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Studio projects & Tour de Lead Graffiti 2015 Tuesday June 30 2015 09:59 am

Tour de Lead Graffiti 2015 stage schedule

All dates are now spoken for. If you are interested in being put on a waiting list, send Ray an email.

Stage 1, Saturday, July 4th - Utrecht > Utrecht | 14 km (individual time trial)
. . . collaborator: Rebecca Johnson Melvin | manuscript librarian | ‘11, ‘12, ‘12, ‘13, ‘14

Stage 2, Sunday, July 5th - Utrecht > Zélande | 166 km
. . . collaborator: Kati Sowiak | graphic designer
. . . collaborator: Laura Jacoby | graphic designer

Stage 3, Monday, July 6th - Anvers > Huy | 154 km (4, 4, 4, 3)
. . . collaborator: Steve Harding | woodworker & cyclist

Stage 4, Tuesday, July 7th - Seraing > Cambrai | 221 km (cobblestones, 4)
. . . collaborator: Mark Deshon | graphic designer | ‘13, ‘14

Stage 5, Wednesday, July 8th - Arras > Amiens Métropole | 189 km

. . . collaborator: Don Starr / designer, educator, store owner | ‘14
. . . collaborator: Mel Parada | graduate student, designer

Stage 6, Thursday, July 9th - Abbeville > Le Havre | 191 km (4, 4, 4)
. . . collaborator: Lauren Emeritz | letterpress printer, designer | ‘14

Stage 7, Friday, July 10th - Livarot > Fougères | 190 km (4)
. . . collaborator: Robert Ivone | teacher
. . . collaborator: Melissa Ivone | designer

Stage 8, Saturday, July 11th - Rennes > Mûr de Bretagne | 179 km (4, 3)
. . . collaborator: Bonnie Feliciano
. . . collaborator: Meryl Arnold | Graphic designer, letterpres printer
. . . collaborator: Tim (the boyfriend)

Stage 9, Sunday, July 12th - Vannes > Plumelec | 28 km (team time trial)
. . . A kind of weird day to watch. Each team rides as one.
. . . collaborator: Carol Mauer | ‘12
. . . collaborator: Kelly Mauer

Rest day #1, Monday, July 13th - Pau
. . . collaborator: Diane Zatz | educator | ‘11, ‘12, ‘14
. . . collaborator: Belinda Haites | graphic designer | ‘14

Stage 10, Tuesday, July 14th - Tarbes > La Pierre-Saint-Martin / 167 km (4, 4, 4, HC) | mountain top finish
. . . collaborator: Bill Roberts | letterpress printer | ‘11, ‘11, ‘11, ‘12, ‘13, ‘14

Stage 11, Wednesday, July 15th - Pau > Cauterets - Vallée de Saint-Savin | 188 km (3, 4, 3, 1 HC, 3) | mountain top finish
. . . collaborator: Jessica Koman | graphic designer | ‘13, ‘14

Stage 12, Thursday, July 16th - Lannemezan > Plateau de Beille | 195 km (2, 1, 1, HC) | mountain top finish
. . . collaborator: Nick Prestileo | graphic designer
. . . collaborator: Ed McCann | user experience designer
. . . collaborator: Steve DeCusatis | graphic designer

Stage 13,  Friday, July 17th - Muret > Rodez | 200 km (3, 4, 4)
. . . collaborator: Glenn Stevens | art director
. . . collaborator: Glenn’s artistic niece

Stage 14, Saturday, July 18th - Rodez > Mende | 178 km (4, 2, 4, 2)
. . . collaborator: Joel Ouellette | graphic designer | ‘14

Stage 15, Sunday, July 19th - Mende > Valence | 182 km (3, 4, 4, 2)
. . . collaborator: Rachel Strickland | cyclist | ‘14

Stage 16, Monday, July 20th - Bourg-de-Péage > Gap | 201 km  (2, 2)
. . . collaborator: Mike Kaylor | letterpress printer, educator | ‘12
. . . collaborator: Aaron Capp

Rest day #2, Tuesday, July 21st - Gap

. . . collaborators: Lindsay Schmittle | letterpress printer | ‘12, ‘13, ‘14
. . . collaborator: Rachel Davis | U of DE design student

Stage 17, Wednesday, July 22nd - Digne-les-Bains > Pra-Loup / 161 km (3, 3, 2, 1, 2)|  mountain top finish

Stage 18, Thursday, July 23rd - Gap > Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne / 185 km (2, 3, 3, 3, 2, HC, 2) | mountains
. . . collaborator: David Copestakes | Professor of Graphic Design | Arcadia University
. . . collaborator: Tiffany Zysk | graphic designer

