I’m waxing nostalgic today—about my favorite type specimen book from Phil’s Photo. On the East Coast at least, in the 1970s and 80s, Phil’s Photo in Washington, D.C., was one of THE places to order type. I used them all the time.
The process of laying out an ad or marketing piece back then went something like this: I’d pull a page from the specimen book, tape it to the deck of my electric-blue Goodkin Lucigraph, then trace individual characters on Bienfang Parchment Tracing Paper to produce headlines for the layout. On occasion, for a big presentation you’d have actual type set, but that was the exception, you’ve got to remember, at that time setting headlines on a Typositor cost as much as $4 per word.
Then you’d get out your pens and markers, rough in images and the logo, indicate lines of body text with squiggles or double lines, and spray mount the finished layout on a piece of Bainbridge Illustration Board—bingo, ready to present.
How did we get anything done?
When I posted a version of this elsewhere, someone quipped, “How did we get anything done?!”
Good question—with all the craft knowledge and expertise that was required to accomplish anything in the pre-1985 design world, it’s a wonder we got as much done as we did. In that pre-digital world, most of us did specific jobs:
Typesetter of Text
Typesetter of Headlines
Print Production Manager
and so on…
In the last 30+ years or more, I and many of my colleagues played many of those roles ourselves.
Good for you
My sense is, if you managed to make a living in our business in the last 30+, with the myriad of changes you had to navigate and adapt to, you deserve a pat on the back. We’ve gone from…
Film Photography to Digital Photography
Airbrush Retouching to Photoshop Retouching
Pasteup/Darkroom to Desktop Publishing
Metal Typography to Computer Typography
Conventional Media to Online media
Print Production to Web Development
and so on…
Much of the time we spent working with our hands, doing craft, has slowly been replace by typing and moving a cursor around a screen. Most of that change is good, some is not—just about everyone will agree, it’s been fascinating to be a part of the transformation.
Homage to the Alphabet and Phil’s Photo
Years ago, Phil’s Photo became Phil’s Fonts. They even sell a typeface based on the binder design: Homage.