A Fond Farewell from Design Tools Monthly

Today we learned that our good friend Jay Nelson is putting the Design Tools Monthly newsletter on hiatus, saying that the September/October 2013 issue is the last issue for the forseeable future. Along with his announcement he provided this history of Design Tools Monthly:




In 1988, I was managing one of the nation’s first service bureaus (RJL Graphics in Austin, Texas). Every day I witnessed the pain and frustration of graphic designers trying to keep up with changes in technology, so I decided to create a way to deliver the information they needed, in a way they would enjoy. I knew the market wasn’t yet ready to pay for that relief of suffering, so I moved to Boulder, Colorado, and waited for the swell of frustration to peak.


By 1992, the frustration was palpable and widespread, so in September 1992 I introduced the world to Design Tools Monthly. I promoted DTM in every free or low-cost way possible — never spending more on promotion than I took in from subscriptions. A number of well-placed industry people assisted me in getting the word out, which helped tremendously. (I owe a huge thank-you to Tim Gill at Quark and Bill Davis at Monotype, among others!)


The Internet was not being used much at that time, partly because the speed of modems was limited to 2400-9600 bps. Because of these slow connection speeds, Quark’s Tim Gill suggested we add a monthly floppy disk of hand-chosen shareware, bug fixes, fonts, updates and XTensions to our service. He even gave us the exclusive right to distribute Quark’s free XTensions as they were released! Every month we trolled CompuServe, AppleLink and America Online for truly useful items and delivered them to our subscribers.


Producing the disks was fun — once we had a final master, we would sit with two Macs and feed them floppies as we watched a movie (VHS!). When our subscriber base was large enough that it took longer than a two-hour movie to copy the floppies, we hired a disk duplication service to do it for us. 🙂


Over the years, quite a few people have asked me what kind of system we use to write stories and keep track of them. The surprising answer is: FileMaker! I’ve used FileMaker since version 1 in 1985, and it’s always been my go-to system for tracking all information. By setting up a layout in FileMaker that resembled a column of text in our QuarkXPress newsletter template, we could print out the stories from FileMaker and choose the best ones for the current issue. Then, we’d export those stories with XPress Tags added to the various fields, and when we flowed it into QuarkXPress the stories practically formatted themselves! We still use FileMaker to write and edit our stories.


Designing the newsletter was fun: We consciously used no grays — just solid black and white. By doing that, we hoped to imply that our information had no “gray areas” — it was as black and white as our design. After looking through hundreds of fonts, we chose ITC Galliard, ITC Franklin Gothic and Shelley Andante. Only later did we discover that they were all designed by the same incredible font designer: Matthew Carter! I drew the squiggly Mac II, based on Apple’s original Mac squiggle. In 2000 we hired the incomparable logo designer Dave Shelton to update the DTM logo with colors to match the newly released gumdrop iMacs. I then used Alien Skin Software’s Photoshop plug-ins to make the letters puffy and translucent. After publishing several issues and CDs with the logo in various colors, we settled on the red one you see today.


We started in print, and we’ve printed every issue for the past 21 years. Our first website went live in 1995. In 1997, when Internet connection speeds became fast enough to download our newsletter in PDF format, we began offering Design Tools Monthly electronically as well. In 1998 we grew from 8 pages to 12 pages. And in 2001 we began putting the newsletter and our Updater Disk items (formerly on floppies!) onto a quarterly CD and sent it to our subscribers.


Time flew by — tools changed, faces came and went, and we had a fantastic time mixing it up with the industry leaders at events such as the Seybold Conference, Macworld Expo, Graph Expo and Thunder Lizard Conferences. I spoke at various events, which always made me very nervous! New subscribers joined us from more than 40 countries, which amazed me. I remember consulting our globe on several occasions to determine exactly where some of them were.


In 2007 we teamed with CreativePro.com to begin our experiment with a weekly podcast: “Design Tools Weekly”. Jeff Gamet and I had a great time getting together and bringing some DTM goodness to the world at large. Ultimately, it took more time and energy than it was worth, so we stopped recording them after three years. You can still hear them http://www.DesignToolsWeekly.com.


I began to think of a lot of my industry buddies as family. There is something about the people who are dedicated to helping others understand the tools and processes in the print world — perhaps it’s because my grandfather was a typesetter and my great-grandfather was a book publisher — but I just felt at home in that world. Still do!






