Category Archives: ancient history

Due Diligence

rail crossing

Rail crossing, San Joaquin Valley, Dec 2010

Over the years at various jobs, I had downtime. Sometimes for several minutes, occasionally for days, even a week or two. Reading the papers got old. So I began to practice working on problems.

In the paste-up days, I’d xerox and make assemblages. It kept me nimble. Later when the agency I worked at went digital, I’d set up problems and situations for myself in Quark. Yes Quark, the Error 39 Dark Star of my firmament. While the guys next door were sitting in their office with their fantasy baseball leagues, I was skulling out the business of how this goddamned program worked.

Sooner rather than later, I began to encounter actual old-school typographers who’d washed up into ad agencies. They worked with the invisibles on, frames and all. I was hooked. They willingly taught me about style-sheets. Often times I’d outrun the then-feeble processing capacity of the machines I was working on.

As a freelancer I always had to stay ahead of the full-timers. They had a certain security, while I could be more obviously bounced. That is an unfortunate trade-off, one less and less certain as each new day passes in these grim times.

I too became complacent. Until one day I realized I need to know a whole lot more about Photoshop. So off to night-school I went, and discovered that for over fifteen years I was a mouse gnawing my way around a very large cheese. I’d never cored into the program.

Now I was scared. I went to school for the next 2-1/2 years. Always night, on my own dime. That way I didn’t owe shit to anybody. I’d hear from guys I’d worked with over the years the following statements. You might know them too:

  • I’d go to class if somebody paid for it
  • I’ve been meaning to do this
  • It’s too expensive
  • This shit’s too hard

When I started into Photoshop night school, it was about 18 months before the economy went straight into the shitter. I had several classes, one of which was blighted by a perfect storm of self-centered overtalkers, in over-their-head clueless, and some people who just didn’t take it seriously. One night, I’d had enough, and opened up a can of whoop-ass.

“For those in this class who haven’t noticed, the economy is about to go into the toilet. There are some of us in here who would like to live in a better quality of cardboard box than at present. If you don’t have anything positive to contribute, I’m going to ask you to [shut the fuck up], because your talking disrespects the professor, your classmates, and mainly yourselves…”

Dead silence.

The situation improved slightly. The instructor’s hands are tied, because they can’t tell these idiots to shut the fuck up, because then said idiots would cry that their rights had somehow been violated, and so on. For the record, I’m a stone-cold liberal, but this manner of disrespect I will not abide.

Time took care of them. By 2009 the poseurs and clueless were gone, replaced by a full class sitting stock still, eyes forward, terrified by the economic apocalypse unfolding daily. However the “Special Olympics” mentality is deeply entrenched. Too many expect somehow that just showing up gets them a finisher medal, and a victory lap around the track.

And that’s when getting into a community college was easy. Now that education funding has cratered,  just try getting into those classes. They are probably twice as expensive, and half as long as they were before.

What are your choices? Maybe its what you have to do.

But back to my working life. I make war on bad layouts inside the InDesign Creative Suite, currently 5. I taught myself the mysteries of tables, because where I work, they live and die by them. And I was fed up with working on weird-ass legacy documents where the previous operators had glued all kinds of random shit together with drawn rules, color boxes, tab-delimited text boxes, floating in an ambiguous space, with no definite margins.

Which you’ll never see if you work with the invisibles off.

Here’s the bottom line, ducklings: if you think your skills are the end-all and be-all, you are sorely mistaken. Because they probably aren’t. So if you aren’t going to school, and you go home and drink, watch whatever’s on TV, maybe you ought to slice off an hour and begin to study a problem. Put it on a flash drive, and take it to work, and when shit ain’t happening, study it there too.

All this is out on the webs. Ask the question. And here’s the hook: When you’re sitting at work, surfing, you’re slack. You’re not engaged. Eventually people notice.

But this requires a spark of intellectual curiosity.

So. What are you going to do about it?

“Kid, it sucks now. You shoulda been here two years ago!”

The day after I graduated, the day before I left.

After graduating from college, I moved to Los Angeles in June 1977, after an eventful trip west on my mortally wounded ’75 Suzuki T-500.

The first place I lived on my own was a dumpster apartment complex in Van Nuys, Located on the corner of Victory and Fulton Blvd, it backed up to a dinky strip mall on Victory Blvd. California Donuts, a CPA, laundromat, maybe a dry-cleaners. It was right across the street from Jimmy Smith’s Supper Club, where Jimmy held forth on his Hammond B-3 Fridays thru Sunday nights.