Stage 19, Friday, July 24th - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > La Toussuire - Les Sybelles | 138 km (1, HC, 2, 1) / mountain top finish
. . . collaborator: Kieran Francke | letterpress kid | ‘11, ‘12, ‘13, ‘14
. . . collaborator: Hendrik-Jan Francke | dad of letterpress kid & web designer | ‘13, ‘14

Stage 20, Saturday, July 25th - Modane Valfréjus > Alpe-d’Huez / 110 km (1, HC, HC)|  mountain top finish

Stage 21, Sunday, July 26th - Sèvres - Grand Paris Seine Ouest > Paris Champs-Élysées | 107 km
. . . collaborator: Ann Lemon | art director, designer | ‘13, ‘14
. . . collaborator: Amos Burkhart | visual maker | ‘13

Studio projects & Tour de Lead Graffiti 2015 Monday June 29 2015 08:51 am

Tour de Lead Graffiti woodtype for 2015

When we started our Tour de Lead Graffiti project in 2011 there was the built elements of spontaneity and experimentation. Originally we only planned for the one year which was 23 posters. We wanted to be able to do the daily posters to have both a continuity, but no design grid and definitely try, as best as possible, to avoid duplicating visual elements. Now we find ourselves editions later, 92 posters in our portfolio, and still looking for ways to make each poster at least fairly different from every other poster. Strangely, that hasn’t been as much of a problem as we thought it would have been.

One of the project strategies was to produce our own woodtype which would be the dominant typographic elements of each poster. The first year we cut Clarendon Extra Bold Condensed in a solid and an outline version. Each year after that we’ve chosen two typefaces, one fairly wide and the other condensed, to create visual texture and also to allow us to deal with some very long names. What to start just seemed more like an idea to have some fun has turned out to be quite a nice design element. For some reason which I’m not able to explain, letterpress seems to allow a flexibility in jumping between typefaces much more than the computer does. Many old broadsides printed letterpress in the late 1800s and early 1900s often used typefaces because they text would “fit”.

These are the two typefaces we are using for 2015.

Velo, designed by House Industries who are good friends of Lead Graffiti and also work nearby, is a typeface that reflects the cycling community. Rubens is a typeface from the late 1800s with some of the letters having that spur on their bottoms.

When we pick the typefaces for one of the editions, we don’t worry about their ability to interact well with each other. We like that we have to figure out how to get them to work together once we are actually designing the poster. The fact that we work on these posters very spontaneously makes it all the more fun.

Studio projects Saturday June 27 2015 06:54 am

Tour de France 2015 operational details

Information taken from Velo News.

As Utrecht, Netherlands gears up for the Tour de France’s Grand Départ on July 4, here are some facts and figures about the Grande Boucle, provided by race organizer Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO).

4,500 people in total travel with the race every day, including organizers, teams, media, partners, the advertising caravan, and service providers.


198 riders at the start (22 teams of nine riders)
300 support staff
15 members of the race jury

2015 route

3,360km (21 stages)
Three countries visited (The Netherlands, Belgium, and France)
26 French departments visited
37 stage sites
624 municipalities crossed (568 in France, 17 in The Netherlands, 39 in Belgium)


100 ASO staff
300 temporary staff
1,550 beds reserved every day for the organization and the sports teams

Medical services

10 doctors (all specialties), five nurses
Seven ambulances, two medical cars, one motorcycle, one radiology truck


48 members of the Republican Guard motorcycle division
13 officers on duty as the permanent police of the Tour
14,000 gendarmes/9,000 police officers and CRS riot police mobilized
1,000 agents from the General Councils

Accredited media (2014 edition)

2,000 journalists, consultants, and photographers
637 media organizations
373 newspapers, press agencies, and Internet sites
92 television networks
114 photo agencies
58 radio stations

Broadcast and media

Broadcast in 190 countries
100 channels, including 60 live
Eight stages broadcast in full
80 hours of live broadcast produced (international signal)
6,100 hours aired worldwide in 2014
32 million unique visitors/146 million pages viewed on in 2014
Four languages: French, English, Spanish, German
1,700,000 fans on Facebook
1,300,000 followers on Twitter
500,000 on Google +
100,000 on Instagram
1.1 million downloads of applications dedicated to the Tour de France

Advertising caravan

154 vehicles
34 brands
600 people
14 million objects handed out
12km of procession
35 minutes of show
55 people to supervise the caravan, including 13 officers of the Republican Guard motorcycle division

Spectators on the side of the road (2014 edition)

64 percent men and 36 percent of women
54 percent under the age of 50, with 10 percent under the age of 25
80 percent French spectators and 20 percent from abroad
More than 40 nationalities identified
92 percent come accompanied (on average five people per group)

Studio projects Saturday June 13 2015 12:14 pm

Well, that only took 8 years…

Back in August of 2007 we took possession of an R. Hoe & Co. Washington #5 iron handpress. In the photo below it is the one on the far side with our Albion, which we bought a year later, on the near side. We got a demonstration from bookmaker Don Rash on how to apply the tympan paper to the tympans. They weren’t perfect, but they were close enough for a couple of first-timers.

