The Times They Are A-Changin’
From web development, to designing for print, to photography. All aspects of design and marketing are evolving at breakneck speed. But let’s take a look at how it used to be done…
Designing for print
Printing is an ancient technology. As long ago as 3,500 BC, stone cylinders were carved by the ancient Persian and Mesopotamians and rolled on wet clay to easily reproduce the same information again and again.
Around 5,000 years later, Johannes Gutenberg’s revolutionary letterpress printing press made possible the mass reproduction of text (using ‘movable’ lead letters) and engraved images.
After centuries of improvements in speed, economy and quality, printing presses are still used today. However, following the invention of computers and digital print, as early as the 1960s, it became possible to create printed documents – much as we do today – designed entirely on the computer screen and printed without the necessity of arranging physical type.
Photographs were still too complex to reproduce digitally. Text and images were, for a period, assembled on a plate and photographed with complex machines. It would not be until more recently – after improvements in computing speed, disk storage and software in the 70s and 80s – that images could be more easily added to digital design.
The origins of printing are still there to see in today’s modern digital design software; for example, the space between text characters is still referred to as the ‘leading’, just as it was on Gutenberg’s first printing presses.
As early as the beginning of the 18th century, scientists like Johann Heinrich Schulze were experimenting with exposing light-sensitive liquids to produce semi-permanent photographs. It would be another hundred years before Nicéphore Niépce captured the first permanent black and white photos using paper coated in silver chloride, which darkened when exposed to light. This process took several days’ exposure to the subject.
The technology improved quickly and, by the 20th century, cameras were becoming more affordable, more compact, and it became possible to capture images in full colour. The first widely adopted colour process was the Autochrome Lumière, the medium of which was a ‘mosaic screen plate’ of microscopic coloured dots.
As early as 1957, engineers were experimenting with capturing photographs digitally. One of the first digital photographs was a scan of a picture of researcher Russell A. Kirsch’s son, and was an incredibly detailed 176×176 pixels.
These days, digital cameras are ubiquitous and exist in every smartphone, capable of capturing images millions of times more detailed than that early effort.
Film cameras – which remain an evolution of those early chemical experiments – still enjoy popularity with enthusiasts, and there remains a healthy interest in the ‘old’ way of taking photographs.
Programming for the web is perhaps the most historically recent discipline in our portfolio (apart from, perhaps, the area of app development). But that doesn’t mean web development hasn’t changed massively over the past 30 years.
The earliest websites were incredibly simple fare, with no images or even a layout or design style. Text with headings and hyperlink was basically your lot. On August 6, 1991 the now-famous Tim Berners-Lee made CERN’s website, the first ever website, live. In fact it can still be reached at http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html.
Since then, the internet has exploded like few other technologies. As its popularity has risen, the capabilities and tools have improved immeasurably. From fonts and colours, to images and animations, all the way to streaming video and interactive 3D applications, the internet has become the de facto communications medium for all humankind.