Design Tools Monthly has been written, produced, and distributed by a relatively small number of very talented people. I send my heartfelt thanks to (in no particular order): my road trip partners Ben Willmore, Chris Murphy and Jeff Gamet; early production wizards Jim Applegate, Kathy Nelson and Evan Ravitz; Creaticity visionaries Tom Wilcoxen and Tom Gilboy; printing saviors Jeremy Tyson, Mike Brooks, Brandon Munzer and Davis Hammond; mailing wizard Stuart Hurt; FileMaker database experts Murray Jason and Kate Trowe; designer of our second (and current) logo Dave Shelton; and our incredible writers & idea-senders: Lesa Snider, Howard Goldstein, Jack Davis, Jeff Gamet, Erica Gamet, Lynette Kent, Catrine Turillon, Rob Barnes, Dan Margulis, Chris Murphy, Ben Willmore, Charles Holt and Melissa Holt.


And another Big Thanks to the following people for promotion and much-needed support (you know how you helped!): Tim Gill, Erin Livers, Cyndie Shaffstall, Tami Stodgill, Patrick Marchese, Mary Gay Marchese, Mark Niemann-Ross, Scott Kelby, Frank Romano, Jake Widman, David Blatner, Sara Booth, Davol Tedder, Britt Newell, Regina Cleveland, Colin Wood, Scott Carson, John Cornicello, Cameron Foote, Steve Broback, Steve Roth, Brad Walrod, John Feld, Rick LePage, Sandee Cohen, Taz Tally, Noel Ward, Charles Weger, Eric Magnusson, Craig Cline, Lynda Weinman, Gary-Paul Prince, Kevin Slimp, Dan Brill, Elayne Recupero, Hal Hinderliter, Elmo Sapwater, Diana Smedley, Frank Dros, Daniel Mischler, Chank Diesel, Hill Jason, Sandra Coman, Glen Turpin, Jerry Kennelly, Sean Cavanaugh, Michael Kleper, Bert Monroy, Julie Roberts, Dario Badia, Jerry Courvoisier, Lidka Schuch, Jeff Zeldman, Christopher Smith, Mordy Golding, Michael Pilmer, JB Popplewell, Amedeo Rosa, Steve Werner, John Parsons, Scott Citron, Garrick Chow, Sharon Steuer, Gene Gable, Barbara Thompson, Terri Stone, Jackie Dove, Seth Elgart, Kevin O’Connor, Chris Heric, Jurgen Kurz, Joe Caponsacco, Michael Ninness, Dan Logan, Jonathan Woolson, Anne-Marie Concepcion, Bob LeVitus, Scott Sheppard, Stuart Sandler, Larry Hickey, Larry Becker, Lisa Cross, Kevin Woodward, Mark Vruno, Gary Adcock, Hans Hartman, Steve Weiss, Sara Jane Todd, Mark Atchley, Jay Kinghorn, Craig Keudell, Michael Wong, Brian Berson, Cliff Colby, Matt Kloskowski, Dave Cross, Ben Greiner, Craig Swanson, Chris Vozzo, Shellie Hall, Carol Stock, Olav Kvern, Richard Harringon, Rob Kerr, Julie Shaffer, Tadson Bussey, Deb Lake, Eddie Murphy, Terry Welty, Ray Schiavone, Bryan O’Neil Hughes, Sarah Rector, Robert Underwood, Robin Williams, Phil Kaskawits, Matthias Guenther, Dan Frakes, Helene Smith, Jim Chambers, Suzanne Morgan, Chuck Joiner, Jeff Butterworth, Gordon Drummond, Scott Chappell, Marc Horne, Bill Davis, Mike Mackenzie, Chris Main, Kathryn Kroll, Dave Korman, Gavin Drake, Lorene Romero, Maria Yap, Lesa Snider, Nanther Thangarajah, Jonathan Levitt, Rod Harlan, Paul Veres, Brian Lawler, Katrin Eismann, Peter Muir, Annette Osterlund, John Grimes, Marty Bennett, Geoff Kehrer, Sam Sussman, Jean-Claude Tremblay, Mike Rankin, Roger C. Parker, Catrine Turillon.


And to our comrades-in-publishing, with whom we share a single-minded dedication to producing a high quality publication, congratulations on steering your own publications in the same waters as ours: John Feld, John Werner, Rick LePage, Elmo Sapwater, Dan Brill, Scott Kelby, Jake Widman, Colin Wood, Cameron Foote, Noel Ward, Michael Kleper, Gordon Kaye, Christopher Yeich, Keith Hevenor, John Parsons, Bill Esler, Stephen Beals, Jeff Hayzlett, Alistair Dabbs, Simon Jary, Karen Haslam, Gillian Carson, Andreas Pfeiffer, Beth Dean, Tadson Bussey, Richard Romano, Suzanne Morgan, Oliver Kruth, Walter Mehl, Tom Wetjen, and Nancy Aldrich-Ruenzel.


Thanks again for your support. We’ll be back in touch when we have more good news for you!

Jay, thanks for all you do for the design community. We’re going to genuinely miss the content you provide for our Websites For Printers clients.