Here is the description from Scott’s email when describing his Washington #5, August 1, 2007.

“The Washington is in good shape, no broken parts or repairs that I can see. There is a bit of surface rust, no big deal.  It could also use a good bath! The bed has been completely cleaned and is in very nice shape, the platen still has some surface rust but appears to be fine as well. There’s no tympan and frisket assembly but you can have one made or make one yourself if you’re handy.  I have a smaller Washington that has the Tympan/frisket so I could take some detailed photos.  Just a bit of metal work and some wood work. There also used to be a guy in Utah that made them and he also did castings for missing parts as well. Don’t know if he’s still around.

The only thing missing on the press is one corner iron. The press can certainly be used without it but if you wanted to have one made, I know it can be done. I can give you some leads.

I would also include a chase (very large) with the press. I had a hell of a time finding a chase this big.”

With the help of new Lead Graffiti friend, woodworker and patron, Steve Harding, we’ve finally gotten tympan/friskets on both of our iron handpresses finished. We also found a guy in Lancaster, PA, who restores cannons to make us that corner iron that Scott mentioned was missing.

A few details about our iron handpresses:

R. Hoe & Co. Washington #5 - platen size is 25″ x 38″ (c. 1869)

Harrild & Sons Ltd.  Albion - platen is 21″ x 29″ (c. 1890)

Now to generate interest in a workshop so I can bring someone in here to teach us how to use them. Maybe we can print one of our rest day posters for this year’s Tour de Lead Graffiti on one of these presses. Hmmm.

Can’t wait.

Studio projects Saturday June 06 2015 06:36 pm

Opening at AIGA / Philadelphia’s SPACE Gallery

We are exhibiting 32 of our Tour de Lead Graffiti posters at the AIGA / Philadelphia’s SPACE Gallery during June 2015. The posters were selected from the 92 we’ve produced with handset wood & metal type via letterpress over the past 4 summers, each producing 23 posters in 23 days, forming a visual daily journal of the stage events of the Tour de France. You can read more about the project and see the posters by clicking here.

We will be doing a gallery talk on Saturday, June 20 at 3pm for anyone that would like to hear our story and see the exhibition. The SPACE Gallery is at 72 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia.

The image below shows Tray setting the lights with Jill and Belinda Haikes (left, co-chair of AIGA’s Gallery Committee) the previous Tuesday when we were setting up the show. We really appreciate the generosity of AIGA / Philadelphia for offering us this chance to show a 4-year project that we love. We are giving the AIGA / SPACE Gallery 20% of the proceeds from any posters we sell from our website during the exhibition which runs through June 27. Start thinking about a good gift for a friend and help out the gallery at the same time. Here is the link to our online store which gives you access to all of the posters in the navigation at the top.

Over the evening we had what felt like 250 - 300 at the First Friday opening on June 5th, with lots of people willing to listen to our story and offering up lots of interesting questions about the letterpress process and the Tour. Here are a few photos showing the gathering.

We talked with a number of people whom we invited to join us during the upcoming Tour. Maybe they were cyclists, loved the idea of the spontaneity, or had a taste of letterpress sometime in their life.  It was easy to encourage several to come do one of the posters with us this summer.

One of the things that is great about our Tour de Lead Graffiti project is sharing the creative experience with collaborators. Of the 32 posters in the show the following people shared in one or more of them.

Amos Burkhart, APHA members group, Brian Campbell, Adam DelMarcelle, Mark Deshon, Lauren Emeritz, Christine Fajardo, Hendrik-Jan Francke (2), Kieran Francke (3), Donna Globus, Virginia Green, Belinda Haikes, David Jones, Andy Kiel, Ben Kiel (2), Jessica Koman, Ann Lemon, Ethan Mann, Rebecca Johnson Melvin (3), Lucie Melvin, Joel Ouellette, Tim Pacific, Bill Roberts (2), Kayla Romberger, Lindsay Schmittle, Rachel Strickland, Paul Thompson, Garrett Varady, Jeannie Marcotte Wagner, Kyle Ward, Stephanie Wolfe, Diane Zatz (2), and Megan Zottlemeyer.

This photo is a rare “double wink selfie” with Ray & Kieran, a 4-year contributor (starting at age 10) to Tour de Lead Graffiti at the opening, using one of Kieran’s posters as a backdrop.

When we look back over the people represented in the posters (the list above), many of them weren’t people we even knew at the time, but somehow just connected with us. They must have had a good story or looked like interesting people to spend the day with, so we invited them.

