Sunday, September 28, 2008

Here comes the Computer

Who would have thought that techniques and tools that have been used by designers for hundreds of years (T-Square, triangle, ruling pens, brushes and paint) would become obsolete.

My friend Carl Levine of Creative Bubble was fond of asking me "when are you going to get a computer?" My answer was always "when the quality of a computer comp was the same or better than a hand drawn comp".

The year was 1991.

I had a client who showed me a "computer comp" when I delivered one of my hand drawn comps. "This is going to be easy to sell" he told me. I looked at the "computer comp" and saw that it was a composite of elements that were then copied on a color copier. The design was poor, the execution was worse but the key here was that my client thought "it would be easier to sell". The next day I asked my client how his meeting went and which design he sold. "Yours" he said.

I was happy about that, but I saw the writing on the wall... the computer was coming. But I still didn't see the quality that I was looking for... until I visited Combe Chemical. They make Grecian Formula and Odor Eaters.

I spoke to Dave Crockett ( a member of THE Crocket family as in Davey Crockett). HE told me they are doing all their comps on a computer. "Dave" I said.. "I've been hearing this bull about computer comps for a few months now and I've NEVER seen a computer comp as good as a hand drawn marker comp. Could you do me a favor, artist to artist, and show me what you're doing." He agreed.

I went to see him and although I was not impressed with what he was showing me... I saw in one small area of one of his comps the full potential of what could be created with the computer in my hands. 

I called my wife and said "the computer is here.. I have to make the switch or we will be out of business in three years".

It cost me $32,000 to buy my first system and all the software. I bought a Mac Quadra computer with a CPU speed of 33 MHz, and $2,000 accelerator for it. Photoshop, Quark, Illustrator, Painter software. My Wacom tablet was about $1200. A scanner with transparency adapter ($1200 then... now I use a $90 scanner that is faster and much better) and a $10,000 printer that needed a $1300 service contract every year.

I showed my list to someone at Reader's Digest (they were switching to computer from hand drawing at that time too) and asked what they thought. "Great system.. how long have you been into computers?" she asked. "Starting now." I replied.

"If I was you I wouldn't buy all that stuff, I'd start with the computer and one program and then build from there." 

I disagreed. My thought was to learn how ALL the programs and machines worked together. IT was like a pyramid. Learn a lot to start and it will be easier as I go along.

I hired a tutor and told him "this is my assignment... how do I do it?" 

As so it began... 3 months later I told my accounts that I was no longer doing marker comps, all comps were going to be the computer.

My contemporaries that made the switch from hand to computer were still in business a year later. The ones that didn't were out of business.

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