Immediately across the street was an Alta-Dena Drive Thru Dairy, where you could buy milk, smokes, and the LA Times for a dime (but not all together). Down the street was Changing Times Hair Salon, owned by the irrepressible Juan Lizarraga; “Hair styled by Pierre of Pacoima, formerly Walter of Watts”. But that was in the future.

The traffic was constant, the air gritty with smog, and the neighborhood was relentlessly ugly. It seemed all the trees were several blocks away.

The apartment building itself was a faded 2-story courtyard complex with an alligator pond for a pool. I looked at the apartment the day after my grubstake arrived after being lost in the mail for three weeks. I’d been staying with a college friend whose young marriage was dissolving, the job she’d lined up for me had evaporated, and my wheels were a gigantic beast of a Dodge ’71 pickup truck to replace my dead motorcycle.

When I walked into the courtyard, the pool was half-empty, with several of the mullet-headed vato chicas with their KISS Army t-shirts and heavy eye makeup standing around looking at it. The rental agent was glad that the unit was occupied, and vanished seconds after I wrote the check.

Everything I owned in the world fit into the corner of the apartment, which was $200 a month. That night I went to a Lucky supermarket, wandered the aisles, wondering what I was going to feed myself. I remember buying fish, white rice, household stuff, and a mop. Then I went home and made dinner, and ate it in silence.

As the days passed, I slowly began to come to terms with my new home. The building manager was a rowdy Filipino with a large fish-tank. The Vietnamese extended family lived in one of the 2-bedroom units in the back; the patriarch, wife, daughters, grandchildren, and the Anglo son-in-law. There was a spectacularly ugly Chicana who lived upstairs, and had a face an iguana would’ve loved. She entertained callers at all hours.

The Filipino vanished after a late-night drunk-fight with one of his homies ended in a sickening crack of his fish-tank, followed by a dead-silence, then 50 gallons of aquarium and fish hitting the carpet. He was replaced by a married couple that used their 2 small boys as basketballs. Tom, the husband, was a comic-book palooka with a room-temperature IQ. The wife was a porcelain-faced, Cupid-bowed mouth, heavy-hipped foghorn whose profanities were loud and memorable. Nothing she said was ever less than 90db.

I looked for work. Navigating this very large, strange city was exhausting. My truck got 8mpg with a tail-wind, had one locking door, and a concrete-splattered bed, minus the tailgate. The FM radio had 3 options; KBCA for jazz, KROQ for low-wattage New Wave, and maybe KMET for what’s now classic rock. It was the Ultimate Chick Repellant, which might as well have said “Never Get Laid” on the sides. I’d park this beast next to Jags, Benzos, anything that looked better than me. Nobody jacked my portfolio.

Looking for work here was only somewhat better than looking in Cleveland two years earlier. Now I didn’t have a fallback. This was it.

“Aw kid, it sucks now. You shoulda been here two years ago!”

“Didja go to Art Center? You shoulda”

“Ohio what?”

“Art Center”

“Art Center”

“Art Center”

I kept at it because I’d crossed the Mississippi with the express intention to escape Ohio. I got a hand-typed rejection letter from ABC. After that, the mailbox was empty most of the time. My dad sent a large box with paperbacks he’d plowed through and tossed. There were days I didn’t leave the apartment.

One day I got a call from a tiny magazine I’d interviewed at. Was I still interested? Uh, yeah. I was down to my last $150. It’d taken me 3-1/2 weeks to find a job. Now I had  it.

Only later did I understand how lucky and fat that was.

Looking for Summer Work, 1975: A Fugue in 2 Parts

Dog Star In Red Dwarves

In 1975 I was a horny, depressed graphic design major. Maybe that’s a given, but I also had vague notions about finding some kind of work for Summer ’75. With a heavy heart I decided to look for ad agency work in Cleveland, Ohio, which at that time had the most agencies in Ohio.

My European summer of ’74 was a fond memory, and no offers were forthcoming. Ginger, the girl I’d hooked up with on that trip had family in Cleveland; but was either in school in Connecticut or at the family escape at Sanibel in Florida. She made herself very scarce.

Hard times had begun to stalk the Rust Belt. The ’73 Energy Crisis was still being played out daily. Coal was four times more expensive than it had been two winters before, and all the power plants burned coal. Legacy steel mills, auto, and other mid-century manufacturing had just been stabbed through the heart, and would never recover their previous glory. Ever. Welcome to the new economy, kid.