At the opening one couple (great hair color always helps), after the conversation exposed the fact they had plans to go to France and actually stand on one of the mountain stages, got such an offer to join us for a day. By the end of the evening they had accepted the offer, checked availability, and had emailed the stage date to us (Stage 7) by the end of the evening. We love that kind of enthusiasm. You can see our schedule for 2015 here.

Another great story was a young lady, when I started explaining our project, grabbed her phone and in about 10 seconds was showing us a photo of the peloton blasting along at full speed on the Champs-Élysées this past summer while she was on a study abroad. We love those kinds of stories.

. . .

The British Library hosted an exhibition of 30 of the TdLG posters from 2011 - 2013 this past summer in London and Sports Illustrated did a small, but nice, article on our 2013 edition in their “Year in Media” edition in December of 2013 in both their print and digital issues.

In July and August of 2015 these same posters, with an additional 12 or 15, will be on exhibit at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Hard to explain how flattered we are with this.

Studio projects Wednesday May 27 2015 07:03 am

John Nash (1928–2015) & Alicia Nash (1933-2015)

Our autobiographical book series, Moments Carved in Paper, has me spending a lot of time trying to remember, and then contemplating, past events as possible stories to include in the books. This is one that will go in there somewhere.

The recent death of Nobel Prize winner, John Nash, reminded me of one of my favorite design projects and an absolutely wonderful evening. Bob Gill said a good idea should be “Surprising. Original. Inevitable.” I think this is one of those ideas.

I was completely absorbed by the idea of Nash’s Nobel-Prize-winning “equilibrium theory” presented in the movie A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe as John and Jennifer Connelly as Alicia. I probably showed the movie in one of our Friday Sessions. Anyone remember if that is true? I also worked with Ari Garber on a VC Family Album page for the movie which was one of my favorites. I’m sure that will also pop up somewhere.

In the movie, Nash is at a bar with a group of friends when he begins to develop the theory of what is now called the Nash equilibrium, the idea that won him the Nobel Prize in 1994.

At the bar, he and his friends start to compete for a beautiful blonde in a group of five women. “If we all go for the blonde,” Nash says, “we block each other. None of us is going to get her and the others will feel rejected. But, if no one goes for the blonde, and we only go for the other women, it’s the only way we win.

The best result comes from everyone doing what’s best for himself and the group.

Hendrik-Jan Francke did some internet sleuthing and approached me with the name of Lynne Butler, a former Princeton professor of Mathematics where John Nash taught, who often lectured on the topic of The Collaborators’ Conundrum, an explanation of Nash’s theory. Lynne graciously accepted our invitation to speak.

Below is the poster Ivan Markos, Scott Gaston, Jessie Perlin, and I came up with. The students did a great job on the photo to illustrate a complex mathematical problem.

If you asked me what I wanted to be for Visual Communications, it was that rope.

Below is a nice photo of Lynne Butler with Chris Mears (VC’03) talking at the end of the evening.

I really, really, really should have recorded this talk. I bet I’ve wished that 500 times since this night.

I came home the afternoon I heard the news of their deaths and watched A Beautiful Mind. Sitting and watching as the “pens” scene happens at the end of the movie had me sitting alone in our living room with tears streaming down my checks into my beard.

Studio projects Tuesday May 26 2015 01:12 pm

AIGA / Philly Feedback workshop April 23, 2015

At the recent AIGA / Philadelphia Feedback 17, we offered a Lead Graffiti Creative Workshop as a raffle item to generate some excitement. After a drawing of business cards 9 students from Tyler School of Art, Kutztown University, and Hussian School of Art, attended the workshop. It was a great group, lots of questions, interesting design strategies working without sketches, and an overall nice day that finished on time.

The photo below shows the lockup for the second color along with the final broadside.

You can click on the image and see a double-sized image for some additional detail. The first and third rows of the broadside have been rotated to keep the pages in reading orientation.

The broadside was carefully folded and torn to produce the text block for a 12-page, 2-color book with a hard cover which was produced without glue or sewing. The bookform is called a “meander” book.

The book will be included in the Rare Books & Special Collection of the Library of Congress and in Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library, both of which maintain complete collections of these workshop books. In addition the books will be included in the libraries at Tyler School of Art, Kutztown University and Hussian School of Art.

We love this workshop. It is a great entry experience to letterpress for anyone with any interest in design, typography, creativity, and printing.

Studio projects Friday May 08 2015 07:08 am

Thoughts on Feedback 17

AIGA / Philadelphia Feedback 17 invited me to review senior design portfolios on Tuesday, May 5. These are things I saw 3 times or more that need improving. Take it all with a grain of salt. Mine is one opinion. Personally, I think it is a pretty good opinion.

