Back when the pen tool was just a pen

As I sit staring at my 27” display, mouse entombed in my hand, I take for granted the ease in which I do my job. I’m not suggesting that the creative process is any simpler, that hasn’t really evolved over time. But the actual designing – the making – is leaps and bounds easier than what I would be doing if I held the same role 40 years ago. The world has moved from the tactile to the trackpad and the toolset to create for either has been completely transformed.
I began my career on the computer, naive to the processes that my profession was built upon. Thankfully in my recent internet traversals I have uncovered a couple of design history gems that shed a little light on how things used to be done.

Before there was Photoshop

Up first is a video that looks at how a Mad-Men-era advertisement would have been designed in the pre-computer world. There was no “let’s try this in Futura” or “I’ll just stick a gaussian blur on that”. Instead you had to order type with a day-long lead time, and the only way you were getting a gaussian blur was if you were well and truly inebriated (which if Mad Men is anything to go by was actually quite likely).

Data visualisation in 1939

Hailing from a time when ‘infographic’ wasn’t even a word, and tucked away in a scanned, digital archive, is Graphic Presentation. A book from 1939 about how best to graphically display data. There are some really amazing pieces of content tucked away on the internet, and this happens to be one of the most unique I have seen.

I really love how many of these fundamental rules are still in play today, so please, scan your eyes over as much as you can take in. If you have to look at ONE part of it, jump to page 366 and take a look at Suggestions for Making a Chart, it’s great.