The first trip was in early January 1975. I stayed at the YMCA, went to ad agencies and showed my student book. The responses were polite, guarded, tepid. The city was bone-cold. I wore what passed for good clothing; non-jeans, street shoes. I froze my ass off.

At night I’d head back to the Y, and look out the window at the corner liquor store/carryout across the street. It was dead. The steam-heat was alternately comforting and stifling. I’d look at my dress-clothes as they came out of the pack, read whatever paperback I had, and wait for the morning. In the morning I’d go to a diner down the street and eat, hot coffee and something, and head out.

I plodded on for several days. No leads, but I got into more than a few agencies. My theoretical job began to look like an ever-lengthening line that curved over the horizon. Finally, I beat it back to the bus station for Athens, with brave promises that I’d do better over Spring Break.

School started up again, I buried myself in classes. Living at home was not fun, and I had a non-existent social life. It was a self-perpetuating cycle, with no clear escape.

Spring Break loomed, and I made plans to go back up to The Mistake On The Lake. The Sunday afternoon bus trip to Columbus was a reefer-madness comic episode. There were 3 or 4 exuberant young black guys in the back row who had a very large cassette-tape boom box, and a lot of dope. They lit up, and as the bus rolled on to Columbus, the bus slowly filled up with reefer smoke. Meanwhile the tape deck started playing slower, and slower. The mix tape was songs recorded off the radio, with the ends clipped as the DJ would back announce over the end of the song.

B-A-C-K-S-T-A-B-B-E-R…..

On the outskirts of Columbus, the bus passengers had essentially passed out. Finally somebody went to the bus-driver, who opened a wing-vent. A writhing snake of smoke collected itself, and like out of a movie, got sucked out of the bus. Everybody woke up by the time we pulled into the bus station.

The trip to Cleveland was muted. No joy here. I stayed at the Y one night. Then I opened my wallet and realized that I didn’t have enough to stay at the Y. Checking out, I found a SRO cheap-ass hotel—Hotel Bolivar, if memory serves, on 9th St. Walking up the single-width stairs to the buzzer-locked cashier’s window, I rented a room for the next two nights. He handed me a key, a dirty look, told me to read the rules, and buzzed me in.

Walking a maze of jumbled hallways that were painted in cast-off colors, I found my room. It was clean, dry, and barren, opening to an airless airwell. It made the Y look like the Ritz. Here I was. Time stretched on forever.

The first night was punctuated by footfalls in the hallway, faint snorings and phlegmy coughs by men who’d smoked their entire lives.I took a shower in a dim, blighted room that looked like it came from a prison-camp yard sale. Rarely have I showered so fast.

Note to the traveller: Celine’s “Journey to the End of the Night” is not light and frolicsome reading. Save it for when you have lots of money, on a beach somewhere. Also that night I lost any remaining taste for Tom Waits, who was then a boho fave with his “Nighthawks at the Diner“. Here there was no romance; only old, tired, used-up, broken men.

The few days that followed were more futility. I rotated in and out of agencies. One agency studio had middle-aged men sitting at their drafting tables, reading paperbacks. Nobody made a sound, so the bean-counters wouldn’t hear their inactivity, and fire them. It was foreboding.

My slender finances permitted a day-old loaf of bread, bracketed by 2 cups of watery coffee I got somewhere. The Y, with the vending machine, and the corner carryout was a mirage. Ghetto life in its full ’70s glory was on full display. Street-life characters could only afford one aspect of the Look; the apple cap, the chunky shoes, the high-rise flared pants. The rest of their outfits lagged a decade behind.

I threw in the towel on Wednesday. Caught the bus outta there, back down in painful slowness to Columbus, then back to Athens. The closer I got, the slower it became. I lulled myself to sleep with notions that it wasn’t always going to be this cold and bleak, and somehow I’d have a job, and get laid more often than not.

Once I got to Athens, I started walking through the deserted town,  out to Rt 50, and hitched a ride out to Albany. I then walked the last 2 miles from Albany out to the farm. I think I walked up the road to the house that semi-gray, raw March day, and saw Laird schooling a horse in the ring. Arnold was holed up in his office. I changed back into my workwear.

That summer I was a poorly-paid camp counsellor to the children of rich Texans in New Mexico. I nominally taught art, and having never taught art, made shit up. It was terrifying. I’d gotten out of the mud for 6 weeks; got drunk, fell in love, became fast friends for the summer with people I never saw again.