Centered design

There is nothing wrong with centering if it is done with a conscious consideration for “it is better centered than not centered.” Too often centering is the default layout. No designer, student or professional, should do any part of any design by default. You should be able to point at every element and ask “Why is it like that?” Understand the basis for how you do things so you can immediately answer with something besides “I don’t know.” Everytime.

How do those layout bits work for or against each other? If you aren’t sure DO NOT do it that way. This goes for every choice of typeface, its size, its weight, italic or roman, color, line break, etc. Every choice should be deliberate. Think of the design as a speaker’s tone-of-voice delivering a speech. Your pitch goes up to pose a question. Your voice whispers when you want people to lean in. Words have a pause between them. A phrase gets repeated for emphasis. Design needs to have ALL of these things applied to the tone of voice of your piece. Your piece is a speech.

Designers opinion of their project

Too many pages in the portfolios didn’t feel like the student had an opinion about the subject of the project. They seemed to be doing it because that was the assignment. This is not easy, and the simpler the design the harder this is to do. A design and its presentation needs to look confident. For example consider a toothpaste ad to promote its taste. How about a sandwich with toothpaste on it and the headline, “We don’t recommend it, but we would understand it.” Make the product your favorite product, no matter how boring it is. Go all the way. Fall in love.

Portfolio pages & the images on them

YOUR PORTFOLIO should stand out and then YOUR WORK should stand out. Take a workshop at House Industries and learn to do some hand lettering. Make that opening page personal. Don’t make it corporate. Don’t make it like EVERYONE else’s. Make it yours.

Here is an idea. How about a portfolio with the title “5 design ideas” and then limit it to five projects? You show me your portfolio and ask me to pick my favorite five projects and to rank them in order. Then the opening page of your portfolio says, “Turn the page and see the project Ray Nichols (he dared me to do this) thinks is the worst piece in my portfolio.” I’ll tell you my name at the end of the portfolio. Seriously, how fun would that be? Then at the end of the portfolio put both of our résumés. To pull off something like this your 5th worst piece needs to be as good as everyone else’s 2nd best piece. Actually, that would be a good way to do every project. Pass this page on to a couple of juniors in your program. Let them have a year to play with the idea.

Most of the ledger-like portfolios (printed) I saw looked like they all came from the same school. Don’t let yours look like you came from the same school even if it is the same size and you come from the same school. They are usually bland and lifeless.

With iPad portfolios the rhythm becomes monotonous. Image. Image. Image. Image. Image. Back up and see the image. Image. Image. I noticed that while I might remember a piece, overall I cannot remember much else of what I saw in an iPad portfolio. The order gets lost in the technology. I don’t have a strong sense of how many projects I saw. It is far too easy to show too much until everything turns to oatmeal. Perhaps instead of 5 spreads in a magazine, show 1 film of someone turning the 5 spreads.

Almost everything was a rectangle. A 3D object against a white seamless adds some dimension to the page and help create a visual hierarchy to the elements. A page of rectangles generally looks flat and lifeless. There are six ways to create visual space: 1) overlap, 2) scale, 3) focus (soft edge recedes), 4) position in the format (lower looks closer), 5) color (warm colors advance / cool colors recede), 6) tone (as in aerial perspective looking at distant mountains). Good designers use them. Often I just didn’t know where to look except to follow the normal reading order of upper left to lower right. Come on. How boring is that?

WORDS: Your design CONTROLS the reader. Little blocks of type describing the project in the lower left corner of the opening page of a project are lost. Why do you think cigarette packaging always wanted to put the warning there. Now they aren’t allowed to. You shouldn’t either. Rewrite it in 3 words and put them somewhere I cannot miss. Yell  what you want me to know. Then play with making me see it without it being in 72 point type. Make it big and light. Make it small and red. That is design.

IMAGES: Make some photos black & white. If everyone in class did a package design and everyone took a photo, yours should look different from all of the others. The opening photo image in a series of 2 - 4 portfolio pages should have some sense of context. Typically students feel compelled to line up 4 objects and “snap.” Aren’t there other objects or placement you could use to style your photo, nudging the meaning to help the viewer understand your work?

Here is the photo we use to promote our most recent book about a stories I have about each of my parents.

The book is Selfie! because of that photo of my parents, pre-me. My mother’s story is about her going to a Cars concert at the then Spectrum in Philly. My dad’s stoy is about the Vatican. We like having the sense of chaos to our work. Lead GRAFFITI. Rushed. Spontaneous. Confident. Step in and take a look.

Your portfolio is a design project and not just a place to gather all of your projects. Here’s 3 things to keep you in the mind of that person looking at your portfolio when you’re not there to explain things.

