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Graphic Design For Print: Samples

Case Study in Print

“Overland to California in 1859 - A Guide for Wagon Train travelers”, Compiled and Edited by Louis M. Bloch.

"Overland to California", A Case Study.
"Overland to California" Case Study.

This edition, intended for grades 4 and up, but remarkably interesting for adults, was derived from actual guides published for those headed west by wagon train in the days between the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill and the United States Civil War. Behind this publication lies nearly 150 years of changes in printing technology.

Source Documents

The source documents of the age would be printed using the impact of inked hand-set type, woodcuts and possibly etched metal plates on a letter press.

The type was a cast lead reverse alpha-numeric or punctuation character at the tip of a flat metal stem, possibly notched at the base to assist orientation. These were kept in type-cases, with separations between the letters and constructed in uniform order to let the practiced hand pick and return the type for easy continuous use. To this was added spaces between words and long metal strips between lines. If your wanted to change font or size you used a different type case.

To distinguish between a hyphen - which created hybrid words or indicated a syllable break at the end of a line; and a dash - used in this sentence as a sort of specialized comma; the terms en-dash and em-dash were used. These differed in that the en-dash was the width of an “n”, and an em-dash was the width of an “m”. The type-setter was probably the most skilled workman in the shop.

This served, until the invention of the linotype machine as the principle means of printing words on paper. Pictures, including cartoons, illustrations and maps, required a carved block of wood or stylus scratch sheet of metal. Woodblocks were part of the earliest Chinese printing processes. The use of stylus and acid etched metal found its most famous early application in the works of Rembrandt van Rijn, who saw the commercial value in making multiple precisely reproduced copies of his art work, while holding control of the number of copies by retaining the plates and in fact owned his print shop. Almost all graphics were reproduced in black and white.

Both type and graphics were placed within a metal chassis, filled out with wooden “furniture” (plain rectangular blocks of wood) secured with metal double wedges (to maintain parallel pressure) and laid into the press. The type and graphics were inked, by this time with soft rubber roller that kept the film of ink thin, and paper was “pressed” against the chassis “reversing the reverse” and creating the “right reading”, i.e. reading from left to right, style that we are familiar with.

Initial Reproduction

Louis Bloch, having compiled, edited and typed the copy, with call outs for association of maps and illustrations with the copy, approached Roy M. Kay of Printing Associates to compose and print the book. Typesetting was performed through A M Graphics, owned by April Majni (now Marshfield Marketing); and the book would be bound by Steffen Bookbinders, Inc., owned by William X. Turoczy. The processes used had changed dramatically thanks to the chemical revolution, begun in the last quarter of the 19th century, that brought forth photo-typesetting, film imaging, and offset lithography. Photo paper developed alongside film imaging. Both are “negative acting”, i.e. they depend on light to fuse an opaque black emulsion onto a transparent (film) or opaque white (photo paper) substrate. That part of the emulsion that is not fused is washed away.

"Overland to California", A Case Study.
"Overland to California" Case Study.

Photo-typesetting uses light projection through a clear film image of type surrounded by an opaque black frame, the whole of the font being set in a rotating wheel that could spin to bring up type and case. The light hits the photo paper and fuses the type character. Originally, the photo paper would advance in a strip from right to left and the next type image would be projected. By the time of this project, a keyboard would rotate the wheel and entire sheets could be imaged through a left to right advance of the projection unit and an upward advance of the paper through rollers. Further, font size could be adjusted by moving the projection unit closer and further from the photo paper for enlargement. The wheels themselves came to have font variations for bold and italic forms. In short, what once took an entire type cabinet would then only take an 18” diameter type wheel. To this was the capacity to store the typesetting directions on digital media to permit editing and correction. These last were still human activities and the sheets “galleys” had to be proofread. The galleys were laid out on an art board and fixed into position with glue or wax. Locations for the graphics were marked and any enlargement or reduction needed was specified.

This was then sent to the camera department where negatives were shot and developed of both the art board and the graphics. Remember the reflected white light fused the black emulsion to the clear film, so what was white was now black and what was black washed away leaving a clear type or graphic image. For offset lithography the emulsion had to be on the backside of the film, so what you had was called “right reading, emulsion side down”. These negatives were “stripped”, i.e. taped to opaque “flats” - paper or plastic sheets. Often there were multiple flats for a single page of image so that the films wouldn’t overlay each other. To check the work, these flats would be set over a photo POSITIVE paper, similar to blueprint paper and exposed to light to create a copy of the sheet that was to be printed. This was the last chance to get it right before plating and printing.

After proofing the “blueline”, pre-sensitized aluminum plates were “burned”, i.e. exposed to a fusing light source. First the master marks, line-up and bindery guide marks were burned; then the type flat; then the graphics flats. The emulsion does not adhere well to fountain solution, sort of a highly ionized water; and does adhere well to oil based ink. The unfused emulsion is washed off and a protective coating is spread over the plate to prevent oxidation. In this 64 page book, 16 2-sided plates were burned, 4 pages to a side. This will be discussed more in the bindery commentary.

