Graphic design today is a combination of the historical skills of illustrators and printers. It combines typography, illustration, photography and, now, digital media to visually communicate a message. Originally it was the domain of the printers. The printers would arrange text and woodblock images in the letterpress. The printers were also the ones who usually designed the typefaces. The work of illustrators was engraved on woodblocks; often by a trained engraver rather than the illustrator. However, it was the printer who developed the finished look of the publication. The advent of the industrial revolution created niches in the printers’ world that were filled with artists, photographers and other tradesmen.
Early printers could easily be called the art directors of their day. Printers came up with ideas for publications and commissioned illustrators and typographers to fulfill their vision. However, the term was not to be found until the latter half of the 19th century. Charles Parsons was one of the first art editors. He discovered and trained artists to improve the image quality of the publications of Harper and Brothers. While Harper and Brothers published and printed the magazine, the overall design was left to an editor. Today the Bureau of Labor and Statistics states:
Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They create the overall design of a project and direct others who develop artwork and layouts.” (Art Directors)
The responsibility of visual style has long been removed from the printer/publisher.
The term compositor was first used in 1569. A compositor is “one who sets type”. (Compositor). In the days before the computer, the compositor would be found at the printing press, arranging the type according to the specifications of the designer. For the majority of the 20th century, typesetting work was sent to specialists. These typesetting companies completed the input and editing of text. In the computer age of the 1980s and beyond the typesetter became obsolete. Typesetting can now be done on the computers at the publisher by a layout designer. Layout designers are responsible for creating an aesthetically pleasing page that is also easy to read, not only for print publications but also web publications. Web designers and print layout designers are typically separate occupations. Today a design compositor is a technician that combines still or moving images into a finished product. An internet search for compositor jobs...