1) Multiple pieces with little difference

Multiple books in a book cover series MIGHT not need the same layout. If you show 3 covers that are exactly the same, and I’m assuming the image(s) are different, does that make a positive statement about you as a designer? If not, find ways to add your design skills to each. Multiple cards, coasters, packages, etc. don’t say anything about your abilities as a designer if you just change a word or two here or there. Unless you change the words really, really well. Every piece of every project either takes you forward or backward. Sideways is not forward.

2) Photographs and illustrations without any design context

Throwing in a page or two of pure photography or illustration looks out of place. If you have 4 fine art photos you really like, show 3 and then take one of them and turn it into a book cover. This shows that you are able to produce images for design projects. Without the design context you leave too much responsibility for “getting it” to the person looking at your portfolio. Making them get it is your job. Same goes for illustration. Find a way to apply it to a movie / play poster or book cover.

Several of the portfolios had good photography and illustration, but if you are looking for work as a designer, use it in a design project. Try imagining it on a package for something completely odd. Toothpaste, pizza, etc. Think of an interesting design that will justify the image. And don’t put it on a book cover for the most obvious book on the planet. Illustration of zombies? Put it on a book about religion or an article on medical techniques for making people live longer.

3) Ideas / concept

I once got in a very fun argument with someone who said you need the right typeface for the right job. “You wouldn’t use wedding script for an ad for nails and you wouldn’t use sans serif for an ad for lacy lingerie.” “Whoa,” I said, “You need the right idea for the right typeface.” Just consider a nice photo of lacy lingerie and the Franklin Gothic Bold headline “Hardcore lingerie.” Or a beautifully lit, photo of a pile of nails on the opening page of a do-it-yourself magazine article, with the headline shown like a wedding invitation using Nuptial Script, “The perfect marriage between a rock and a hard place.? Never have a favorite typeface. Have a favorite idea and change it every few minutes.

Good luck to all of you new designers. Go out there and knock some people dead in their tracks.

events Thursday May 07 2015 01:05 am

Upcoming Lead Graffiti events

We seem to be doing a lot of things related to AIGA / Philadelphia lately and that has been nice. AIGA is truly a great design organization and it is particularly helpful to students.

May 2015

Jill at the Formal School of Bookbinding : Jill is enjoying 2 consecutive week-long, leather binding workshops with Don Rash, who operates the Formal School of Bookbinding from his Plains, PA studio. Don works in the German style of bookbinding which offers some nice variations from what we are used to. Week 1 was an introduction to leather bindings focused on flat cord and raised cord bindings along with a nice leather touch for the book fore-edge. Week 2 is on full-leather binding. We are looking forward to this extending our capabilities (and fun) in our bookbinding work.

AIGA / Philadelphia’s Feedback 17 : Feedback is a portfolio review for area design programs. I think there were about 8 schools represented. Ray was asked to deliver the opening motivational talk what looked like about 120 student participants. His talk was about “Wwagsd?” It is a talk he often used to encourage his own students, to “use the moment” and ask yourself, “What would a good student do?Right here, right now. Often at a workshop, studio visit, class, etc. small things can make a huge impact over time. An extra question here or there. Standing closer to the person at the center of the event. Volunteering quickly if one is asked for. Far too many students are far too fearful. One interesting student came up to me during some of my down time toward the end and said, “One of the other students from his school said I had been the toughest on him and he wanted me to look at his portfolio.” If you could spend your days with that kind of attitude you could take your talent some place special.

AIGA / Philadelphia Night CapsEnjoy a drink and some laughs while Mikey Ilagan, Editor-In-Chief at Geekadelphia, moderates a Q&A on the ins-and-outs of the design industry with regional creative leaders. I will be on the program with Christine Fischer, a design strategist at Vangard. The focus is on “education vs. experience” or in other words “getting a job or going to graduate school.” Event happens at United by Blue which is located at 244 N. 2nd Street (on 2nd just south of Race Street). Doors open at 6:30. Recording starts at 7:00. If you tweet about it, try including the following tags: @leadgraffiti @aigaphilly @mikeyil #AIGAnightcaps @UBBphila. They typically average about 30 attendees. I’d love to see the evening at least beat the average. Admission for AIGA members is $5, nonmembers - $10, and students - free (bring your ID).

June 2015

AIGA / Philadelphia’s SPACE Gallery : Lead Graffiti has been invited to exhibit work from their Tour de Lead Graffiti poster journal project at the SPACE Gallery. We will have posters from each of the 2011 - 2014 editions. SPACE gallery is located at 72 N. 2nd Street (at Arch Street). The gallery is open Thursdays from 3:00-7:00pm, and Fridays / Saturdays from 1:00-7:00pm. AIGA Philly SPACE, not only serves as AIGA Philadelphia’s headquarters, but aims to serve the arts and cultures community of Philadelphia through unique exhibits featuring (but not limited to) the art of graphic design, engaging workshops, and lectures designed to inspire interest and understanding of graphic design and the visual arts.

