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Title: Typesetting by computer - a new challenge to graphic designers

Pages: 40 - 41

      

Author: Roy Brewer

Text: (caption)
1 - 4 The basic CCT process. Input to a CCT installation, 1 is usually by punched tape created by a typewriter keyboard of the kind shown here. 2 shows a programmer working at the computer console (a general purpose computer of conventional design is used for CCT), and in 3 the computer print-out is emerging (an example of print-out is shown in 5). In 4, computer tape is being converted by machine into Monotype tape. This is necessaryn because computer tape is narrower than the tape used to control typesetting machines such as Monotype's.

Typesetting by computer - a new challenge to graphic designers
by Roy Brewer
While print has been getting more widespread, more important, more complex, its production methods have felt hardly a breath of change. But the coming of computer controlled typesetting has created entirely new conditions. The author, who is editor of 'British Printer', argues that if the designer wants to make full use of its potential, he must learn the basic skills, the basic language, of the new process.
While the production methods used in printing remained basically unchanged (as they did for the best part of 500
years), the technical knowledge needed by the graphic designer was not hard to find. Of course printing developed in many ways, offering more scope with colour, illustration, new typefaces and - in the factory - higher speeds and better quality. But the processes by which a piece of graphic design was transformed into a piece of print were fundamentally simple, and few designers found it difficult to work comfortably within the possibilities and limitations of conventional printing methods.
In recent years, however, changes have taken place which directly and materially affect the ways in which a designer's work is processed. These changes may soon make new demands on the work itself. Of course the developments which affect designers are gradual, but it is no longer certain that they will always remain in command of those 'soldiers of lead' ready to do their bidding through the platoon commanders -the compositors and process engravers.
The first sign of real change in the typesetting conventions was photosetting. But, as it happened, this did not disturb the cosy designer/printer relationship much; indeed, the photosetter's facility for creating new visual effects somewhat extended design possibilities in directions which the more rigid disciplines of metal type had not allowed.

A different industrial context
Computer controlled typesetting (CCT) is a different matter. Graphic designers who have heard that the printing industry is on the verge of a development which has been called 'the most important since Gutenberg invented moveable type' may ask why they should be any more concerned with CCT than with any of the other new production methods which printers have adopted in the past.The question is a fair one but, unfortunately, it does not yield a simple answer. A description of what, technically, is involved in the computerised processing of text would only lead back to the designer's quite reasonable insistence that, if he is to create designs which are effective and efficient, he will continue to expect the printer to execute them by whatever means are available. In short, the old tag that 'It is not a graphic designer's task to specify production methods'. And since it is a production method which we are discussing, can the matter be left there ? I submit that it cannot. Up to and including the present moment, the work of the printer has incorporated craft practices which, equally with his machinery, equipment and materials, are placed at the disposal of the print designer.
CCT creates new conditions entirely - conditions which have hitherto been absent from the designer's considerations. It has taken the 'craft practices' of the composing room and codified them as computer programmes which carry out most, if not all, of the functions of the compositor. So the designer may well find himself, as CCT develops, working not only in a different industrial context, but also under conditions which demand from him a different sort of information from that which he has been accustomed to supply.
Because CCT will be used to produce, very largely, the same categories of print as are now turned out by conventional typesetting systems, it is important to see it as something to be used by both printer and designer to existing ends.
CCT is not a system for producing a new kind of printing. It owes its existence to the fact that the variety and quantity of print required by modern society shows an almost limitless prospect of growth. The very existence of general purpose computers in government, industry and commerce has added to the need for more efficient ways of making results available quickly and in quantity. In specialised printing fields, such as newspaper production, CCT has demonstrated, again and again, that only by submitting to its technical disciplines can production be maintained and improved in the face of increased demand. The fourth Technical Conference of the International Federation of Newspaper and Magazine Publishers in Paris last year was told that on May1 1965 there were 38 newspapers processing all news and classified advertising by computers, and that 50 more American newspapers had ordered computers. A speaker predicted that almost every newspaper in America with a circulation above 25,000 would have a computer in operation by 1970.
The graphic designer may well feel that the newspaper plant is unlikely to concern him: but it requires little imagination to see that, while newspapers have the money and the production problems which call for CCT, the pressures are building up on many other fields of print - notably the production of directories and year books, timetables and lists of many kinds - and on book production itself. Britain has the first CCT installation in Europe to be concerned mainly with the text setting of books (at Rocappi Ltd). So it is not so much a matter of whether we shall have CCT on a wide scale - for this seems inevitable - as of whether we shall be able to use it to maximum efficiency.. And it is here that the designer becomes personall involved.

