Design before the desktop computer

April 7, 2015

My name is Richard and I'm the principal of PalbergWERX Creative Direction, a Vancouver based design agency. I started my career as a darkroom technician and production artist in 1988, just a few years before the desktop computer revolutionized the publishing industry and how graphic designers and the production staff took publications to print.


Since the early 1970's, the computer was heavily involved in publishing, but the process was very limited. Initially, typesetters would use large machines, like the Compugraphic (shown below), to set type in a few standardized font and size choices. Originally, these typesetting computers were headless and a major advancement was when the cathode ray tube was added to the keyboard so the typesetter could see what he or she was doing! The resulting text was produced on a photographic paper and then developed in a quick roller bath and dried. From there the paper was waxed and galleys were cut and pasted as required in the publication or advertisements (below bottom right). If large headlines or customization of fonts was required, we used Letraset to hand burnish the desired individual letters in place (below top right). It was a time and labor intensive process.



At the publication I initially worked for, advertisements were mostly a boiler plate affair, and the production/creative department used stock images purchased from various services over sized art graphic books such as Metro to spruce up the ads.


In 1990 I moved to another publishing house that was a direct competitor to my first employer and they strived to meet the needs of their advertising clients rather than try to dictate terms.


As such, they put a higher value on creatives - it really was a great place to work!


On the right is a hand-drawn mock up for a in-house sales promotional piece. I've even indicated customization of the fonts, reverse Helvetica Condensed, and a custom curved layout of the call to action text at the bottom of the ad.



Below are two illustrated cover options for specialty publications, the Remembrance Day editon and the Delta May Days edition respectively. The painting on the left was scanned as is and displayed behind the masthead and editorial headline and text of the edition and the image on the right was used as a guide to photography and layout of the community edition of the event.




If you would like help with your next design project,

call PalbergWERX Creative Direction

at 604-356-1144 or email me at


I can help you craft images that connect with your

ideal target market and increase your investment!


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