June 25, 2018  (Web Review)

Graphic Means: A History of Graphic Design Production

(2017) 85 min. DVD or Blu-ray: $75: public libraries & high schools; $350: colleges & universities. DRA. Tugg (www.edu.tugg.com). PPR.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Filmmaker Briar Levit’s documentary sketches the technological changes that have transformed the process of graphic design from Gutenberg’s invention of a movable-type press to the present age of digital publishing. Graphic Means follows the evolution of printing from the 15th century up through the creation of linotype in the late 19th, and on to the development of photo typesetting, and the revolutionary impact of the Macintosh computer, which gave individuals extraordinary power to self-publish. At each stage Levit demonstrates the effect that alterations in technology have had on the workforce—reducing the number of human hands required to mass-produce newspapers, for example (a change that was especially useful to publishers coping with union demands), while also noting the increasing presence of women as the need for sheer physical strength diminished. Levit also pays attention to details, using interviews to demonstrate the various skills required of individual contributors to the cut-and-paste procedures of earlier years, both in using knives and other implements to correct errors in typesetting and arrange overlays of text and illustrations for final printing. And she attends to the artistic side, again drawing on interviews as well as examples to show the imagination and inspiration that go into the construction of particular ads, covers, and lay-outs. The combination of practical and aesthetic elements makes this a substantive contribution to an understanding of the evolution of graphic design. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek)