Watch the trailer for new film Graphic Means

The first trailer for the documentary film Graphic Means: A History of Graphic Design Production has just been released. Directed by Briar Levit, the film explores the huge changes that took place in graphic design from the 1950s through the 1990s – from linecaster to photocomposition and paste-up to PDF.


The film, which is directed and produced by Levit and expected to be released in early 2017, features interviews with several leading figures from graphic design including Ellen Lupton, Malcolm Garrett, Tobias Frere-Jones, Ken Garland and Adrian Shaughnessy.

“It’s been roughly 30 years since the desktop computer revolutionised the way the graphic design industry works,” Levit writes on the website for the project at “For decades before that, it was the hands of industrious workers, and various ingenious machines and tools that brought type and image together on meticulously prepared paste-up boards, before they were sent to the printer.”

In the trailer, various designers discuss the hands-on construction of pages and how much of this time-consuming process (which had already moved from hot metal type to photo-typesetting) is now done almost automatically using computer software.

For example, Shaughnessy describes the process of ringing the typesetter, choosing a typeface, reading the text over and then getting it sent back. “Sometimes it came back the way you envisaged it – and sometimes, it didn’t,” adds the designer and educator, Cece Cutsforth.


The film also looks at how experimentation took place during the 1980s and 90s – when technology was changing quickly – and how both the Mac and terms such as ‘desktop publishing’ (coined by Aldus co-founder, Paul Brainerd) were coming into usage.

In a recent update posted to Vimeo, Levit revealed that she was about to meet with graphic designer April Greiman, having already completed 25 interviews for the project.

More details on the film at The Graphic Means DVD can be pre-ordered from – it is expected to be released in Spring 2017.

  • John McWade

    I love seeing that this is being made, especially having been involved in it. Sign me up!

  • “Sometimes it came back the way you envisaged it – and sometimes, it didn’t,” adds the designer and educator, Cece Cutsforth.”

    Whoever said that was a lousy copycaster….

    Many art directors and graphic designers will tell you it was not only possible but expected we “cast off” copy exactly so that when it came back from the typesetters it could just be pasted straight down. Time was ever the enemy, let alone the cost of rush type setting and couriers…

    Then one day, almost, in the early 90s all that ‘manuscript’ artworking craftsmanship just disappeared into the telly.

  • ludography

    I remember those days…. think back to them with joy….

  • ddamico361

    Oh , do I recall those days. I worked at an ABC TV affiliate in Louisiana in 1988. I found a local typesetter who had an upgraded Apple Lisa. His output was much better than the standard typesetter because no lenses were involved in his larger type output (no distortions). We’d drink coffee, chat about software, Macs and the world in general on his sunporch/workspace. Within a year, his partner died of Aids. He did so later on as well. So sad but good memories of an early use of computer typesetting.

  • Clive

    I thought it was all just a dream but this confirms that it actually happened like that and I was there!

  • Gabriel Design

    This looks like a great nostalgia trip. When I started out in 86 even the first reaches of the digital revolution hadn’t got to Winchester yet. JontyKilpatrick is right. Casting off type was an art. Work at it, get it right and when the setting came back just cut it out and paste in in place, perfect fit… Then wait for the author’s amends.

  • Lynda

    yep I was there too …cant wait to see the full film ! – I remember well as a junior designer going off to London to learn the mac was so diddy – the rest of the team thought it would not last thats why me as the humble junior was sent out to learn ! Paste up and PMT machines were then very rapidly dead……..

  • point

    Ah, hot wax. I loved the old machines.
    Schaefer is still in business!

  • Janelle Smith

    Oh, the stat camera–the chemicals, the darkroom, the smell of the rubylith, and yes, the waxer. Stuff of dreams.

  • Janelle Smith

    I remember working on a catalog for IBM that featured their different typewriter Selectric balls and their typeface options. The typesetter set the individual characters too far apart and I spent one long overnight session cutting each individual character apart, removing the extra white space, and re-aligning each.

  • Ralph Tobin

    I remember this time. It was a time you had to have talent and hand skills and a creative mind. I started in advertising in 1965, still working in it and teaching advertising graphic design. Some times I long for the those days.

  • John Schuitemaker

    I was with Apple (Computer, as it was called then) starting in ’84. As a sales representative demonstrating the Lisa, Mac, and the early Laser Printer (Canon), combined with Postscript (Adobe), it was an amazing time. Tremendous interest. The efficiencies created by desktop publishing were so obvious, no ROI analysis needed to be done. It was not lost on me that this was disruptive technology that would impact tradespeople who had spent careers learning and refining a craft. We now talk of the Uberization of this, or that. Desktop publishing Uberized an industry. Can’t wait to see this documentary.

  • Steve Pinkston

    This is going in my film library right between “Art And Copy” and “Helvetica”!

  • Paul Kerfoot

    Brilliant piece of nostalgia! Well done on capturing the spirit of this. Leaving Batley Art college (West Yorkshire, UK) in 1986 (I’m 50 this year) I remember Letraset, magic markers, pasting artwork (typesetting) together, Pantone chips (not edible BTW) Spray Mount glue and spray booths too (warning health hazzard!)… Then the fax machine, then an early Apple Mac SE we had (for typesetting) with Pagemaker 1 and Freehand 1 (I think) plus a 6 inch screen… cost thousands of pounds too… and WOW (looking back) how things have come on… and then fallen off the mountain and down the other side with cheap ‘gigs’ on! I am so glad I experienced being a skilful creative graphic designer doing it the hard way in the late 80s and 90s. Don’t get me wrong, I love Macs and technology (to a degree) but so miss the happier days when being a graphic designer was considered a real skill, a talent and was a highly valued job. Now everyone is doing it! And how easy it is and how fast you are seems to be key now. A world full of too many designers, falling budgets and not enough projects to go round. And (meanwhile) the colleges churn out more media students than are needed (12% jobs for 3% in industry). Feel happy and sad at the same time here… yet love this short film and look forward to the next one. Legacy. Now you need to be a creative genius (a job of the future) not just a graphic designer to really stand out… good luck to all you students, safe journey and best wishes from The Bulletman from Batley.