I’ve been working in the advertising field for a long time. My first job in an ad agency involved proofreading long media reports with another person, taking turns reading out loud or following along to check for errors.
At one point, part of my job involved writing content for a newsletter that was distributed within the agency and to its clients. As much as I enjoyed learning about media buying and planning during those eight years, I decided I wanted to work in the field I had originally chosen to study in college – commercial art.
The agency’s graphic design studio wanted to hire and train someone on a Compugraphic phototypesetting system. After a colleague decided not to take the job, I convinced the studio owners to hire me. Fortunately, they decided to give me a chance.
A very patient person taught me all about typesetting. Everything was entered in code on a keyboard – font, point size, line spacing, line length, etc. I entered text manually on a keyboard from supplied copy. Then I transferred a canister to the developer/fixer machine, from which galleys of type were proofread. Then off to the paste-up artist, if they weren’t already waiting at the door. Everything was always on deadline, almost always rush.
One of the artists on staff, who was such a pleasure to work with, went on to become an art director at McMillan, an Ottawa-based ad agency. Michael Zavacky’s illustration of a “veteran” looking out his window at a young artist on his computer graced the cover of Applied Arts magazine’s Student Awards Issue.
To see more of his artwork: cargocollective.com/michaelzavacky
Within 10 years the Compugraphic system was obsolete with the surging popularity of the Mac and desktop publishing. I learned QuarkXPress, Illustrator and Photoshop, and received a certificate for completing the course. I was very fortunate to be able to work from home on an incredible PowerMac 7100, complete with an Apple LaserWriter printer. Before email and file transfer services came into use, I remember transferring files by that excruciatingly slow, squawking dial-up modem. I found a video of that unmistakable noise:
Photo: Apple, Inc.
I was so excited to be in business for myself! All went well for the first five years, but then business started to fizzle out. Some clients moved out of town, others were learning how to use their own Macs and some got out of the business altogether. I heard of an ad agency studio looking for a temporary Mac artist replacement, so I worked in the studio with a fantastic art director and had help learning how their server worked from another very patient person – it was such a great learning experience.
After that project was over, I found out they wanted to hire a part-time proofreader. I took a test and passed. I was told by the studio director that they needed proofreaders, not more Mac artists, and I should think about switching my focus. I learned a lot from very knowledgeable people while working there part-time for 10 years.
Now I’m learning how to set up a website with the help of a very old friend – a friend whom I’ve known from those days so long ago at my first job. Looking back at the different work I’ve done, I see a pattern of interlinked circles – a pattern of the same people being so helpful with their patience in teaching me new skills, and the recommendations and encouragement they’ve provided over the years.