23 August 2018

Another Job Lost to Advancing Technology

From the Los Angeles Review of Books’s interview with Holly Tommasino, who created the hand-lettered journal entries in the original Baby-Sitters Club books. Tommasino was first an in-house designer for Scholastic, then a freelancer, then out of a job:
What was your role with The Baby-Sitters Club?

When all the design elements for the series were initially coming together, I created the handwriting styles for each character. And then I handwrote all portions of the manuscripts that were flagged by editorial — usually BSC journal entries, but also the postcards and letters and lists that popped up from time to time. I continued to produce the handwriting even after I left Scholastic.

What happened then?

I worked as a freelancer until 1996. At that point, due to advances in technology, I was sent font forms by a company. They asked me to letter each character’s handwriting in spaces on the form. And these forms were long! They had me do a few different y’s and then write a w attached to a y or a t attached to a y. They didn’t want the handwriting samples to look totally uniform, so it was quite an extensive process. After that, the freelance work stopped, but the books continued.
The 1986-2000 series has of course been rejuvenated with comics adaptations by Raina Telgemeier and then Gale Galligan. Those editions appear to be the bestsellers today.

In contrast, 2010 Scholastic reissued two early titles, evidently retaining or reproducing the cursive writing, but those books didn’t spark a new craze among the children of the original readers. The latest reissue is clearly for the nostalgia market. Was the cursive handwriting, which kids today are said not to be able to read, to blame?

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