Vestax PMC-06T

The perfection of imperfection  — a design detective at work

A peek into my print process

When starting a new illustration project (this time the uniquely wonderful Vestax PMC-06T), I know that for a decent lump of my immediate future, my day-to-day life takes on a theme — measure twice, Draw once.

But the analogue measuring to digital drawing element is but one part of the pleasure of turning iconic DJ hardware into fine art prints.

The real fun starts when faced with often wonkily printed fonts and impossible-to-find graphics on units made in pre-digital times.

The thrill of the chase

I come from a time of early desktop publishing but with a solid appreciation for the process of paste-up and camera work and all the manual imperfections that can bring. 

Pouring over decades of classic DJ gear, I’ve yet to find a proper spelling mistake or serious grammatical error (that’s what legal departments are for after all). But crimes against typography abound.

Poor font choice. A bewildering range of sizes. Word space you can drive a bus through. Kerning so bad that you’re not sure if it’s a new word. I’m going to need some sort of typographical therapy at the end of The Worxlab project. 

The thrill comes from tracking down decades-old logos on classic gear and then realising that the company may have ended before the internet even began. And then attempting to match particular fonts, only to discover that the logo is heavily tweaked. Also, imagine my joy at having to manually kern every letter because the artwork doesn’t match modern typographical metrics. 

An example

Let’s take a look at the “Professional Mixing Controller” block at the top of the 06T. Seasoned designers will recognise this font as Avant Garde. But it’s a specific version with a closed “R”, in this case, ITC Avant Garde Gothic Pro Medium.

I now have several Avant Gardes installed, as well as other retro classics ITC Eras and Kabel installed that will most likely never be used again. But designers never uninstall fonts right?

But it’s not as simple as just typing the words into Illustrator. I have no idea how this artwork was created, but the spacing is all over the place. So simple scaling or blanket tracking just isn’t cutting it for me. And believe me when I say that this is a better example.

The only option left to please my obsessive tendencies is to tweak the kerning between each letter manually.

On every block of text. 

On every face of the product. 

On every drawing I’ve done and will do.

You probably think I’m mad. But details always matter.

Vestax PMC-06T
Macro shot of the Vestax PMC-06T faceplate. Almost tempted to reproduce the speckle.

A self-drawn line

My technical illustrations are by definition precise. I measure with vernier callipers to two decimal places. And I make sure that the graphics are reproduced with obsessive accuracy.

But I don’t feel that mimicking the spread of ink from the silk screen process adds anything to the illustrations. With the details being so sharp, rounding off edges and making straight lines a little rougher doesn’t improve anything and simply adds to the workload. 

But why Mark?

Reading the lengths I go to with fonts and graphics, you could reasonably assume that I suffer from crippling perfectionism.

Well… I do. But the answer is more simple.

Every typographical travesty is reproduced in obsessive detail because if I didn’t, the original’s charm and spirit would be lost. 

We subconsciously notice these details. If I were to tidy up all the wonky things I find while doing my technical illustrations, you’d look at them and know that something was off.

The greatest irony is that I’m shedding my perfectionism through reproducing imperfection, but only to a point. My work, as the saying goes, is perfectly imperfect. And I love it.

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