The plates are then hung (attached) onto the press plate cylinder and turn through first the fountain solution roller and then the ink rollers, the back through the fountain rollers in a continuous cycle. The fountain solution adheres to the non-emulsion coated surface, helping repel the ink. The ink adheres to the emulsion and the press is ready to start printing. Sheets of 17.5” x 22.5” paper feed into the press, in this case a Solna 125. They travel down the register board which positions them to be printed in “register”, i.e. the same location relative to the lead edge and side guide. (Side guides can be changed when printing the reverse side of the paper.) The paper is gripped and pulled through. The press operator trips the impression mechanism and two things happen. First the printing plate prints a reverse image onto a “blanket”, a rubber covered cylinder; and then the “blanket” prints a reverse of the reverse onto the paper on the “impression” cylinder. This is the “offset” of “offset printing” Grippers pull the paper away and drop it onto a receiver tray. When the paper is turned over and fed through again you end up with an 8-page “signature”. The 8 8-page signatures are sent to the bindery.

Laying out each signature is something done in the first parts of stripping back in the camera department. Some of this is obvious, like that page 1 should be on the obverse side of page 2. When you are laying out an 8 page signature in a “perfect bound” book, you set it up so that in folding the paper ½ x ½ , page 2 lays on top of page 3, page 4 on top of page 5, etc. The last page of the first signature, in this case page 8, will then lie upon the first page of the next signature, in this case page 9. So the first step is folding, after that there is “gathering”, i.e. stacking the 8 signatures on top of each other. Since the original sheets were 17.5” x 22.5”, the folded signatures are 8.75” x 11.25”. Trim 1/8” off all around an you end up with pages that are 8.5”x11”. The first edition was hardcover with subsequent editions being soft cover. Both were “perfect bound” which means the spine edge was held together and to the spine of the cover by glue.

Last Reproduction

In 1997 Printing Associates non-current assets were sold to Astro Media Services, the original owners retaining the current assets of cash, receivables and owning the payables. There was one reproduction before Astro Media itself shut down. Disturbingly, no effort had been made to return customer materials - artwork and flats to the customers. Roy Kay had left the company by then and was contacted again on how to proceed. Many of the processes continued in use, and printing and bindery did not change. However, typesetting and camerawork had.

In recovering the copy, a flat-bed scanner was used to input text to optical character recognition software. This was then proofread and corrected. In particular, punctuation marks and footnote marks required special attention. This was then paginated and proofed again to ensure the corrections were, indeed, corrected and that line and page breaks made sense. Some images were scanned on the flat-bed scanner, while others went to the printer to drum-scan for finer detail. The images were placed in the Pagemaker document and sent to the Printer.

Precision Printing was the selected printer. The film and stripping processes had mostly been superseded by direct plate laser imaging, which also generated the signature imposition proofs. While Precision Printing had “perfecting” presses that could print on both sides of a sheet in one pass, it was more economical to use their Miehle 29, a 23” x 29” press to print the sheets for this relatively short run project. Note: In 2008 employees and certain assets of Precision Printing were transferred to HKM Direct Market Communications.

We are now in an age of significant electronic publication, where much of what we see and read in on a computer or tablet screen. This is the culmination of a series of revolutions in presenting the word and graphic image to the wider world. The place of destination, California, happens to be where the last stages of the print revolution and the first stages of the electronic media revolution took place. The gold, object of the great migration, once prized for jewelry and coinage now finds industrial use in the very circuits that make electronics smaller, more functional and less expensive. “Overland to California in 1859 – A Guide for Wagon Train travelers” has itself long traveled through time and technology.


HTML vs. Ink-Print

At one time, if you had a file designed for a printer or film and plate imager, you had very few ways to be listed, let alone even be ranked by search engines. Gradually software companies like Adobe® with its proprietary Acrobat® program and search engines began to work together to bring this content to the internet user.

Microsoft®, for example, had ensured the search readability of it's proprietary programs Word® and Publisher®, as part of it's business model. Similarly, many pagination programs like QuarkExpress®, InDesign® and others, can be amply searched on the Internet in PDF (Portable Document File) form - assuming these files are properly tagged.

What about other media along the print paradigm - for example, blueprints?

We will here assume that the decision has been made to release these in a general way to search engines. Orthogonal and perspective views, rendered by AutoCAD®, for example, are useful sales tools, especially when selling to industrial, technical and scientific operations.

These files can create an instant "Yes! That's exactly what I'm looking for!" response. Search Engine Foundry has the acumen to determine the best way to make these pages readable and optimally searchable.

While the transition from print to web and back to print again has been difficult, Search Engine Foundry takes advantage of the advances to develop the full marketing and organizational communications potential in the synergies of these media. We do this in the most effective way using our understanding of the content and the listing and ranking methodologies of search engines. The results will be more efficient use of materials created initially with non-web objectives in mind.

Search Engine Marketing in search engines and social media.

Quark Express® is a registered trademark of Quark, Inc.

Acrobat®, Adobe®, InDesign® are a registered trademarks of Adobe, Inc.

Microsoft®, Word® and Publisher® are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.

AutoCAD® and AutoDesk® are registered trademarks of Autodesk, Inc.

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