Autoflow Nightmare

Once upon a time, in a world before “pre-flight”… Back when PD and F were just three letters that had no meaning together (unless they were someone’s initials, or that kooky idea about portable files structures Adobe was talking about but not making available)… In this time long, long ago when Macs were run by extension, there was a nightmare that put fear in every designer’s gut: getting your huge PageMaker file to be print-ready (these were the days before QuarkXpress reached stability with fonts). And while the ulcer-causing uncertainty of “going to film”, and the nerve-wracking learning curve of reading bluelines were each enough to drive a designer back to waitressing, it was draft proofing that began the nightmare.

Even in a studio that boasted the faster of the Mac Quadra models, running page proofs could take hours (and hours and hours). Each page had to be sent individually for fear of printer overload, and with text-wrapping (new! fancy!) and duotone photos, the process crashed more than it succeeded. More than once I slept at the studio where I was a junior designer, setting my alarm clock (picture provided below for all of you who are too young to know a world before the smartphone clock app), so I could send pages to the laser printer every 40 minutes.

Incidentally, that was that project that killed the joy of being on salary. I wanted overtime for that BS. But I digress.

Lack of sleep will get to a person. And delirium set in after staying late early in the week to produce page proofs necessary to create a mocked-up version of the newsletter to deliver to the client (via human messenger), then repeating the process a few days later to run separations before being able to load the files and linked images (no embedding) onto six or so  floppies and drive them to the pre-press imaging house a town over. And then, during the tense tense 24-hour period we had to wait while film was being pulled, I had a true, sweating in my sleep nightmare.

It was a Pagemaker nightmare. I was caught between two words in the layout file, and autoflow was carrying me from one line to the next, squishing me as the image I was wrapping around was made bigger and then smaller.  Except that this wasn’t happening in the friendly colors of the corporate all-employee newsletter that had taken over 2/3 of my job. In my nightmare, I was trapped in a Tron-like color scheme, and the lines that the text was flowing through were 3D and cavernous, like the glowing red chasms of the movie. I was marked with glowing red lines, too, which really stressed me out. Fear mounted as I kept getting to the end of a line and swung to the next line, then the next, then WHOOSH!  I was swept to page 3 for the continued in column and I woke with a heart-racing start, bolted up in bed and yelled as if my child was going over the edge: “THE FILE!”

And that was my autoflow nightmare. When Tron: Legacy came out a few years ago, I didn’t go. And back in the mid-90s, once I moved into web design, I never kept my skills up with PageMaker (even after Adobe bought it so they could kill it, like they did with FreeHand), or its successors. We use InDesign in the Wax studio, but I myself am not agile with it. As an art director, however, I still catch more little page layout nits than the designers do. Muscle memory from the days of yore.

And every year, around annual report time, I am a little haunted.

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