Illustrator Memories from Mark Simonson

Thanks to Mark Simonson of Mark Simonson Studio for sharing memories (and photos!) of Illustrator. Check out the rest of the series here.

Photo courtesy of Mark Simonson

What is your earliest memory of using Adobe Illustrator?
I have used Illustrator since version 1.0. I might have heard about it at a service bureau, where I would get PageMaker files run off on a high resolution Linotronic imagesetter. I had been trying to use Cricket Draw and MacDraw to make graphics for the jobs I was designing, but the results were terrible. Cricket Draw was also very slow when outputting from the Linotronic, and often would cause it to crash. I knew Adobe because of PostScript and the PostScript fonts they were selling. Since Illustrator was coming from them, I was excited. When I bought Illustrator 1.0 and sat down to use it, it just blew me away how good it was compared to anything else. I was particularly impressed at how well it performed. There was no lag or flickering on the screen as you dragged paths around, unlike other apps. And it printed out exactly the way it looked on the screen.

How did Illustrator impact your career path as a type designer?
I had been using Fontographer since version 1.0, which predated Illustrator by about a year. Fontographer was my introduction to drawing with Bézier curves, but the screen rendering was very crude and flickered a lot as you moved things around. Illustrator’s pen tool worked similarly, but was much better at representing curves and was much smoother and more responsive. I found that it was easier and more enjoyable for me to draw in Illustrator. So my early fonts were almost all drawn in Illustrator, and then copied and pasted into Fontographer for finishing and generating. (http://www.marksimonson.com/notebook/view/illustrator-1)

How did your relationship to Illustrator change over the years?
In the early 2000s, I was switching from Fontographer to FontLab. Fontographer hadn’t been updated in almost a decade. I decided to take the opportunity to start drawing directly in the font editor instead of in Illustrator. As much as I liked Illustrator’s tools, working in two programs added a lot of extra steps and inefficiencies to the process. Once I made the transition, I did find that I could work faster and more efficiently that way. I continued to use Illustrator for lettering and illustration tasks.

How do you use Illustrator in your work today?
These days, I mainly use Illustrator to test and proof fonts I’m working on and for creating marketing materials to promote my fonts once they are done. I sometimes use it for lettering projects, but I don’t do a lot of that anymore. My main activity now is typeface design, and has been for a while.

What do you think Illustrator’s biggest type-related legacy has been?
Probably introducing Bézier curves and the pen tool to type designers and lettering people. Most modern font editors have a pen tool the same basic functionality. If you know how to draw in Illustrator, you know how to draw in a font editor.

Anything else to add?
I’ll never forget the VHS tape that was included with Illustrator 1.0. It was a tutorial on how to use the program, presented by John Warnock himself, the founder and CEO of Adobe. In the video, Warnock is seated in front of a Mac Plus and goes through the basics of how to use the pen tool and other features of Illustrator, sometimes turning to the camera and exclaiming, “Isn’t that neat?” It was hard not to like the program after that.

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Meghan Arnold

Meghan Arnold

Community engagement at Typekit. Former TYPO San Francisco conference director. Probably taking photos of signs or San Francisco sunsets. Will one day write about her adventures.