Woodblock letterpress workshop

Page from a book by Theodore Low De Vinne, describing the physical nature of typography, circa 1900.

(below) ‘Nineteenth-century advertising typography, in stark contrast to book design, featured all the display types at a printer’s disposal.’ Type & Typography by Phil Baines & Andrew Haslam

Hereford printer’s work from 1831.
Apples to Zebras is a shop that sell a variety of items. The Design Shop added texture by choosing the right words. The selective choice of red ink acts as bookmarks at the start and finish of the text. The impression given is that the items are held within the ‘apples’ and ‘zebras’.
Monotype’s hot metal Baskerville in a design by Catherine Dixon.
‘Yearling Jazz & Classics direct mailer created for Arjo Wiggins by Thomas Manss & Co. design studio. The qualities of the paper are articulated through a series of specialist printing techniques. Here they have used letterpress and a bronze foil. Typographical elements are used in images to mimic details of musical instruments.’ The Fundamentals of Typography 3rd edition, Bloomsbury

‘In this poster by English designer Phil Baines, printed using letterpress type, the relationships and patterns that typography creates are laid bare. It is easy to see how the grid- central to most graphic design- is a natural outcome of modular typography.’ What is Graphic Design? RotoVision

Cards to promote an art club, Rabia Gupta

By placing the text in a chaotic way, the designer is able to express the company’s taste in art.

Prospectus for the Typography Workshop, Alan Kitching, printed letterpress, London, 1992. ‘Vibrant information that describes not only the location of the studio, but also the reason for going there in the first place.’ What is Typography?, David Jury

The letterpress workshop in week 1 introduced us to the printing press.

The aim of the workshop was to work with woodblock type to explore composition and the potential of uncreative writing. We were instructed to reflect the meanings of the phrases in these prints.

I loaded the tray with the wooden letter blocks and filled them with the metal furniture to secure the pieces.

I selected the phrase ‘How to Make a List’ from the workshop brief. This first made me think of the typical list format that you might use for a shopping list. Vertically aligned left down the page. I selected the letter blocks from a sans-serif font. I chose the ‘How to’ in larger, capital letters to suggest an instructing voice.

I placed the metal furniture to place gaps between the words. The spacing highlights the separate words. I used magnets to hold the metal in place so that it would not slip when printing.

I then applied the ink onto edges of the metal. I placed the paper onto the letters and press the paper down to transfer the ink. I paid attention to the individual letters and to the horizontal lines. When I lifted the paper off, I had created parallel lines. These lines suggest to me, the lines found on note paper.

I used the roller to evenly spread the printing ink on the flat surface. Since the ink is oil based, I needed to use white spirit to remove the ink when cleaning up the roller. Applying ink too thickly onto the letters could result in imperfect edges.

applying ink to the woodblock letters
The letterpress. Using the foot pedal lifts up the 4 metal points. I placed the paper under these points to hold it into place, releasing the pedal.

I printed the first print by hand (without using the press).

I used repetition with the left alignment to exaggerate the classic list format. There is also a hint of sarcasm to the message by repeating the words. ‘How to make a list: make a list.’ I accidently printed the extra letters at the top of the page. They look faded and although this was accidental, I like the effect. The letters spell ‘WOT’, which when sounded out, sounds like ‘What?’ The paler markings appear to be from a second voice.

I used the lines of the metal furniture. The square was accidental and I don’t think it adds anything to the composition.

I used the printing press to print these letters:

On my first attempt with these letters, I accidently placed 2 of the letters backwards.

I broke the words into 2’s, as I noticed the words are similar in length. I wanted to highlight the fact that some words are made up of smaller words. For example in this print, ‘(Lay)er’, ‘(Win)dow’, ‘Da(ta)’. I used the same typeface across the print to make the words blend visually and therefore layer effectively.

Because of the word ‘layer’, I chose to layer the text.

By making several prints from one ink application, I was able to achieve different weights, some more transparent than others. This gives the letters shadow and depth across the print.

I printed these letters onto A4 paper. I placed the text so the words are running off the edge of the page. This creates a disorientating effect.
I experimented on sugar paper and used repetition to create texture, using the letter ‘A’.

I noticed the ‘A’ in ‘Layer’ and ‘Data’ and connected them visually across the page. The words become slightly hidden, particularly ‘Layer’ which helps to illustrate the meaning of the word ‘layer’.

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