21 Questions In An Unsettled Time

Abandoned 1920s Billboard, N of Mojave CA. 1989

Abandoned 1920s Billboard, N of Mojave CA. 1989

I was contacted recently by a student who is going to be graduating this spring from Brooks. She included a survey and asked for answers so she could figure out her next move.

Tell me about yourself and your business.

Self-employed freelance print-production expert, with a sideline in photo

Where did you go to school?

Ohio University

Why did you choose that specific school?

A complicated story. There was no choice in the matter–my dad taught photo there, and with a faculty discount I paid (you’re not going to like this part) $79 a quarter (1973-77). However I had to cover all my own school expenses, while working nearly fulltime at his wife’s boarding stable. Much, much later I discovered that my grandparents had salted away money for my education…

What was your major?

Graphic design

How did you get started after school?

Looking for entry-level jobs. Got a job as a paste-up guy at a tiny magazine for $4.50/hr

Did your schooling prepare you for the industry?

Not really.

What are your most effective methods in growing and sustaining your business?

Being adaptable, learning new skills, learning old-school techniques and processes. Showing up on time. Meeting deadlines. Not being a dick.

What was the greatest challenge in starting your business?

Overcoming the terror. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Is there any particular methods you would target and approach clients?

Be honest. Get a mentor

What are your favorite strategies of promoting yourself and your business?

Word of mouth. Social networking via LinkedIn/facebook. Its not surefire, but it helps.

What is your branding method or strategy?

Selling my experience.

What is the job market like in your market for new college graduates?

Really bad

What is the competition like in the industry?

Fierce

What is the competition like in your geographic area you promote and operate your business in?

Same as above

How do you determine your pricing?

1/ not being a CraigsList low-ball dick.

2/ realistically cover your costs, because this is a business

What would be your advice to a recent grad from a photography school about art direction for a career?

An effective art director is somebody who understands that looks alone are not going to make truly effective or interesting advertising.

I had a teacher who observed that fashion advertising is a world where the rules of gravity are suspended. I read W because the photography is alternately wonderful and horrifying, and gravity-free. Like the recent Marc Jacobs stuff where models are in a swirl of what appears to be mustard gas. Those are somewhat interesting images, but missed opportunities for art direction and design. By contrast there were some Chanel ads that were brilliant in their understated strength.

Are you growing as a business or entity?

I′m trying to grow my business as a specialty photographer using vintage cameras and film. Since my work is not insta-deadline driven, its a set of techniques like an illustrator

Would you recommend going to marketing classes or seminars?

depends on who’s teaching them. Get on a photo/designer list, ask questions, poke and pry. You’re trading money for talk.

Do you attend seminars?

Yes, very selectively

How is changing technology affecting your business?

Too numerous to mention. Suffice to say I watermark every image I post. Yes, its a dick move, but until I get paid for that image, its there, at 5% opacity, and meta-data’d as well.

What advice do you have for a student photographer desiring to enter the business?

Get ready to work very, very hard. Some joy, a fair amount of heartbreak. The stuff you thought was soul-deadening in school will probably pay your bills.

CODA

I mentioned my dad taught photography. Every quarter hed review the numbers for his Basic class:

450: annual number of students in Basic Photo [150 x 3 quarters]
100: number of students accepted into Intermediate, annually
25: number of students in Sr Class
10: number of students as graduate students
1: number of students making their living in photo, 5 years after graduation

This did not take into account the photo-journalism shooters, which was a different program. The numbers may have shifted over the years, I don‘t know.

I sincerely wish you the greatest success in your efforts. I really do. Hopefully the soundings I offer will help in some way, and not be discouraging. If I can be of any other assistance, let me know.

You Will Fight The Way You Train

chill

Game face courtesy of Glenn Mitchell, summer 2004.

There’s an anedote I keep coming back to.

I had a prof in design school named Larry Simpson. A real hard-ass. Larry, wherever you are, I hope you are as core as you were back in the day. He told me an important story, which I’ll get to eventually.

The sophomore undergrads typically hated Simpson. Too hard. Not nice. Translated: not indulgent of whatever solipsism was current.

First assignment was given out on a warm September Monday morning. A week later, there were a class of spanked poodles. Everyone’s first efforts had been x-rayed and found completely wanting. I was right in the first rank of the Newly Chastened.

We quickly found out that illustration is a serious business. You rendered it right the first time. White-out was cake-frosting, a scorn magnet. As the class worked through the assignments, it began to lose the flab. People’s work started getting more muscular.