Gallery talk in the SPACE Gallery on Saturday, June 20th at 3:00. Should be fun to just walk around and talk. Come. Ask some questions.

July 2015

Tour de Lead Graffiti 2015 : It is Tour de France time from Saturday, July 4 through Sunday, July 27. That means this will be our 5th Tour de Lead Graffiti, a daily poster journal following the Tour. That means we will be watching the Tour live on TV from 8:30 until noon. Then head over to the Glass Kitchen for lunch & pie and discussion about what we saw during the stage and how we might translate those events into a 14.5″ x 22.5″ poster. This is done each day of the tour for 23 consecutive days. Last year Ray alone averaged more than 114 hours a week for the 23 days. We call it “endurance letterpress.” Over the project we did 109 runs. You can link to the 2014 TdLG project by clicking here. You can click on the poster image and cycle to the next stage. From any of those pages you can also link back to the 2011, 2012, or 2013 Tour de Lead Graffiti projects.

Studio projects Tuesday April 28 2015 12:02 pm

George Mason Creative Letterpress workshop / April 25, 2015

Our talk at George Mason University back in January seems to have resulted in a great group of students traveling 2 hours to do one of our Creative Letterpress workshops.

Project always has an amazing amount of work collected into a compact piece. It is nice to see that so much of the work done in composing the wood & metal type actually shows in the end. Great fun to have the students cast their own names in hot metal for the books’ colophon.

You can click the image and see the image double-sized.

The size of the broadside is 16″ x 20″ with a final book size of 4″ wide x 5″ high, printed in 2 colors on Mohawk Superfine Eggshell 80# on our Vandercook Universal III. The book cover is Lead Graffiti pastepaper and is printed in 1 color on our Vandercook SP15. The spine is printed in 1 color on various colors of French Papers.

Jill always gathers a few students with an interest in color to choose the color combination. This time it was an interesting choice using fluorescent pink for the first run. The hot color provided a visual contrast to the maroon used as the 2nd color.

Copies of the books will be included in Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library, the Rare Book & Special Collections at the Library of Congress who both maintain complete collections of these books, and in Special Collections & Archives at the George Mason University Library.

Special thanks to Professor Don Starr and Ann, who nicely didn’t disappoint.

Studio projects Thursday April 09 2015 01:16 pm

Book no. 2: Moments Carved in Paper


Book no. 2: Selfie!

I do like the typographic treatment to the title of this book, EIFLES! I hope I can do things like this with every book.

This is the idea that actually started this whole Moments Carved in Paper book series thing rolling. Book no. 2 captures my favorite story about each of my parents. I got the chance to use my favorite photo showing them absolutely in love. I’ve got no idea when the photo was taken, but doing a book like this has shown me that I needed to have spent 500 hours more than I did asking questions of my parents.

As an aside, in doing some genealogy work on our family’s history, an uncle told me that my father once revealed that he had painted the artist’s concept of the atomic bomb. My father was in the military at the right time. He was stationed in about the right place. He was an artist. But he never told me that story. What a story to know! And yet I’ve not been able to find out any more about it from the government or several museums devoted to the history of the Manhattan Project. The moral of this story is that you should start thinking about how you would do this book with your parents.

Anyway, that atomic bomb story isn’t even part of this book, but I thought it might make a good point about getting things down on paper before it is too late.

One good question to ask your own parents is, “Tell me 2 dozen things about you that I don’t know.” Might be nice to get a small recorder and record it. Throw the tape in a box so you can pull it out some later time.

. . .

Back to you VC graduates and a list of topics to think about: our Bulldog day with Peter Woods or how about our 2-day sit-in at Peter Woods’ office at Ogilvy working on the One Club’s “Vietnam as a destination” ad campaign, the day every sophomore made a white (the horror!) T-shirt that said something on it (cannot remember right now, but I’m sure I can find a photo), junior parties for the seniors after the Year End Shows, lustful acts on a seamless in the photo studio, breaking into the building when it was locked so you could get to the good desks to do some work for class, most interesting speakers or field trips, maybe you were a grad that hosted a group of us at some design studio or advertising agency. . . .

See? I’ve kind of run out so I need some new things to think about. Help jog my memory and send me an email before I forget anything else.

Studio projects Thursday April 09 2015 12:34 pm

Book no. 1: Moments Carved in Paper

The Librarian Made Us Do It!

Book no. 1: Moments Carved in Paper

I’ve always had lots of stories to tell. After years of thinking & talking about it, Jill & I are going to be giving a run to a series of small books entitled Moments Carved in Paper. Each book connects various stories that lead to a “moment” that we carve in paper via letterpress. The title of our first book is “The Librarian Made Us Do It!” The title page reads “Librarian?” I love the idea that the inside page would question the outside page.

