How the Mighty Computer Changed the Industry

In the ’70s, graphic designers used rubber cement, kneaded erasers, X-acto knives, proportion wheels, border tape and illustration boards to create advertisements, brochures, logos and other products.

In the mid-80s, technology came together to create the Corel PageMaker computer application. This started a revolution in graphic design by drastically changing the process. When desktop publishing (DTP) was born, many aspects of traditional graphic design were laid to rest. This change in tools came with a change in the daily tasks of graphic designers, as well as a change in the educational requirements and focus of study. If you’re thinking of going into graphic design, NorthOrion can assist you with finding a school and preparing for your career.

A Typical Day in the ’70s

As a graphic designer in the 1970s, you’d start out by sketching your ideas in accordance with the client’s directions. Then you’d create a mockup showing what the finished product would look like, complete with the dimensions, colors and professional appearance. The goal was to make the mockup look as much like the finished product as possible so that the clients could verify whether it matched the idea and message they were looking to project.

Once you received the client’s approval, you’d move forward with the project by preparing the illustration board. After drawing crop marks with a graphite pencil on your illustration board to help you keep track of your margins, you’d start mapping out the final draft. Using rubber cement or wax, you’d paste on paper or photography plates as placeholders for the images. From there, you’d calculate how big the type and leading needed to be so that the text would fit in the allotted space. Then the text specifications would go to the typesetter and the project would go to the printers.

Before the whole job was printed, the printer would hand you a copy to approve. This was your last chance to catch any typos and correct any problems with the color or layout. It was a lot of responsibility to check the proofs because if you didn’t catch the mistakes in time, they would be printed.

Computers and In-house Production

Computers simplified the process because more of the work could be completed in house. The computer applications included fonts, font sizes and leading options, eliminating the need for a typesetter. The process also became simpler because you could begin working on the final project immediately. The flexibility of computer applications allows you to easily make changes. The digital format of the projects made receiving the clients’ approval faster because you could now send it to them electronically. All of these changes streamlined the process and made it more economical. Computers allow one person to do all of the tasks that used to require an entire team of designers.

Computer technology marched forward, and graphic-design software improved along with it. QuarkXPress replaced PageMaker, giving graphic designers more control and flexibility in their work. More than a decade after that, Adobe released InDesign, which has increased functionality and is now widely used in the graphic design industry.

Design Is the Key

Because the tools that designers use have changed, so have the educational requirements. What used to be a more design-heavy education has become a predominately technology-heavy education. While the focus may have changed somewhat with the advent of design software applications, quality design is still paramount. No amount of computer tools or clicks of the mouse can eliminate the need for flawless design.

The key to becoming a successful graphic designer in the 21st century is to have not only a strong understanding of the computer skills required, but also the eye of a designer to be able to create artwork that will deliver the message in an effective way. Graphic degree information can assist you with finding an education program that can help you develop and fine-tune your eye for design.

  • andrettibrown

    Thank you for the very nice post.

  • Brian McDonald

    I started my career in desktop publishing (DTP) and saw the major impact this had on the creative and printing industry. My new job slowly eliminated the need for a stripper, typographer, layout artist and other pre-press production professionals. Some of the larger vendors started incorporating digital design into their services while others struggled to keep up with the introduction of new digital reproduction technologies. It gave the DTP a greater level of control of the final product.

    Enjoyed your article but wanted to let you know that Corel never owned Pagemaker. Aldus was the first software company that created Pagemaker then sold it to Adobe in the mid 90s. Corel bought Wordperfect and bundled their DTP suite of tools that never held a candle to Adobe’s products. I once threatened to resign a marketing director job if they did not ditch Corel for Adobe!

    • Kimberly

      Thanks for your comments, Brian, and for catching my mistake regarding PageMaker. You’re correct in saying that Corel didn’t own that program. Also, I agree with you – and pretty much everyone else – that Adobe rules when it comes to DTP tools.

  • Brian McDonald

    Kimberly also wanted to agree with your main point. Tools are tools and you still have to have talent and taste to pull it off well. Anyone can mash up a page, an ad, a poster, whatever the media. Few can make it rock that it stops people when walking by that they have to stop and ask, “What is that?” in a good way!

    Thanks for the memories of “Corel Hell”!!

  • Scott

    As some one who’s grown up with computers, I couldn’t imagined difficult it would be to do anything creative. I certainly can’t draw by hand. Interesting post, thanks for sharing.

  • Sereionka

    Thanks for the memories of “Corel Hell”!!

  • Andre

    In real, all changes, the future is nanotecknologies…