He threw different techniques at us: pencil, markers, color, stipple, pen and ink, the works.

Assignment concepts were a mind-benders. His favorite was Erotica. He showed us some of his stuff—think Helmut Newton with a very sharp 2B pencil. Sultry, icy long-legged, high-heeled vixens in garter belts squatting precariously over sharp pyramids while SS guards restrained snarling Dobermans. The paper was immaculately white, shadows were black, and there were no smudges anywhere.

The class was stunned into a deeper silence than normal. He reminded us that the assignment was full color, and coolly suggested that Hallmark Card soft-focus was for losers. But if you had to…whatever. Class dismissed.

I staggered out thinking “Now what?” What did I directly knew about erotica?

“Isolde burst into the stable, her dark hair disheveled from her sprint. The sudden arrival startled Obelisk, the prize stallion cross-tied in the aisle. Rugbert had his back turned to the doors whilst brushing him down. Isolde’s perfumes wafted across the stallion’s nostrils, and he reared up on his massive hind legs, eyes flashing and trumpeting his surprise. His mane caught in a gust, rippling in the afternoon light, echoed the snorting and trumpeting ringing from the rafters”

Ask a hungry man who’s only read cookbooks to describe eating a roast goose. My experience inventory was slight. This called for flat-out comedy.

So I went home and started a woodblock print on a scrap of 1 x 12 x 13″ softwood board. I lived in a continual construction project as my dad and his wife built their dream house and horse barn. And since I lived at home, that was free, in a manner of speaking.

I sketched out a comic scene: a shaggy satyr, mincing on an Arcadian meadow. In the background was a Greek column, with cypress trees. The satyr had a loopy toothy grin, beefy muscular arms, two limp wrists, and a raging phallus. And directly in front of the raging phallus was a panicked chicken, flapping its wings for dear life, tail-feathers fluttering in the air.

Monday morning all of our work was up on the crit rail. Everybody was awkward and oblique. This was a sore and tender nerve being plucked.

Larry walked in, and began to survey the work. He examined all of the pieces, matted to varying degrees of competence. He stops in front of my piece, studies it and then turns and faces me.

“…This is…obscene!

I’m stunned. Obscene? Him? Me?

“Uh, Larry…you’re the one who’s got naked chicks squatting on pyramids!”

The class guffaws.

“You got the assignment, but you forgot this was to be in full color! I’m dinging a grade level for that!”

Damn. Guess I could’ve hand-tinted it. I got tunnel-vision on that one—not the first or last time. So I got a “B”. And I loved him for it.

Coda

Much later he told me the story I mentioned earlier.

He had a prof at the Art Institute of Chicago. Old-school man in his sixties, VanDyke beard, Mr Punctual. All work was to be on the crit rails by o755. He came in at 0800, locked the door behind him. Woe to you if you were late.

He’d light a cheroot, and silently begin at one end of the class. He’d examine each of the works until he reached the end. Then he’d turn around, and begin to flick the works he didn’t want to look at on the floor. Silently. Then at the end, he’d turn around and begin to critique the ones that were left. And flick cigar ash on the floor.

When Larry finished, I found myself wishing there were about ten more of him in the Department. But I didn’t know why for many years. This bygone prof was cueing his students that art school was also a vocational school. And they were going into a harsh business. He was doing them a favor.

Now What?

I think about that a lot when I go into various shops. Or have a squalling can of worms blow up in my face. There have been times when it all was going to hell and the only thing that saved me was the harsh experience I’d had earlier where I’d learned that I could get it done. It’s an inescapable part of the business. Most of it cannot be taught, only learned. And Larry’s prof was a lonely exception.

BillyWare’s Twin Monsters

speckled_rv

The Ghost Is The Machine

Edward Tuffte and Peter Norvig have done brilliant dissections on PowerPoint with all its attendant content distortions. David Byrne has also taken a chilly look at it, and found it appropriately ironic. I find no irony in PowerPoint. Only a burning, passionate hatred.

I reserve a lesser dislike for MS Word. Its shortcomings are misdemeanors to PowerPoint’s felonies. In the production realm, most matters of content have already been adjudicated. So I’ll confine myself to the below-the-decks, boiler-room procedural dynamics of working with these blighted text-shapers.

