What is Lost, What is Gained?

I’m not just talking through my hat, every time something changes for the better something is lost. My brother, Dan Ruesch, is a well-known graphic designer in the Inter mountain area of the US. He has won awards for his designs locally and internationally. Do you get it? Dan is very, very good at what he does and I’m proud when someone asks, “Aren’t you Dan’s brother?”

If you would like to check out his work go to http://danielruesch.net/. You’ll be impressed, I’m sure.

Years ago I dropped by his studio to find out the status of a job that was due to go into production. This was a job for Novell, a software company in computer networking,  and the deadline was immovable. You see, there was a trade show coming up and the fliers I was expected to print had to make the truck, or my name was mud. This was before computer layout, graphics, and design. Type was set on long strips of photo paper which was pasted-down with wax onto an art board and shot at the printer to make film. It was a time consuming process, and we were out of time.

To meet the deadline I needed those finished art boards right now! But there Dan was standing in his office examining two strips of galley proofs and comparing the merits of each type face. He did it like wine connoisseurs describe the properties of a fine wine. He said things like, “this one has the flavor and bouquet of…” and “this one smacks of …”  I was dying to get on with it and he was still smelling flowers. God have mercy.

As much as this frustrated me I recognized the art. Dan wasn’t a hack, he was an artist. Graphic design was and still is his pallet. Unfortunately graphic design doesn’t have longevity. It doesn’t hang on museum walls like fine art paintings. Its primary function is to sell things. Once it has served its purpose it goes to the round file and becomes landfill. That is what Dan told me, that his life work can be found in the trash heaps. Is that sad?

I’ve taken the long way around to get to the point, and the point is that computers have changed graphic design like they have changed everything in the modern world. They’ve made it faster, more creative, and less expensive. Have they made it better? Not necessarily. Dan tells me that typesetting used to be a craft. That a great typesetter would play with the ledding and kerning to produce works of art in the type. The graphic designers have more control over their product now, but they have lost some of the art. Like I said at the beginning whenever something changes for the better, something is lost.  Is it sad? I don’t honestly know. We can cry that no one makes hand painted lithographs like Currier and Ives, or we can recognize that if Currier and Ives were working today they wouldn’t be doing hand painted lithographs either. They were using state-of-the art technologies for their time. We can cry for the past, or appreciate the past and embrace the future. That is what I plan to do–embrace the future. Isn’t it exciting?

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