The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’* This definitely rings true in the production department at Cedar, where at least one member of the team claims to remember burning his fingers on the hot metal involved in old style printing.
And, in reality, it’s not all that long since the production element of publishing (as it was then known – content marketing wasn’t even a twinkle in the publisher’s eye) looked very different.
Everything was so much bigger: any magazine needed several plan-chest drawers’ worth of repeat ad film in order to function, and the desks were big enough to play cricket on at those times when you weren’t collating a 64-page title into sets of four pieces of film along with corresponding cromalins. Running out of space, you’d stack the film on the floor behind you, ready for the courier… only to roll your chair backwards over it.
The physical time and space involved in getting a magazine ready for press were the main constraints we faced; film had to be ready for the booked courier, otherwise the print slot halfway across the country (or even in another country) would be in jeopardy. Though we did have several tricks and short cuts up our sleeves, from scratching dots from the film or pasting codes in using magic tape, to sending tear-sheets to the printer for them to pull repeat ads from their archive.
The advent of digital changed everything; zip drives, email, PDFs, even flatplanning systems. Nothing felt quite so wonderful as the opportunity to ditch the tippex, and just email a new flatplan around, with all the ads repositioned!
The development of ‘computer to plate’ (CTP) printing gradually saw film completely phased out, once all the repro houses had invested in the ISDN capability to transfer huge files, but there was a crossover period from analogue to digital where processes were interestingly mixed. Advertisers would send in bromides by post, then resupply copy at the last minute as a PDF by email. It took a while for the industry as a whole to trust that the digital way of doing things was here to stay.
Of course, this has all been part of a wider diversification, not only on the production side, but also one that has seen Cedar shift from their old publisher status to the multi-channel content marketing agency we are today.
The production role has transformed along with this shift: maintaining a methodical approach and attention to detail during the process while continuously integrating new processes and streams, and implementing the procedures to ensure these newer products perform at their best.
We can only guess what the next 20 years will bring; maybe we will all view flatplans on Google Glass and send magazines off to be 3D printed? Whatever happens we’ll be there ready to get work out on time – and just grateful for our unburned fingers.
* Famous opening line of LP Hartley’s The Go-Between
Maria Lamle is Production Controller at Cedar