Page Design Celebrates 40 Years with Senior Designer Sherril Cortez

Sherril Cortez 80s

As mentioned in an earlier post, we are taking the next 4 weeks to highlight a few stories and design samples from the last 40 years of Page Design (#PDG40). We appreciate you spending the time to read these stories. Check our feed every week to read more stories and see a collection of vintage graphic design pulled from a bygone, analog era of graphic design history. Pull out your neon and throw on your leg warmers to review this week’s salute to graphic design from the 80s on our Instagram feed. To kick things off, we have some thoughtful insights into the very beginning decades of Page Design from a current 36-year Page Design veteran — Sherril. 

Back in 1984, I remember being so excited to have the opportunity to work for Page Design! The work I had seen from the studio was fun and graphic, and Page Design was definitely a top graphic design studio in Sacramento.

Firefly box design

My first experience was going in on a weekend, alone in the studio, to put together camera-ready art for a package design for a product called Firefly — a battery-operated flashing light to put next to your car for roadside emergencies. Being a perfectionist, I was nervous, yet eager to get to my drawing table to produce this box design with complete precision and accuracy. 

I had my rapidograph pens for inking, an exacto knife with extra blades, french curves, a proportion wheel, a stat camera to print out camera-ready art pieces, rubilith to cut out precise pieces of art and picture windows, and rubber cement and solvent for pasting things onto my artboards. I was being tested on this project. Paul Page never committed to hiring anyone without testing them out for a while… I guess I passed that test. Little did I know that I would be working at Page Design for the next 36 years of my life, and still loving it!

Sherril Cortez

Graphic design was much different back in the 80s and 90s. Paul would meet with a client and come back to the studio and brief his team of 3 or 4 designers about the new project. Back then, working as a team was not only helpful, but also necessary. I distinctly remember a project where we needed to present a full 8‑page brochure mockup in a week’s time. By today’s standards, that is totally achievable, but back then it meant we all quickly kicked into action— it was time for a high-energy scramble. 

First, there were sketches to be drawn so we could choose a direction and create layouts that were also painstakingly hand-drawn. At that point, we either sent out to a typesetter for some headline type or created headlines with rubdown type, one letter at a time applied to a sheet of paper with a burnisher. 

At the same time, graphics were designed — typically with pen and ink. These hand-crafted headlines and graphics were then sent to an output service vendor who created negatives for us. Once we had the negatives, we would mix custom inks, and through an extensive process of exposures, ink draw-downs, and developing, we would create custom dry-transfer rubdown colored type and graphics. 

80s graphic design contact sheet

Concurrently, pages were being constructed for our brochure mockup. Several designers were laying down headline type, greeking for body text, and drawing pictures for photo placement, logos, and other graphics necessary for a compelling layout. Once all the pieces were created and decisions were made, the final brochure was assembled, bound, and ready for presentation to the client. 

It seriously took an entire team of skilled people in the studio, and cooperation from outside vendors, to simply produce an 8‑page brochure mockup. I believe this team effort carries over to today at Page Design. Of course with the use of computers and software, but also pencils on sketch pads, we work collaboratively, egos aside, and lean on each other and trust each other to provide the very best product we can for our clients.

Teamwork, morale, and friendships have always been the glue that holds Page Design together. Establishing a bond between employees is not an easy achievement. Page Design has always been creative and active in promoting that strong bond. Some of these initiatives throughout the years have included:

  • Monday Morning Treats and conversation
  • Page Days  — walks through San Francisco, bike rides, baseball games, water skiing, wine-tasting, art galleries, beer-tasting, hiking
  • Christmas Parties
  • Appreciation lunches
  • Appreciation letters

Funny little tidbit that sticks in my mind

I was 24 years old, still living at home, and hadn’t worked for Page Design long. I came in the house one day and my mom told me that Paul from my office had called.  I asked “Paul Page?” She said, “I’m not sure; when I asked who he was, he simply said, ‘This is Paul, I work with her.’ ” To me, that is a testament to how he wanted to run his company, not as a dictator, but as a teammate, a real team player. He could have easily said, “This is Paul, she works for me.” It confirmed that this was a place at which I wanted to work.

We hope you enjoy taking a look at our past work from the 80s as we have enjoyed reflecting on all the different projects of this time. Stay tuned for next week as we dive intro throwbacks from the 90s and an interview with our founder himself, Paul Page.


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