Communication Arts  (November 1, 1992)

Communication Arts magazine in California does a feature on Segura Inc in the November 1992 issue.


ca 33 cover

Communication Arts 33 cover.

A good example of the design office of the future may be in Chicago on North lake Shore Drive. Carlos Segura and his wife, Sun, run Segura, Inc., a creative communications firm producing design and advertising projects 100% digitally. Frequently, they produce the entire project on computers from concept through typesetting and photo color correction to stripping.

"Part of being a good art director is specing type properly and paying attention to the details," Segura said. "The computer lets you do it visually and with more precision; I find that to be a plus. I think that design in general has improved greatly in the last five years because of computers. A lot of art directors are beginning to learn the beauty of typography because they can do it themselves."

Most of the work on the following pages could be classified as graphic design, but much of Segura's work experience came as an advertising art director for a number of Chicago agencies including Young & Rubicam, BBDO and Bayer Bess Vanderwarker.

Carlos started Segura, Inc. in 1990 to explore a fine art side in his work that he wasn't able to do at an agency, although 50% of his current work still comes as a freelance advertising art director. In a growing sideline business, Segura acts as a consultant to advertising agencies by making recommendations on hardware and software and then training the creative department personnel to use the equipment.

"Usually the people who show up at the classes are the young kids who are still hungry and have that desire in their hearts to change the world," Carlos said. "Most of the older art directors figure 'Hey, I'm making money and I don't know computers, so why should I take the trouble to learn?"

Although Segura brought a Mac SE for his own use, most of his early computer experience was on-the-job, while at BBDO and Bayer Bess. As Carlos became more proficient he experienced the same plight as many "resident experts."

"There's always this one guy in an agency who can draw well and everybody wants him to draw their comps," Carlos said."The same thing was happening to me. I was the guy who knew computers. When there was a computer problem I was always asked to come and fix it. A lot of guys would throw their hands up in the air and say 'I just don't want to bother with this.' But when they had something they needed done they would come to me and that became an uncomfortable abuse of knowledge."

Graphic design used to be one of the least expensive businesses to start. Today, the high cost of computer equipment can be a real barrier. Fortunately, Carlos acquired bits and pieces of equipment over time and had a workable system when he opened his doors.

"You never have the setup you want and you'll always outgrow what you have," he said. "Memory purchases have affected my time the most, particularly for the printer. But what really changed the way I work was when I got my optical cartridges. We've got some high resolution scans that are 100 to 200 MB each. With most of our work 100% digital, the amount of memory it takes up is incredible."

Rather than try to upgrade his equipment further, Segura has ordered a Quadra 950 with 32MB of memory. "It's cheaper to buy news," he said. "A design firm that I consult with was thinking of upgrading their Mac IIci to color and we figured it would actually be cheaper for them to buy a Quadra 950 than to upgrade their black and white Mac IIci. You'd have to get the memory cards, a new monitor; the differences in processing speed is worth the money alone.

"Keeping up with software upgrades tends to be extremely expensive," Carlos added. "There's no way you can bill it to the client. You literally end up re-buying the program every year-and-a-half. Particularly with Quark; they're the only company that charges you a yearly fee for technical support, which, in my opinion is outrageous. But you don't really have a choice, when software companies issue a new version, served bureaus don't service the previous version."

With the proliferation of hardware and software products available, Segura manages to control costs by deciding on the type of work he wants to do.

"When I first got into advertising I made the conscious decision of focusing on print instead of broadcast," he said. "Lately I've been trying to focus on whether I want to do advertising or design and I think I'm going to take that a step further and decide whether I want to be a designer for print communication or do I want to be a multimedia artist on the computer. Right now I'm going to stay with print. The multimedia world is going through pretty bad growing pains right now. There are so many formats out there and they're all fighting to become the format of choice. Plus, there's an incredible learning curve for all those programs."

Segura has found it an educational experience explaining to to clients that they should expect to pay him close to what it would cost to produce a project conventionally.

"I try to bill as close to conventional pricing as possible, because when we do a digital project, we're typesetting, we're keylining, we're doing the color separations and we're outputting the film. You've spent $50,000 or $60,000 on a system that allows you to do all that. Somehow you have to get that money back. If you bill it by the time, it works out.

Another problem Segura has encountered is that most clients with computers have learned something about design.

"I was in a meeting with a client who hired us to do their newsletter," Carlos said. "She brought in her secretary who said 'Well you know, if you try this... I tried that on my computer the other day and it looked kind of neat.' That's the problem we're dealing with now. What's happening in our industry is what happened in the early 1900s when people got a camera and automatically they were photographers. Now everybody with a computer is a designer."

When asked how the computer has changed his approach to creative problem solving, Carlos said he's actually benefited. "I never really did pencil sketching that much even before computers. I've always worked things out in my mind and then just done them. I feel that I'm a very organized person. I see design as organizing elements and the computer lets me do that very well.

"I think the computer has made me a better designer. When a printer used to talk to me about trapping I didn't pay much attention, now I appreciate what he was talking about. We're conditioned to step away from the trapping, color separation and modification issues because that's the way we used to do it. But the technology that's been offered to us today gives us the opportunity to push the envelope of what we can do. Five or ten years ago, an art director would have killed for a project with the budget to work on a Scitex or Paintbox system. Now it's sitting on your desk."

Desktop power may be changing the role of the designer but it's nothing like the impact on typographers, color separators and other prepress professionals. A good example of this happened to Carlos while dropping off plate-ready film to a printer.

:My sales rep told me, 'Carlos, you walked in the other day and plopped prestripped film and a Cromalin in front of this group of 50-year-old guys who've spent their life stripping negatives and they just looked at each other and thought 'Jesus, I'm dead.' It was scary. What are these guys going to do? They're not going to learn the technology. They're going to be out of a job."

While not everyone is getting into computers and there will always be a need for what Carlos calls "analog art directors," it's obvious to him that computer-supported creative services will become an industry standard.

"I can't imagine any design company or advertising agency staying in the business without going into the computer world, because that's the way the world is going."

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