I started design school in 2004, and while I did quite well across my courses, the work that made me happiest was some of the least glamorous: I preferred the “boring” but highly detailed work of print production over art direction. (Hey, good production designers are hard to find.) Many assignments were submitted to instructors as oversize colour laser prints, which (like in the previous post) required communicating in standard languages and formats with printer shops. One of the assignments I unexpectedly enjoyed the most involved the art direction and production of a 64-page annual report for a corporation or nonprofit organization, transcribing the previous year’s content into a coherent publication. I realized I had a knack for the formatting of the names of staff members and donors, which took up pages and pages towards the end of the publication. In retrospect, coming up with a scheme for the visual hierarchy on these pages was similar to the development of a metadata schema: one must decide which details must appear on the page (for example, name, title, and location) and differentiate them typographically before embarking on lots of data entry into the software, applying the different type styles to each “field” consistently. One must also consider the limits of such fields and how data entered into them impacts the broader design – for example, when envisioning business cards for members of an organization, it is always smart to start with the individual with the longest name or job title, and ensure that the design accommodates their details before moving onto those with less information to convey in the same amount of space.
It’s amusing to reflect on these similarities now that I have the extra-long job title of “Original Cataloguer & Reference Specialist”. The library’s time-tracking software truncates this to “Original Cat”. Mew!