This is the fifth in a series describing my Publishing Timeline; the events, experiences and occupations that have somehow shaped my business life up until today.I had decided I could do without the “psychic rewards” that publishing offered, and that it was time to look for less lofty rewards, like a decent salary. I’d become friends with a really colorful woman who ran one of the fastest growing type shops in New York, located down on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village.
She was a diminutive force of nature, a redheaded firestorm from Alabama, Julie Brumlik, and she called her company Scarlett Letters.
The time I spent learning even more about typography at Scarlett Letters was only disturbed by my growing realization that, of all things, I was not cut out to be an “on the street” salesman. The little lead cards we’d get from the office, that turned to gold in Julie’s hands, turned to ashes in mine.
It’s very difficult to give a real effort to something that you know you’re not suited to, and eventually I had to find another direction for my career.
Going Nowhere Fast
I bounced around New York for a while, working for temporary agencies, experiencing different corporate environments and learning how corporate cultures could be so different.
At some offices I worked in the sense of fear was palpable. There would be one person with a huge ego problem, and the stifling atmosphere that surrounded people like that made it miserable for everyone else.
Sometimes I’d come on a work environment where people were relaxed and happy, but work always seemed to be late, or incomplete, or not attended to with enough attention to do a good job.
Each place I worked, as a word processor, a typesetter on the phototypesetters of the day like the AM Comp-set, taught me something about where people—and the work they did—flourished, and where they withered.
Soon enough, another opportunity for that mysterious entrepreneurial tendency appeared. Since I didn’t come from a family of entrepreneurs, or business owners, or even merchants, I often wondered where the compulsion came from to keep opening businesses. But I knew I had it.
On a flight to California I ran into my best friend from university, Steve Isaac, and soon the next chapter opened before me.
Friedlander Design, A Home At Last
My friend Steve had a direct response agency, and he was growing fast. The Stenrich Group, led by Steve’s charismatic personality and fine intelligence, was on the rise and needed an art director. I set up my own company, Friedlander Design, in the building where Stenrich had its offices on Fifth Avenue at 21st Street in Manhattan’s Flatiron district.
As the creative department for Steve’s agency, I got involved with advertising, direct mail, collateral materials and corporate identity. I soon had a staff of my own and a rolodex full of photographers, stylists, models, prop houses, stat houses, typesetters and all the other contacts needed for ad production.
Advances in marrying computer front-ends to phototypesetting equipment had reached the stage at which Merganthaler, originally the inventor and supplier of the Linotype had introduced a desktop typesetter.
It was called the Linotype CRTronic, and it sported dual 5-1/4″ floppy drives, the latest development in portable magnetic storage. To operate it you sat at a computer terminal and input copy and character-mode codes. Sometimes the entire screen would be full of codes that controlled every aspect of the output.
When you were ready you imaged the type onto a roll of photo paper, pulled the roll in its protective case out of the machine and put it into a little automatic processor with regular photo chemicals, and it would drop out the other end a few minutes later. If you had screwed up somewhere, you started over again.
Typography, But at What Price?
The typesetting system was a boon to my design studio. We were freed from the reliance on typesetting firms and their schedules and their pricing. We could take complete control of 90% of the typesetting we needed on our own.
This really represented the first time that I noticed the intrusion of computer technology into work life. It was the early 1980s. The computer gave us tremendous freedom, but the price was that we had become the typesetters. We had to sit for hours learning the equipment, the codes, the chemistry.
We had to type in all the copy, format it, run it out. What we had previously paid others to do now became part of our responsibility. This devolution of formerly specialty jobs became a theme I would observe for the next 25 years as computers became ubiquitous.
The other price was the price. The system cost over $30,000, and the payments stretched as far as you could see. Here is what I learned: Don’t buy an expensive hybrid typesetting system that will take you 10 years to pay off, and especially don’t do buy it right around the time that IBM changed the world by introducing the IBM PC. Because that will change everything.
The Birth of Globe Press BooksI had my design business, I was very involved in my group, but still I wanted more. Jill, who I married in 1985, urged me to write a book about a subject we had studied together, but about which nothing had been written down.
We learned it from others who knew it in the group. It was a way of classifying people into physical types based on ancient planetary astrology. For over a year I wrote and rewrote the book on my manual correspondent’s typewriter in our apartment on West 87th Street. I bought my first computer, a Compaq Deskpro, with Word Perfect to do the final editing.
I photographed a blurry crowd in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to use on the cover, and hired a proper book typesetter to typeset the book from my PC’s floppy disks.
In 1986, armed with a copy of Dan Poynter’s The Self Publishing Manual, I formed Globe Press Books with Jill as Vice President and my mother Mary as Secretary, and published hardcover and paperback versions of Body Types.
I had returned, by the back door, to the publishing industry. I was a “published” author and owned my own publishing company, although I only had one book. A new course opened up, and I was eager to follow it. And that’s where I’ll take up the story again next time.
Linotype CRTronic image: