Old Mad Men

Tom Kane and I started working together in 1984 (!). We were junior ad men at a now-defunct New York  agency. Decades later, we are drawing-buddies, not colleagues; when we hang out, we occasionally reminisce about our careers and how things have changed over the years. Last weekend, we set up a couple of cameras while we sat around and recorded our chat about bygone days. If you remember stat machines or sending out for type or hand-drawn layouts  anything about design and production before everything went digital, you might enjoy this conversation. We did.

Old Mad Men. Part 1.

Old Mad Men. Part 2.

Old Mad Men. Part 3.

8 thoughts on “Old Mad Men”

  1. Really enjoyed this Danny. Felt like I was sitting at the table with you guys. Multiple cameras really fill it all out and give it another dimension. In my day I also made stats, fought with press type and cut those damn rubylith masks for spot colors. See you in NY in the spring for a cuppa tea.


  2. Funny stuff. I remember a lot of the things you mentioned. I especially remember being fascinated with the idea that someone was PAID to sit around all day and design fonts and type styles. Wow!


  3. i really enjoyed seeing the "old men" videos. Like Trevor I felt like I was the silent one sitting at the table with you, but your comments included everything I was going to ask. The wax machine, the lucey, the typesetter…. lots of memories.


  4. Danny, I loved this conversation. I liked that you had stills of all the old stuff—I ditched my proportion wheel as soon as I was able to steal one of Dick's early high-powered calculators with which I had to work in reverse Polish. Happily I escaped all the spray mount fumes you two had to deal with. I used a waxer and then later Studio Tac. I remember once, before there were good and really affordable color printers I was mounting comps one day, trimming $80 prints with an X-Acto, and I sliced deeply into my thumb nearly cutting a 1/4 inch by 1 inch segment totally away. Despite the obvious pain and bleeding I was able to get my first responder bag out of the back of the Bronco I drove at the time with one hand working the heavy tailgate (I was working alone). I fixed my thumb and packed it in for a couple hours, but I remember when I came back to the cutting board my first laughing thought was "Wow, I didn't get blood on the comps; that's a true professional." I still have to be careful with that X-Acto, but the prints on the cutting board are both higher quality, and immediately (and cheaply) replaceable if I just push a button on my computer.

    It's been fun to see the changes. And to benefit from them. I enjoyed hearing you and Tom talk about your early advertising days.


  5. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY enjoyed this! I worked as a typesetter, proofreader and copy editor for 8 years and we ran a print shop out of our home back in the late 70's, early 80's. And, in the 90's, I was a secretary for 30 air quality engineers.

    Typesetting medical books first, on a keypunch machine which punched cards that fed into a computer, pulling together pages for a printed book. And then, via an IBM Selectric, pages of typed galley sheets, converting (mostly from codes stored in my head) tables, mathematical and scientific equations and specific fonts/sizes into that particular coding as I typed along. These galley pages were then fed into giant compositioner machines which read, converted and printed everything onto a "proof" of each page for the book. Later, as copy editor, one of the tasks was to write out the coding for converting text, tables and equations for other typesetters to type on galleys.

    With our at-home printing business, I did a lot of paste-up and choosing of type for the things we printed–a lot of press-on type. We used many of the things you mentioned, too.

    In the late 80's, early 90's, I was a secretary for a team of 30 or so air quality engineers who were suddenly presented with PCs of their own and were being forced to type their own work as well as providing enhanced graphics on reports, etc. It was a huge hurdle for them to make going from the typewriter to learning the word processing, graphics and database programs. Most of the older engineers, age 40 and older, had to go from submitting handwritten notes to a secretary right to learning a PC. Talk about down-time!

    Because of that, I'm not sure if I'm fine with technology today–whether it has saved time or what it forces on a person. I always felt that, for the engineers in my charge, especially the good ones with all the knowledge and, many, experts in their respective fields, to have to learn modern-day 'tools' and add them to their toolbox, seems to take a lot of time away from what they are good at and who they can help most. They were never going to be proficient on the computer; so, is it really necessary? The same can be applied to artists, children whose families can't afford a computer … and, so it goes… Necessary for survival today.


  6. Good heavens, I remember these times fondly. Wish we could do much of it the same way. I started in the early 80's at a design and production house, serving the agencies up and down Michigan Ave. in Chicago. Although I worked in the administrative office, and not as a designer, illustrator, retoucher or keyliner (where did the term "keylines" come from and when did it disappear???) I picked the job because I wanted to work for a creative firm. Loved watching and chatting with those guys. Learned so much from them and wish I was back in such a creative environment.


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