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FEBRUARY 27, 2009   

It's a whole new (design) world

Working on an educational brochure about lead poisoning and children put me back into the world of print production for the past couple of days. It's a world I spent lots of time in previously, from 1970 to about 1995 when I had my "personal digital epiphany." That's what Robert Schwartzbach, the instructor at the Kent/UCDA summer workshop suggested we might have as we learned how to make our own videos on the computer. I did, and it was the beginning of my move from print to online/interactive design, one I've never regretted.

Lead poisoning brochureBut working on the brochure brought into sharp focus how the print world has changed since computers became our primary way of working.

Instead of working with a photographer, typesetter, stat house, proofreader, and maybe others, now the designer does it all.

Used to be that to get the photos for this brochure I'd have had to find a photographer to shoot exactly what I wanted, from individual students to the teacher in the classroom to the peeling paint background. Not any more.

I simply went to a couple of websites, searched for "student" and "paint peeling" and browsed through hundreds of photos. One site, iStockphoto, sells images for $1-15 each, depending on the quality (resolution). The other, stock.xchng, offers free images unless you choose their "premium results."

It's pretty amazing, really. Joanne didn't like the first picture I used for the teacher in the classroom (center panel). Within 10 minutes we'd found a better one, downloaded a high quality digital file, and replaced it in the brochure. When I got tired of having to print the letters on the kid's sign using a marker on the printout, I searched DaFont.com for a "kid's" font, found the one you see above, downloaded and installed it on my computer. Again in about ten minutes, again for free.

It's a pretty dramatic change from the old days. Other things—like stereotypes—don't change that much, and I learned that via the same stock photo websites. I'll explain tomorrow.

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