The Greater Evil

PowerPoint is a digital Fisher-Price tool kit turned loose on a construction site. It has a cute yellow saw, with 4 round friendly teeth. It also has a cute red hammer. However the saw don’t cut, the hammer don’t drive. But it replicates itself with ease, pages and slides that bludgeon all in its path to moronic stupidity—kinda like Barney.

After 16 years of Quark, I knew too much. I had to take retardo pills to bring me back to the basic level of design & conceptual incompetence to work the PowerPoint levers. Like other incarnations of BillyWare®™ (with the possible exception of Excel), it begs to be noticed. In addition, it has a pre-fab, pre-chewed, clunkiness about it.

That is merely the application aspect.

A PowerPoint doc arrives into your workspace, borne by the account guy/gal who will want it imported into a document/leave-behind/chart. The designer or art director groans, and they’re backing away as fast as possible from this happy-footed tar-baby that has wandered into their midst.

The account people are puzzled/miffed and profoundly indifferent to your suffering. Just—Make—It—Work. Exit, stage right, with their “Triple Westside White Girl” No-Foam Drive-Thru Coffee beverage.

Thanks. Deadlines loom.

The first order of business is to get with the art director/designer to divine the intentions and manifestations of the originator. Extracting content is not a simple question of cut-n-paste. If it was, like transit-mixed concrete, the first plop out of the chute would be identical to the last splat.

How much of this weird formatting is really necessary? Are all these bullet points necessary? Why do sentences get chopped up?

When these questions are posed to the document donors, most of them shrug, say “…oh” and are generally stuck for an answer. Here’s a hint: they don’t know either. Its like drinking Cosmos. You kinda know its bad for you, but it goes down so easy. Watch them at the next office party.

When all else fails, appeal to the intellectual vanity of the author, and subtly suggest that their brilliance is not being well served. Occasionally, it works. And everybody is somewhat happier. This way a lot of stylistic cheez can be ditched so it won’t taint the overall presentation. After all, the agency is trying on some level to present a shaped view.

Nothing Except The Words.

I have a similar skepticism about MS Word. It’s a word-shaper, not a design/layout program. In my jaundiced opinion, it should have 2 fonts, in three iterations (roman, bold and ital), in one point size. No boxes. No columns. Period.

And once upon a time, it used to be that way. It came from an IBM Selectric II.

Another Ancient History Diorama

Perhaps some of you saw this at the Renaissance Fair in a re-enactment. Bear with me.

During the Last Golden Age Of Advertising, a copy deck would show up on the designer/art director’s desk. This was also the time when phones rang, there was linoleum in the hallways, and people smoked in their offices. And more than a few had bottles tucked away in desk drawers.

The lucky designer or art director would get out the copy-casting ruler, and go to work. Mark up the text, send it out, and then the type house would get it back to you in 12 hours or so. Look at the galley tissues, make edits, and then go to final. Or roll the dice, get lucky, and slap down the repro galleys on boards, and hope nobody screwed up.

Funny thing, though. Nobody really read type until money had been spent. I noticed this across the board—from small type houses to the big leagues. And it wasn’t cheap.

I knew a guy in 1978 who quit being a production artist, and went to work for a very prominent type house here in Los Angeles. Within six months he was off salary and living quite nicely on the commission. His golden route was the Miracle Mile on Wilshire Blvd, where most of the groovy and lush ad agencies were located.

Being a type salesman was a good way to get yourself into a Porsche 911 and an expanding waistline with the expense account lunches. Another type salesman I knew was dismayed when he found out that the Warner Brothers account we bought type for was being absorbed into the larger corporate portfolio. He wailed “I just closed on a new Carerra!”

Never mind that my partner and I were looking unemployment in the face. It was a harsh lesson on priorities.

Not everybody played ball though. I knew an art director who loved nothing more than to take the obligatory expense-account luncheoneer to La Luz De Dia over in East Los Angeles. La Luz was a 3-stool daytime taqueria with a day-laborer local vibe. The type salesman would be making sure the rojo or verde didn’t splat his tie while keeping an eye on the 911.

These good times came to a crashing halt by 1992. The major type houses here in Los Angeles either folded or reinvented themselves as service bureaus. And this is how you became a typesetter. Which brings us back to MS Word and Powerpoint.

Returning Again To His Dork Matter

Word and PowerPoint have “design” features to enable the design-illiterate to make presentations look cooler. Nothing helps a bad idea better than a gaudy effect. Often-times an alert production person can make sense of nonsense that has passed through the agency process unchallenged.

Its harder to think clearly than to just press “Print”.