The view out the side windows
is getting a bit blurry

tIME keeps moving faster, not only for us aging Boomers, although maybe faster for us than even the old people. It seems like just yesterday we had the Font Wars, with Warnock crying on the stage at Seybold.

John Warnock has retired. Jonathan Seybold sold the company, and various successors ran the conference into the ditch, with the seminar, once the biannual gathering of the print tribes, disappeared a year ago. Jonathan was the oracle of desktop publishing, whose late-80s mantra ("standard platforms, shrink-wrapped software") set the direction for desktop publishing, and, later, the open source movement for all content production.

That seems a long time ago, but the influence is fresh. When you think about how a single person with a trade conference and a newsletter could be so influential, you have to conclude there was some clever footwork behind the scenes. And there was. Quietly doing the scut work behind Seybold was Craig Cline. He was a big guy, but he moved around the stage quickly. He seemed to know everyone, and to like them all, and to know what they were up to.

At first you thought Craig was just the assistant, the gofer, the facilitator, the stand-in. Only later, after getting to know him a little, did I realize that Craig was not only keeping up with Jonathan, he was doing some of the thinking. He started with a programmer's understanding of the newspaper content management systems of the 80s (which we called "front end systems"). Craig backstopped the projections and predictions of Jonathan and his colleagues, and helped put together a series of conferences that defined the change in the industry from closed, proprietary systems, to open software running on PCs. These conferences were milestones for designers, developers, and production folks of all stripes in their struggle to understand what is going on with the technology. They were a series road signs that marked real turning points.

I remember Efi Arazi (Scitex) explaining the future of digital networks. I remember Fred Ebrahimi (Quark) standing on the edge of the stage and imploring the audience, "Just tell me what you want!" And I remember John Warnock (Adobe), after Apple's TrueType announcement that broke Adobe's stranglehold on font technology. Warnock enumerated to Jonathan Seybold all the amazing things Adobe had done for the industry (Postscript, Illustrator, PhotoShop), and then broke down in tears. Seybold was a lot more than a trade show.

= = = = =

After Jonathan retired, Craig took over Seybold as VP/Content, a great title if there ever was one. And it was then that I began to figure out how much a role he must have had from the beginning. Every time I saw him, he would have a new key phrase for me to learn, like color management, font server, multiple platforms. Or a new acronmym: CMS. XML. CSS.

Years went by, the Internet arrived, and the Seybold business unravelled. Craig had left some time before the end, and started his blog. We worked together on a number of projects, including a largely unsuccessful run at Quark to try to get them to listen to their customers. At the Font Bureau last year he developed a strategic plan for type development on new platforms. Craig knew a lot of people in media technology, but more importantly he could see the direction that things were moving. With Jonathan Seybold he saw the tectonic shift to what they called "the third wave" -- desktop publishing. Craig embraced the web early, and declared that media creation was quickly becoming a two-way street. Closed was becoming open.

= = = = =

I had lost track of Craig for a few months after the font project, but I knew he was having some health problems, which he said had to do with a genetic form of ALS. I had no idea that was Lou Gehrig's disease, or I might have come to see him again. The last few phone calls, his speech had begun to slur. Then I got a voicemail message from his wife, Gayle, his partner in every way, saying that he had died September 2, and there was to be a memorial service. Like many of us, I treat news of death with denial. I did not fly out for the service, but I have been thinking about the passage of time, and the accelerating loss of people I know.

Like the early railroad passengers who first saw trees turn into green streaks, I don't know quite what to make of the side blur of the speed of time. But if you look out the back, you begin to see the patterns that we’re leaving behind.

Craig was one of the few who could see the patterns forming in front of the train.

Your Thoughts (1 comment)

2006-11-03 by Rob

Thanks for sharing

We as brothers were not close, but we talked a few times a year and I would try and see Craig when I flew to SF every June. The more I read from people he worked with at Seybold and others, the more I understand how special he was to so many. Thanks Roger

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