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Celebrating Frank Romano, an Industry Icon

Jan 15, 2013 12:00 AM

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Editor’s Note: At Graph Expo, Brenda Kai, Executive Director of the Electronic Document Scholarship Foundation (EDSF), presented Frank Romano with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The foundation also established the Frank Romano Lifetime Achievement Scholarship at the Rochester Institute of Technology. 

In his acceptance speech, Frank Romano referenced the late Mike Bruno, one of the foremost graphic arts researchers of his day. Bruno asked Romano to store his awards—hundreds of statues, plaques, certificates and medals.  

During his own 53-year career, Romano has amassed a similar collection. He reflected that honors are transient but our legacies endure in all whom we have helped. 

“My real awards are walking around,” Romano said. “Ingi Olafson, Jill Clayman, Danny Garcia, Liz Kowaluk, Mike Stern, Peter Muir, Ron Goldberg, Eliot Walker—there are more than 1,000 students on the list… If you want to honor someone, think about a scholarship in his or her name. It will do more than a certificate or plaque. It will help the young women and men who are the future of our industry. It will help our industry. That is why I am matching the annual EDSF scholarship for my lifetime award.” 

Very well said. We wanted to tell you more about Frank’s career in our industry and he was happy to oblige. We know you’ll enjoy Frank’s story as much as we did! 

Romano’s Reflections on a Life Spent in the Printing Industry

By Frank Romano  

I was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, NY. My grandparents had arrived in America around 1900. My parents were the children of Italian immigrants. From 1950 to 1957, I attended PS 222, and I graduated in 1960 from James Madison High School. I went to Brooklyn College at night from 1960 to 1966. My intent was to be an English teacher. As the oldest of five kids, I was supposed to be a priest. 

MY MERGENTHALER ERA: 1959–1967My high school counselor had two job recommendations. One was at Squibb Pharmaceutical, and the other was at the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. He said they had something to do with books. I worked there from 1959 to 1967, going from the mailroom to Assistant Advertising Manager. It was an exciting time, as the industry was changing from letterpress to offset litho. 

During my time at Linotype, I served in the Naval Air Reserve in an antisubmarine squadron. Under my watch, Coney Island was never attacked. 

In 1967, Linotype moved to Plainview, NY, and my son Richard was born. I answered an ad in the New York Times and moved to Visual Graphics Corp., then in Manhattan, as their first Advertising and PR Manager.  

I left VGC to work with Carl Littauer, an editor at Printing Magazine. We formed ELAR Communicorp to do advertising and public relations. Our first client was PDA Systems, founded by Charles Wang, who would create Computer Associates. His first product was a program for variable data printing. Carl and I also handled GSI for their introduction at the New Orleans ANPA show. GSI went bankrupt, and I was left holding the bag for a lot of money. 

1971:WITH COMPUGRAPHIC AT IPEX I then joined Sam Blum, a colleague from Mergenthaler, at Photon as their second Advertising Manager. Sam was VP Marketing. In 1971, I met Harold Evans at a show in Minneapolis, and he recommended me to Compugraphic Corp. I became their first Marketing Communications Manager. I handled their first international trade show, Ipex, during which my second son, Robert, was born. 

In 1972, I left Compugraphic to form my own company, GAMA. I consulted for the Warlock Computer Co. and GSI, which was acquired by Vanvlandren, and they paid me back. I published my first book, the Handbook of Composition Input, and gave all of my copies away to become instantly famous. I began working with Don Goldman at the National Composition Association, and he and I travelled the US, promoting phototypesetting. 

STOP READING AND JUST TALK…The first speech I ever gave was in a night class at Brooklyn College on how a Linotype worked. My first public speech, which I read, was at RIT in 1972. Don Goldman
told me to just talk about the slides, and I did that, addressing over 40,000 people in a 53-year career.  

For 20 years, I consulted for hundreds of companies about making the conversion to phototypesetting, buying print, or producing it effectively. 

At a press conference for MGD Graphic Systems in 1973, Jack Homer, who had just become editor of the venerable Inland Printer, asked me to write a column. I did—every month for 14 years.  

AN INVETERATE PUBLISHERIn 1974, I started AllType, the first OCR/computer typesetting service in New England, and later sold the company to W.E. Andrews Printing. 

In 1975, I founded the Vippy newsletter for Linotype V-I-P users, and then Eddy (Compugraphic EditWriter), Comppy (Varityper Comp/Set), and Dippy (Direct Input systems) newsletters. I combined all of them to create TypeWorld and published the first issue in January 1978. Sam Blum was my partner. In 1979, I acquired New England Printer & Publisher from Francis “Bud” Tominey. 

I started the Type-X exhibition in 1980. In 1981, Mergenthaler sued me for publishing material they did not like. They wound up paying me. 

TypeWorld did very well, and I used the profits to start new businesses, like AllPrint (quick copy) with Doug Seed and Spectrum Business Services (color copying) with Bill Schoenenberger. I later sold both businesses to them. 

TypeWorld celebrated 10 years in 1988. I sold it to PennWell Publishing in 1989 and changed the name to Electronic Publishing.

In 1990, I started the Quark Users International (QUI) group.  

From 1991 to 1997, I held the RIT Cary Professorship, and from 1998 to 2004, I was Chair of the RIT School of Print Media.  

In 2008, EP celebrated 30 years, and that was the end of it. I had written for it for every issue.   


Many know me best as the editor of the International Paper “Pocket Pal” or from the thousand-plus articles I have written for publications from North America and Europe, to the Middle East, to Asia and Australia. 

I am the author of 52 books, including the 10,000-term Encyclopedia of Graphic Communications (Richard Romano was editor, and Robert Romano did the 400-plus illustrations), the standard reference in the field. My books on QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign and PDF workflow were among the first in their fields. I have authored most of the books on digital printing. One of my books is the 800-page textbook for Moscow State University. I am most proud of the fact that over half the books were co-authored with students. 

I have founded eight publications, serving as publisher or editor for TypeWorld/Electronic Publishing, Computer Artist, Color Publishing, The Typographer, EP&P, and both the NCPA and PrintRIT Journals. I was the editor of the EDSF Report for 14 years. I wrote the first  report on on-demand digital printing in 1980 and ran the first conference on the subject in 1985. I conceptualized many of the workflow and applications techniques of the industry and was the principal researcher on the landmark EDSF study “Printing in the Age of the Web and Beyond.” 

GET ME FRANK ROMANOBecause I talk in sound bytes, I have been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Times of London, USA Today, BusinessWeek, Forbes, and many other newspapers and publications, as well as on TV and radio.  

I have appeared on the History Detectives PBS program and serve as president of the Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA. I continue to teach courses at RIT and other universities and work with students on unique research projects. 

YEARS OF SOUVENIRSI have saved most of the artifacts, images, brochures and ephemera of the phototypesetting era. I even have a “chicken plucker.” I have attended virtually every trade show and conference over the last 45 years. Like Woody Allen’s Zelig, I was always there. 

Touch here to share your favorite Frank memory with Frank and our readers.                

Frank is famous throughout North America, Europe and Scandinavia, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, New Zealand, and China. Here are some scenes from his world travels.