer
Cece Cutsforth: designer, educator
Tobias Frere-Jones: typeface designer
Ellen Lupton: designer, author, educator
April Greiman: designer, author
Ken Garland: designer, author, educator
Malcolm Garrett: designer, educator
Lucille Tenazas: designer, educator
Gunter Rambow: designer, educator
Bernard Stein: designer, educator
Walter Graham: author, paste-up expert
Dan Rhatigan: typeface designer
Frank Romano: design historian, author, educator
Adrian Shaughnessy: designer, writer, publisher
Carolina de Bartolo: designer, writer, educator
Ilene Strizver: production designer, educator
Gerard Huerta: lettering artist
James Craig: author and educator
Lou Brooks: illustrator, curator of The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies
Gene Gable: designer, writer, consultant
Ian Swift: designer
Joe Erceg: designer
Briar Levit (Director + Producer), is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Portland State University. Her professional graphic design practice consists primarily of publication design, identity, and packaging. She cut her teeth as an Art Director at Bitch magazine, and still maintains a close relationship with the organization. In addition to this, she makes self-initiated work that is centered around visual representations of nature and place.
Dawn Jones Redstones' (Director of Photography), is a Latina DP/Director best known for her award-winning short film, Sista in the Brotherhood. She is the 2016 recipient of the Lilla Jewel Award and was named a Woman of Vision by the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce. As an artist, emotionality and feminism are strong themes in her work. She’s currently writing her first feature film.
Emily Skaer (Motion Designer), is an enthusiastic freelance motion designer, illustrator and midwest refugee. Her interests lie within narrative storytelling, character animation and bright vivid colors. She enjoys exploring all that Portland, OR has to offer and is happiest with her cats.
Norm Chambers (Composer), is an electronic musician from Seattle, making music under the moniker, Panabrite.
Julie Lesseg (Website Design), is an interactive designer + developer with a passion for the pixel sized details. Julie enjoys exploring new ways to translate the beauty of print design to screens of all sizes. Her passion for interactive design comes from her drive to create immersive, meaningful, and beautiful digital experiences.
Michael Braithwaite (Grant Writer), is a freelance writer and professional fundraiser. When she's not dwelling on the intersection of fashion and dystopia, she's usually writing grants for artists, writers, filmmakers, and youth advocacy groups.
Lauren Bratslavsky (Researcher) Assistant professor with a focus in communication history, television studies, new media, political economy, and archival theory and practice.
Ashley Haight (Production Assistant + Grip) is a feminist folklorist from Florida who likes alliteration. She is happiest on a set collaborating with other creative women telling liminal stories.
Kate Giambrone (Promotional Support), is one half of the design duo, Bologna Sandwich. She's responsible for the wonderful A–Z of Graphic Means illustrations currently being released daily. Check them out on our Instagram account.
Rachel Littlewood (Intern), is a graphic designer based in London. Traditional processes and handicraft are important in her design practice, and she particularly enjoys experimenting with printing techniques.
Tricia Leach (Intern), is a graphic design major at Portland State University.