This Documentary reveals Graphic Design before Computers made it Easy

The rapid upheaval of the graphic design industry from the 1950s to the 1990s was monumental. Introduction of the desktop computer revolutionised paste-up boards in studios to PDFs on laptops.

As a current student entering the design industry, almost all work involves a digital aspect. But how much is known about the history of graphic design? How far has it really evolved, and is the transformation appreciated?

A team of US designers and filmmakers are in the post-production stages of graphic design documentary Graphic Means, which will explore such themes.

With a release date expected this autumn, the film delves into the dramatic change in producing graphic design from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Throughout these five decades, as the film's trailer quotes, those employed in the graphic arts industry would undergo more changes within five years than any other industry in the history of the US.

The idea for Graphic Means was born from an organic confession of ignorance by director and producer Briar Levit of the processes used in these years.

The assistant professor of graphic design at Portland State University collected masses of design production manuals, and was intrigued by the methods used before a computer.

She began studying graphics in 1996, and realised if she didn’t know much about the history of design, then her students probably wouldn’t either.

Back to the future of design

The documentary begins with the coming together of typeface, colour and photography when it was produced by industrious workers, machines and tools in the 1950s – creating paste-up boards before they were sent to the printer.

It explores how quickly technology transitioned throughout the 70s, 80 and 90s, and how manipulating type, photography and colour transitioned from a studio to a laptop.

Interviews in the documentary include co-founder of Aldus software company Paul Brainerd and other designers and design educators from Portland.

A Kickstarter for the film began in 2014. The documentary is expected to be released this autumn.

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