Thursday, 16 February 2012

A disappearing name

Being on the cusp of a new life I now find myself having to answer the question - what did you do used to do ? The poncey answer would be 'media-production' - but nobody knows what it means - and it throws up altogether the wrong image of Hoxton-ite wankers. I also have a sense of wanting to capture some industry trivia before it rapidly slips into obsolete obscurity.

I'm inclined to just say that I worked in printing - but just as it did back when I actually was in the industry, that often provokes requests to knock out people's wedding invitations and parish newsletters on the cheap. And I was never that kind of printer.

In fact we would never have used the word printer to describe ourselves. We were 'litho planner/platemakers'. The planning bit has nothing to do with making strategic decisions about the future but comes from the type of printing plate used - which  was flat or planographic.  (A litho plate is flat because lithography relies on the mutual repellence of grease and water to keep the ink where it is meant to be and away from where it isn’t and not a raised or engraved image as in Letterpress or Gravure). If that's confusing - in the 'states the same trade was known as 'film-stripping', which conjures up quite a different image again.

The job of a planner was to get all the elements that make up a piece of print – the photographic images, the illustrations, the text onto a set of four printing plates – one for each  ‘process ‘ colour. And that’s all we did.  We didn’t set type - that was the job of the typesetter. We didn’t lay out the page - that was the job of the paste-up artist. We didn’t proof the page - that was the job of the proofer. And we certainly didn’t print it.  Printers were a different species altogether. If they were feeling particularly precious about it, some of the older guys would refer to themselves as ‘lithographic artists’ or ‘photolithographers’ - but never printers.

1 comment:

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