Coping with computer needs
I have referred, so far, to the 'graphic designer', but it may already be clear that it is specifically the typographer who is likely to be immediately concerned, since CCT is aimed at the setting of text. So responsive to the typographer's needs has the modern printer proved that it may seem retrogressive when equipment is introduced which appears to
circumscribe design possibilities - and CCT certainly places limits on what can reasonably be expected from the typesetting system in use.
Any piece of print designed for production via a CCT system has to take into consideration the particular typographic programme already available. It must be supplied (if not by the designer, then by the technicians using the CCT system) in a form acceptable as computer input after keyboarding. Before the typographer gratefully unloads this task on the CCT technician (much as he leaves certain details to the common sense and experience of the human compositor when designing for conventional typesetting methods), he must satisfy himself that his design requirements will in fact be carried out infallibly by so doing.
On closer examination, it will be discovered that CCT is not lacking in the provision of the typographic niceties which the designer expects from the composing room. But it certainly demands more precise instructions - and more of them -than did the 'live' compositor at his Linotype keyboard or composing frame. The computer is not able to make the small adjustments and amendments which the comp made from his experience and craft skill, and it is certainly not equipped to propose changes which would improve the design: it has no experience (except that which is storedin the form of computer 'memory'), and only a mathematically limited capacity for judgement In fact it is best, at the outset, to abandon all comparisons between what the computer is doing in CCT and what the compositor is doing in setting text from copy.
For practical purposes, therefore, the designer for CCT must choose either to continue as though the craft practices of print were still there - though he well knows that these have been simulated by a computer programme - or to examine ways in which he may use the CCT system as creatively as he did the craft media type of the conventional processes.
If he chooses the latter course, he may well make some worth while discoveries of his own; for he will quickly appreciate the difference between working through the visual rough and expressing himself in arithmetical terms. It is not much use supplying a computer with instructions to 'indent' or 'centre' unless one knows what will be understood in the programme by these terms. Similarly, the designer's pencil may place a caption or a line of setting unerringly where he wants it; but the computer cannot see, and needs to be informed in terms of space units where the type must be placed.

Instructions in code
A very wide and useful range of instructions (auto codes) has already been evolved for the use of keyboard operators so that they may incorporate the necessary typographic instructions in the input to the computer. The typographic programme is usually basic - is, it provides for setting in a given range of typefaces of various point and body sizes over a variety of measures. Justification and the consequent breaking of words at the ends of justified lines is also provided for, as is a consistent typographical style for straight setting. Special instructions which utilise different aspects of the programme are supplied as input from the keyboard; so it will be seen that CCT is not by any means an entirely automatic operation carried out without human decision- making (though the decisions of a keyboard operator working to a computer are different in quality and quantity from those of a Linotype or Monotype compositor). 5 An example of print-out. Computer print-out contains some of the instructions such as capitalisation, italics, etc which will be incorporated in the finished setting. It is adequate to show the text which has been processed by the computer, but the full typographic sty/e and justification of lines is not shown.
It must be added (though this may now be obvious) that the computer itself does not set type, but provides output to control one or another of the existing range of typesetting machines. These may be either the familiar 'hot metal' machines or a photosetting system. Experience has proved that with modern CCT programming techniques there are few, if any, typographical conventions which cannot be expressed in terms that computers can follow, though some of them which both designer and compositor take for granted (such as the 'drop letter' which sometimes starts a chapter) are extremely wasteful of computer storage.
In brief, the typographic designer is being challenged on his own ground to justify and specify his designs and, where possible, to use the most efficient methods available to see that they are expressed in CCT terms to a predictable result.
It is no exaggeration to say that in the near future many designers able to 'talk' to computers may be needed. It is also a safe guess that they will be men who have the courage and ability to take a long, cool look at the whole mish-mash of convention, fashion whim and fine creative frenzy which goes under the name of typography. Much of it is necessary for the legibility, dignity and functional efficiency of print. But only when the designer is prepared to evaluate his own techniques will what can be retained and what may safely be discarded become obvious.

(caption)
6 An example of sophisticated setting by computer (The Mouse's Tail, from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland). The left-hand column shows the coded instructions by which the computer has carried out all the variations in type size, spacing, and line length required to set the finished result in the right-hand column. Reproduced from Michael P. Barnett's Computer Typesetting, by permission of the MlT Press. Nobody - least of all the designer - is being offered a completely automated substitute for the composing-room skills which have been used in the past, and which will still be used for a long time to come. A computer has no aesthetic feelings about type. It cannot go with, or against, a trend. So the designer cedes none of his status to the machine, and will be needed for as long as these - and other, more important -factors make him worth his fees.

Learning the language
Many of the computer programmes so far written have been planned by printers without direct consultation with professional designers. The urgent initial need in CCT was for programmes of some sort. Now the future promises a more sophisticated approach in which the voices of graphic designers can be heard with benefit.
Yet they must first learn the language - not necessarily the technical language of the computer expert, but the language of a whole new field of experiment and practice which is being explored in CCT. A leading authority in this field, Dr C. J. Duncan (who heads the computer typesetting research project at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne), said recently, "It should be possible to blueprint a printed production just as one does any mass produced article. Close and accurate specification in engineering terms is

(caption)
7 An example of CC T-processed print from the 1966 British Imperial Calendar and Civil Service List. CCT is at its most useful in producing lists such as this, where spacing, arrangement and justification can be programmed .

obviously the sine qua non of the properly produced printed work of the future." And Hermann Zapf, the eminent German type designer, has said bluntly, "We need a new group of designers for programmed typography." Professor Duncan has gone so far as to postulate the sort of work which such designers will be doing. "Not," he says, "drawing little patterns and little grids, but writing out sequences of numbers in between square brackets dotted with asterisks (such as [S fb 27. 32. 43 + 22.9.33]) to specify a superb book-of-the-year design !" So, for the designer as for the printer and ultimately, for his customer, the big question posed by CCT seems to be not 'How does it work ?' but 'How can we understand enough of it to make it work the way we want it to ?' The printing industry has sometimes been accused of traditionalism for its own sake; of clinging to craft methods in the face of technological change. Yet it could happen that the designers - those riders with the avantgarde - will teethe ones who stayed in their studios sharpening 2B pencils while it was all happening.
One thing is already clear: CCT has arrived without waiting for their views on whether it can be used for that book-of- the-year or not. For once, technology has handed a problem to the designer to solve. I am certain that, if he is a good designer with a sincere belief in the value of what he is doing, the problem will be solved.

 

 

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