A typesetter is a person who creates text on a machine to be stored and transferred to a printing mechanism that produces bulk materials, such as newspapers and magazines. The process used to be done by hand, with each letter and symbol painstakingly placed in a grid that was placed into a manually operated printer. This method was replaced by a letterpress with movable type used with an electric printer. In modern times, a typesetter commonly uses typesetting software to create documents for printing projects. She typically works for a small press company as their sole typesetter or for a major publishing company as part of a team of typesetters.
Skills in typesetting are required by a wide range of companies and industries. Besides the typical jobs at book publishing houses and printing companies, a typesetter is often hired by firms that produce specialty items such as memory books, family histories and one-of-a-kind pamphlets and brochures. Some typesetters choose self-employment and work from home offices as well.
Besides knowing how to utilize typesetting software, a person with this job also has to be knowledgeable about printers, scanners and photo production and enhancement equipment. Since most type is accompanied by graphics, drawings or photographs, a typesetter’s marketability is normally dependent upon her expertise in all these applications. It is also helpful for her to be educated in the different types of printers. Depending on what brand and type of printer that will be used for final production, she may have to make technical adjustments in her type and layout to achieve the best results.
A successful typesetter normally has an acute eye for detail and a flair for artistic presentation. She is regularly required to visualize a page before the type is set. Her skill in envisioning how the text and images will merge on the page is important in choosing fonts and font sizes for the body text, captions and headlines. Clients regularly require several versions and styles of the project for review before making their final determination. Their decision typically takes aesthetics as well as budgets into consideration.
Some employers require a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, computer aided design or fine arts to apply for a typesetter position. Others are open to hiring a candidate with a high school diploma or equivalent if the applicant has industry experience. Background in applying page layout, design or graphics software is a plus. A portfolio of diverse and quality work is highly recommended for a person seeking a position as a typesetter.