Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How it used to be.

While I'm on the subject of my early days in the business, I thought I'd trip down memory lane and tell you what it was like in 1980 to work in catalog advertising in the days before computers.

One of the jobs as a copywriter was to talk to the buyers and find out what items were meant to go on a page and which should be featured. You would take that information and then have to do something called a "paste-up." You would take a large piece of oaktag with safety, trim and bleed delineated on it in black dotted lines and paste scrap art in place onto the oaktag.

Traffic would collect your paste-up, log it into the system and deliver it to your art director who would--magically--turn it into a tissue layout. The art director I worked with most often was an old Scotsman, Angus MacLennan. He could turn out a layout literally in seconds.

The art director would also draw rectangles where your headline and body copy would go. We seldom knocked out copy because it was more precarious if something should change.

The layout would then be taken by traffic to a type guy. He would measure the rectangles and tell you how many lines of copy you got and how many characters per line. A typical copy box might be 7 lines at 44 characters.

Then the traffic person brought the spec-ed layout back to you and you had to write the copy to spec. You would write it on a special piece of copy paper that had lines counted out on one axis and characters on the other. You'd draw a line down the page so you didn't write wide.

Then your copy and layout would go to editorial who would check your copy against the info pages the buyer provided. If everything was ok, the whole thing would go to the typesetters who would re-type everything you typed. In a day or so, they'd get a "velox" of the type and a paste-up man would put the type into the layout.

Meanwhile, the art director had shot the merch and gotten chromes back from the studio.

Finally, the whole thing would come together and they'd make a 600-page catalog that much of the nation used for toilet paper.

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