What did Graphic Designers Use Before Computers?

Hi guys! We are back with yet another amazing blog of ours and we know that you are going to love it. Since most of our readers here happen to work as freelance and full-time graphic designers, we decided to go back in time to talk about and share what stuff was used to create art works and other designs before computers were even invented. So, if you are the curious type then this blog is definitely for you and we would like you to stop whatever you are doing because we have some really interesting facts to share!

As we have access to latest devices & technologies these days, it does seem like a (somewhat) fun and easy job to design anything but we are sure that the graphic designers before us must have their tools and tricks etc. to create what they wanted to create. We have been using computers, laptops and other smart devices for so long that we are sure this thought must have crossed your heads that “there was a time before computers were even there…!?” Well, you are not the only ones to think that way but well, we are here to talk about exactly that so, let’s do that!

Computers, Photoshop, tablets etc. did not come just like that and since it took years for the machines to get developed as well as accessible to the masses, graphic designers had to work for hours & days to get done and over with their designs. And in old days, we can bet that advertising and marketing was not this easy – like the way we see it in today’s world which also makes us wonder about the daily job routines of marketers and graphic designers as well. that must be quite hectic and stressful to say the least.

Type Lettering System Gum Solution Technique



Letraset for producing letters one by one


When we thought of working on our today’s blog, we dug in the history to find out stuff which might not be a common piece of information but here is an interesting list of some of the most commonly used tools before graphic designers could actually work on their computers etc.:

  • Pens & Pencils (for creatives & typography)
  • X-Acto Knives (cutting letters and shapes)
  • Tweezers (picking up too small cutout objects)
  • Drawing Tables (for drawing, writing and sketching)
  • Rubber Cement (forming a strong yet flexible bond)
  • Solvent (pasting design as well as paint thinners)

Back in the day, pens & pencils were widely used by almost everyone who was hired for graphic designing but these tools were a lot different than the ones you must be thinking of. Radiographic pens & pencils were used by the designers who used to work before the computers came into existence and you must have seen that those pen and pencils are also making a come back which is more on the retro side.

X Acto knives


In addition to that, we would also like to share that regular and light blue (colored) pencils were used for tracing and drawing images respectively. X-Acto Knives were used to literally cut and paste an element on a design. Yeah, you read that right – they would cut out the design element if they wanted to remove it or place it somewhere else on their art works. It was done by measuring millimeters.

Then there were tweezers that were used for design elements that were tiny and it was difficult to control them with hands. We are only thinking how it must be for the graphic designers of that time, really. Oh, and did you know that special drawing tables were manufactured and used by the graphic designers to actually work on their designs? Those table were nothing like the ones we work on today but those were some good angled drawing tables with a T-squares on the higher ends of the tables which helped the designers in drawing straight & parallel lines efficiently.

Rubber cement and solvent were used for pasting the design elements and thinning out the cement. That helped in a smooth application of the cement but you wouldn’t really like the next thing which are about to share. Anyone who would use the rubber cement and solvent mixture had a lot to say about being light headed due to those strong fumes. Ugh, now that does sound like too much and we are glad that we do not have to work by using any of those tools and mixtures etc.

We have hundreds of fonts to choose from when it comes to copy and everything else for that matter but when graphic designers didn’t have computers, then they had to work using multiple other time taking techniques like typesetting, hot lead typesetting, photo typesetting etc. and all of that required hands – nothing else but hands.

Reading all that must have made you thank the Lord for the people who changed the work style of graphic design by introducing machines, gadgets, software programs, tricks and techniques because without them, this might become a long journey.


Do Not Forget To Read These Informative Articles:

  1. Are Graphic Designers Paid Well?
  2. How Can I Make My Brain More Creative?
  3. What Is A Good Design Brief? A Must Read For Everyone
  4. 10 Times Graphic Designers Should Say “NO” To Clients
  5. Difference Between Wordmark, Lettermark & Brandmark
  6. Designer Guide: How To Be More Polite In Emails
  7. 5 Types of Printing Techniques for Business Cards with Examples


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