Vintage 1987 Letraset Catalogs


I came across these Letraset catalogs from 1987, the first year of The Next Generation. Would any of the products featured in them perhaps have been used by the art department for creating props? There’s a lot of typography samples showing what was available at the time.


Yes, Letraset’s Compacta fonts were used to create master images for the early LCARS displays and PADD screens. I’m not sure if they would have been originally in the dry transfer form or what when making the positive masters of the graphics… maybe that was the only form? Some props used the rub-on/dry transfer lettering version directly on the prop as well.


Could you elaborate? I thought most LCARS, even the early stuff of the TNG era, were done on computer.


Desktop publishing didn’t exist in the early few seasons of TNG (much less an electronic version of Compacta), so it was all done by hand. Here’s a link to a post with a quote from Doug Drexler where he touches on it:

An older post of mine describes what I think the process was… I can’t claim it to be 100% correct but the overall idea of the workflow is supported by comments like Doug’s above.

My impression is that the introduction of computers and Adobe Illustrator into the art department is why there is a shift from Compacta to Helvetica ultra compressed around season 3 of TNG (the latter being an electronic font that could be output by a laser printer). Has anyone seen mention of when they got computers? Maybe the Okudas mention it somewhere…?


I’ll check that out, but as far as computers, they mention in it in the production of the Technical Manual, don’t they?


I don’t know - didn’t realize the Technical Manual had any behind-the-scenes stuff. I’ll have to review my copy.


I meant, they mention producing the manual on computer.


If I recall correctly, the TNG Tech Manual wasn’t published at the beginning of the series but near the end of its run (1991, I believe) so at that point they would’ve had desktop publishing capabilities.


Yes, but I mentioned it as a point to them using computers by at least that time. By the way, Illustrator came out in '87.

Adobe Illustrator was first developed for the Apple Macintosh in December 1986 (shipping in January 1987) as a commercialization of Adobe’s in-house font development software and PostScript file format. Adobe Illustrator is the companion product of Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is primarily geared toward digital photo manipulation and photorealistic styles of computer illustration, while Illustrator provides results in the typesetting and logo graphic areas of design. Early magazine advertisements (featured in graphic design trade magazines such as Communication Arts) referred to the product as “the Adobe Illustrator”. Illustrator 88, the product name for version 1.7,[1] was released in 1988 and introduced many new tools and features.[2]

Here’s a bit about desktop publishing on Macs:

In 1985, the combination of the Mac, Apple’s LaserWriter printer, and Mac-specific software like Boston Software’s MacPublisher and Aldus PageMaker enabled users to design, preview, and print page layouts complete with text and graphics—an activity to become known as desktop publishing. Initially, desktop publishing was unique to the Macintosh, but eventually became available for other platforms.[50] Later, applications such as Macromedia FreeHand, QuarkXPress, and Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator strengthened the Mac’s position as a graphics computer and helped to expand the emerging desktop publishing market.

Interesting note:

MacPublisher was sold in 1986 to Esselte Letraset, whose business in press-down dry transfer lettering was evaporating with competition from laser printers, notably Apple’s pioneering LaserWriter printer. It was briefly sold as LetraPage, but dropped from the market when Letraset subsequently acquired Ready,Set,Go! from Manhattan Graphics.

I’m not at all saying you’re incorrect about the early stuff, but if they were doing it by hand, it might not have been strictly by necessity.


EWilliams, did you perhaps want to start a new discussion thread about this; specifically about these hand-made early graphics? I find it all very interesting and it would be cool if we can sort of hash out some of the particulars for people who are interested outside of the specific projects where these topics came up. In particular, I know that Mike Okuda will be doing a Q&A at the Trekconderoga in May, is it? It would be cool if someone who’s going to that could ask him some specific questions to resolve any confusion we had. A thread on the topic could help us clarify what to ask him in particular.


Compacta Letraset sheet.


I dunno, I’ve said/speculated pretty much all I can about the backlit screens - definitely need other voices with more information :slight_smile:

Would it be better to ask the Okudas via email? Some members here and in the facebook groups seem to have had success in asking questions that way. Might allow for a more precise/thorough answer.


As long as some familiar modern-age Trek graphics are being shown off, I thought I’d drop in a bit from the ST:TMP travel pod. From 1978, when we used rapidograph pens and Letraset rub-ons and we -liked- it. :slight_smile: Following Lee Cole’s lead for making backlit kodalith negatives (a practice that lasted right through to TNG), and adhering to design constraints from the stage electronics folks who actually wired up the bulbs, I ended up making about 1/4 of the lit controls in the film, and piles of set labels. I’ll see if I can find a few more. - Rick Sternbach

Another moldy oldie from ST:TMP in 1978. Yours truly looking over a neg of different designs. On the white illustration boards are visible a lot of other departmental logos, including some that have survived through all films and modern Trek series. I don’t recall who shot the photo. - Rick Sternbach


Doug Drexler

Follow · August 24, 2013 ·

The front view was inked (inked?!) to become part of the bridge displays on the Enterprise-C. If you didn’t know before, black line art was typically shot on high-contrast negative film and then colored from behind with gels, mounted to light gray smoked plexiglas, and backlit. Okay, you knew that. Today, of course, it’s all Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw and a bunch of other image apps printed out to backlit inkjet film. Anyhow, most of the status displays and engineering cross section diagrams were originally done with black technical pen and xerox pasteup and thin black crepe tape.


Referring to the Ops control panels for DS9:

Doug Drexler - These were film negs backed with gels and diffusion. Later the Par sign shop bought a color output device, and the gels and film negs were history.
September 28, 2013 at 11:32am


I’ve been mucking around again with researching vintage publishing techniques, and one thing I was wondering about…

You know those little easter eggs in the Enterprise-D’s MSD graphic? The Porsche, the plane, the hamster wheel, etc.? Where did these graphics come from? My first guess is a sheet of Letraset or Chartpak symbols, but I’ve yet to come across ones that match those in the graphic. Can anyone think of another possible source for these?