Tempus fugit

dtw's picture

Well, my account page says I've now been on Typophile for 4 years.
Where does the time go?

Over this time I've asked a few questions, suggested an answer or two, and entered a few of the design challenges (sometimes aquitting myself quite reasonably, at other times making a bit of a tit of myself).

It might be worth explaining at this point, as George Formby once said, why I'm here and what my motives are.

Unlike the more useful Typophiles, I'm not a professional typographer or type designer, nor even a graphic designer. I'm just one of the many interested amateurs. But I do like to "have a go". There are any number of creative endeavours – typography, cartooning, solving and compiling cryptic crosswords, Escher-style tessellations, hand bookbinding, ambigrams, – where I've seen and admired other people's work, and thought to myself, "I wonder if I could do that?"

And the answer often turns out to be: A bit: Just well enough to impress friends and colleagues who can't do whatever-it-was at all, but not well enough to run with the folks who do it for a living. And that doesn't really matter much, so long as I enjoy myself when I have a go.

My actual background stems from several years checking and formatting corporate documentation, which is why many of my posts involve standing up for MS Word. Yes, there's a lot of typographic stuff that it can't do (or can't do very well), but there's also a hell of a lot of other clever stuff that it can do, which you only wish some of the DTP packages could do. And, it's a lot better than most users' experience of it would suggest: you just have to learn its idiosyncracies, which settings to switch off, which to switch on, and which toolbar buttons to avoid like a Mexican pig farmer with the sneezes.

I now work in the production department of the academic journals division of an international publisher, which is nice because it's an environment in which the desire to fix other people's spelling mistakes is a trait that's welcome, rather than considered an irritant (as it may have been in some previous jobs...). This job involves liaising between authors, editors, typesetters and printers. Some authors can be a pain when they don't understand that if our typesetters have already had their paper for a fortnight, any necessary changes should not be supplied as a whole fresh version of the original manuscript Word file. Or when they don't understand that if a 72-dpi image found off the web isn't good enough resolution for print, just opening that image in Paint Shop Pro and resaving it at 300 dpi isn't going to suddenly fill it with detail. Some editors can be a pain when they've had the production schedule all year but still insist on submitting their editorials about a month after the stated deadline. Some typesetters can be a pain when they unaccountably set the © symbol in a different font from the surrounding text, or use the letters TM superscripted instead of the proper ™ character, or tighten the tracking to make a paragraph fit, but then forget to loosen it again after the author's marked up to delete several words. Our printers, touch wood, are all great and have so far never proven to be a pain. Hurrah!

There's not a huge amount of scope for typographic self-expression, but I can...
(a) politely request that the typesetters do not hyphenate "streetsweeper" as "streets-weeper" or "therapists" as "the-rapists",
(b) occasionally get the opportunity to set a call for papers (when there just isn't the time to get them to do it and go round the intercontinental revise-amend-revise cycle with them), or an advert (when a non-print-savvy client pays for a half-page ad but supplies a full letter page of double-spaced Verdana rather than a pre-typeset PDF like everybody else) myself,
(c) suggest alternative approaches when a new journal's being launched and the designer hired to do the cover offers hideous ideas containing photos with a perspective effect applied for no readily apparent reason other than that he's found that with his new version of InDesign he can.

MS Word anecdote as an aside: In our department, one colleague produced and printed out a little insert to fit in a tray, with all our names in Times full caps and the numbers of the drinks we prefer from the drinks machine (so that anyone doing a drinks run would be able to remember who has what). Everyone else's names happen to contain letters that fit reasonably. Remember that Word has kerning switched off by default. The yawning gap between the A and V in DAVID on this insert gnawed at me for days. Eventually some drinks were spilled on the tray and my colleague opened the file to reprint it. I leapt in: "Select all... now, go to format > font > character spacing ... and switch on that kerning tickbox. Now watch my name when you hit OK." Thankfully she appreciated this new bit of type awareness and didn't simply brain me with the tray...

Comments

mk2's picture

“the-rapists” <-- hilarious! :D

I've been here for years and not getting better either, but I'm still enjoying every thread. I dont know why, I just never get bored with typography. The only reason I'm being passive in this forum is because my English is bed. See? :D

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