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There is far more to the creative process than learning how to use software and configure hardware. This blog addresses them.

 

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Journey author Robert Davis is the owner and creative director of Atlanta agency, Davis Advertising, Inc.

 

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Journey from Concept to Creation

There is far more to the creative process than learning how to use software and configure hardware. This blog addresses them.

Typography (Part One).

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My early experience with typography goes way back to grade school. I designed my own type-style that I used in official documents for my fourth grade class. Classmates had to sign an agreement (or else!). So, for example, if you were the target of an errant spitball or two, you were bound by oath not to tell on anyone. Ironically, the ones who had spitballs on the floor around their desk would be the ones who always got in trouble. But the kids always seemed to honor their oath. The fact that the document was done in my "calligraphy" helped to ensure that it would be considered “official, legal and binding.”

   As mentioned in a previous blog, I started drawing at an early age. I was inspired by a popular artist, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, who ran ads featuring his hot-rod drawings in car magazines. I was further inspired by the great "big-block" muscle cars -- Road Runners, GTOs, Super Bee's, Chargers, Challengers, 426 Hemi 'cudas, Dusters, Old's 442s, Camaro Z-28s, Mustang Cobra GTs, Trans Ams, etc. My interest was also aroused by the fact that my friend’s father (two doors down) was Buster Couch -- the Chief Starter for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). He and his wife Ann loved the neighborhood kids; often taking us horseback riding, to the movies, and the drag strip.

   Plus, in addition to being into model building and slot-car racing (and flying downhill in homemade go-carts), I was even further inspired by happenings in my neighborhood. I lived near the crest of a very steep hill on a street between my grade school and high school. When I wasn't waking the dead playing my drums or playing pick-up football, basketball or baseball games, I would be having a blast (along with my beautiful and beloved German Shepherd, "Napoleon") watching “smoke city.” After school (with police lookouts bearing walkie talkies) the kids would line up in their "tricked-out" muscle cars… pour bleach all over the fat rear tires… rev the engine while letting the car roll backwards… “dump” the clutch and “burn out." The smell of burned rubber and layers of smoke would permeate the scene. Some would go to second gear before the car would start moving forward… a few could “get rubber” in all four gears. What more could a little kid want?  Life was good.
   A few years later, another friend who lived down the street, asked to borrow my notebook of car drawings to show his dad. I reluctantly agreed. His father recognized my world-class artistic genius and I found myself working nights, weekends and summers in the art department of his offset printing company.
   My digs included a large, hydraulically controlled drawing table equipped with T-Squares, triangles, X-Acto knives, non-photo blue pencils and a hot wax machine for "paste-up." There was also a dark room and a very cool "process camera" that was built into the wall of the darkroom. As a 10th grade creative professional, I learned to mix chemicals, shoot mechanicals and photos,  develop film negatives in a tray (line, half-tones and color separations), "strip" negatives and burn plates for press.
   I was drawn to the typesetting equipment like a tick to a dog’s ear.  There were three types of typesetting machines at my disposal... two were “hot type” machines -- a couple of Mergenthaler Linotype machines and a Ludlow. There was also a “cold type” machine -- the Phototypositor. Although the hot-type equipment we had was quite obsolete, I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to experience it. I am more grateful that I was never burned by the hot molten lead. I’ve heard horror stories.
   As the “apprentice” I got to fill the molds with hot lead and hang the hardened “pigs” on the machines. To change fonts, you would insert heavy type font “magazines” into the slots at the top rear of the Linotype machine. There were separate magazines for each point size. They contained the matrices (“mats") -- each of which contained one alphanumeric character which was engraved into the side.  As you hit the key on the keyboard a mat would fall into place. There were also spacing bands that would fall down when the space-bar was pressed. Ingeniously, they were tapered so that they would fill the line out for justified columns. Each mat also had its character printed on it so that the operator could read the line before pressing the lever that would send it to the mold where the hot lead would be squirted. A few seconds later, while the operator was typing the next line, a “slug” would fall out in a tray beside the previous one and the lead "pig" would be lowered slightly into the melting pot. When the tray was filled, the slugs would be placed into "galleys" and into the proofing press. Thin lead strips would be placed between the lines to adjust the line spacing (leading). After the slug was cast, a long "elevator" arm would lift the entire line of type up and to the rear of the machine where a keying mechanism would turn... sending them back to their correct slot in the magazine. Gravity would do the rest. The proofs would be waxed, cut and pasted on the "pasteup" or “mechanical" by the resident world-class artistic genius talent.
   The other "hot type" machine was the Ludlow. It was a "hand set" machine used for type headlines. The "cold type" Phototypositor was also for headlines -- letters were visually selected and spaced. It was a predecessor of photographic computer typesetting equipment that I have used throughout my advertising career -- culminating with the Compugraphic adVantage page makeup system. It was a gazillion dollar behemoth with a color coded template/legend and a corded stylus -- networked to satellite Compugraphic typesetters and a large processor for outputting phototype galleys. In spite of its sophistication and high price (and the capability for the operator to trace visuals for positioning), it was not "WYSIWYG." The operator still had to insert arcane codes to specify fonts, point size, leading, kerning, margins, etc.
   Advertising agency copywriters or art directors would "spec" type (using type reference books and copyfitting techniques) and send out to thriving type shops such as "Swift Tom's" here in Atlanta. The phototype proofs were delivered by courier.
   Type shops and Compugraphic typesetting systems eventually gave way to the first "desktop publishing" software offerings (Ventura Publisher (my personal preference at the time) and Pagemaker). This lead to phototypesetting (e.g. Linotronic) service bureaus which produced phototype galleys from client supplied files. Service bureaus were eventually made extinct by "direct to plate" imaging equipment. These days, *.pdf files are simply emailed directly to the printer.
   While technology is ever-changing, design fundamentals and principles remain constant. So my next blog will focus on the more "timeless" principles of typography... and I'll try to offer some useful tips and resources..

 

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About Adman

After developing his artistic abilities from an early age, Robert Davis (Adman) started his advertising career as a graphic artist for a commercial printing company while in 10th grade. He later acquired degrees in Commercial Art and (later) Business Administration (Marketing with focus on computer science) while working in various advertising agency capacities. Robert started his own agency in 1989. He added an in-house Pro Tools® recording studio in 1999 and an Avid Xpress® DV video editing suite in 2002. He now also has two Avid Media Composer suites and an Xpress Studio HD suite in a fully equipped studio which also features SoftImage|XSI and Pro Tools. He believes that his company, Davis Advertising, Inc., represents a new model for the 21st century advertising agency…”a small, agile and responsive agency with comprehensive, in-house capabilities.” He says, “Avid® software provides the creative freedom and flexibility I covet.” His focus is on developing effective creative ideas via his own strategic planning process. He loves being surrounded by cameras, lights, props and other creative professionals who share his vision. He also, of course, loves working with Avid® software to bring his ideas to life. Currently residing in metro-Atlanta, Robert is an accomplished writer, producer and creative director. His advertising agency has served Fortune 500 accounts and has received several international awards. His work has been exhibited at the prestigious Cannes Lions Advertising Festival. When not riding his vintage Italian racing bike, or working out with free weights, Robert can often be found in the late evening singing or playing drums, guitars and keyboards in the studio.

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