Book no. 1 opens with a photo of the millennium issue of Life Magazine which listed the printing of the Gutenberg Bible as the #1 moment of the past 1,000 years. Former student Craig Cutler shot the photo. “The Librarian Made Us Do It!” details the path that ended up with us working in Lead Graffiti with about 20 tons of presses & metal type, making books and other things by printing via letterpress, and having a blast doing it.

A few stepping stones mentioned in book no. 1 include:

• • • Life Magazine’s premonition.

• • • Starting VCUK and our study abroad trips to London.

• • • Connecting the dots from Nigel Kent to Alan Kitching, and then Nigel Roche to Ian Mortimer.

We were hooked.

Printed via letterpress & bound by hand as a flutter book (printed as spreads on thick, lush paper and then glued only along the fore-edge of the sheets), the books, while short, are also nicely thick. Each book will have a wrap-around cover. There will be pages that center on a photograph, often with tip-ins to help show the story, maybe some handrolled ink and probably some playing with type.

. . .

IF YOU ARE A FORMER VC STUDENT DURING MY TIME, there may be a number of occasions in these books you could have something to add that will help tell these stories. Stay up-to-date with the books we have planned. Lead Graffiti is attempting to do about 1 a month for a year to start. Then we’ll see what happens.

The next book will likely be about some of my favorite projects in the VC program, but not always ones I gave. Another important topic to me is the three different grading systems I designed and used over the years–dots, shelves & tennis tournament grading. I don’t remember exactly when I started using those and would love to know if it was during your time. I would also be interested in your positive opinions and how you feel they may have impacted your career or creative experiences since then.

Help me add to my list: DEViCes, VC Family Album pages, 9-foot invitation to the Year End Show, best field trips & site visits, Alans Kitching & Fletcher, portfolio review at Fallon in Minneapolis, William Caslon & Eric Gill’s grave sites, our overnight stay at the Hope & Glory with Bill Westbrook, the day of the London bombing, sandcasting at the Type Museum, Eric Michelson’s talk, Stephen Frykholm’s talk, banners hanging on the Annex, catching up to missed bus trips to NYC, Helmut Krone, Art Directors Club portfolio reviews, important exhibitions, One Club student shows, my 60th birthday party and Doves Press present, “Think Small. Again.” poster, other Year End Show posters, Friday sessions, working with the Advertising Club of Delaware, Bob Gill, Wimbledon, Michael Johnson. That should be enough to get you started thinking.

If you have a great memory about your time in VC PLEASE drop me an email. I’d like to try to merge the collection into a larger story. I’ve got dozens of them jotted down, but there must be hundreds more and different viewpoints would add more wonderful and personal detail.

Help spread the word about these books to other VC grads and people we connected with back in the day. Thanks!

Studio projects Wednesday April 08 2015 12:00 pm

Book no. 0: Moments Carved in Paper

The Prospectus

This is a photo of the prospectus we did for our upcoming series of autobiographical books related to Ray’s teaching, family, and our printing slowly & patiently via letterpress.

The books were intended to show the flutter book format we were going to use for the book series. Each spread is printed individually, scored & folded, and then glued along the fore-edge. Each book will have a wrap-around cover.

The intent of the series is to get some of Ray’s stories in print and to help celebrate some wonderful moments in our lives. The prospect was sent to approximately 130 major libraries to promote interest in the series. We hope to have some typographic fun along with some letterpress experimentation over the course of what we hope to be at least 10 books. Each book will come out roughly every month. We’ll see how it goes.

Studio projects & workshops Tuesday March 24 2015 01:30 pm

Creative Letterpress workshop / University of Delaware / Art Conservation

We’ve been trying to schedule a workshop with the Art Conservation / Winterthur Program at the University of Delaware for about a year and we finally made it happen. Art Conservation at UD is simply a world-class program, universally listed as one of the top few in the world. They didn’t disappoint. We added a bit of a twist to our standard start with “All I know is…” and finish the line. So they would be more experienced with the old ways of composing they added “Designed & handset by…” using a composing stick. Tray was involved in Galactic Con with his Star Wars costuming group which slowed us down being able to help people through the process.

In the end, quite a nice effort with some very nice lockups and twists on words & typography.

Below is the main lockup and broadside. Below that we’ve pulled out a couple of the lockups to show more detail. Not sure we can promise to do this for each workshop, but we’ll give it a try this time.

You can click on the image below to see it double sized.

We’ve been wanting to pick out some closeups to show for a while, but honestly it is pretty time consuming to do that image above, cleaning up the type, reinking with white ink, getting out the photo lights, balancing on top of the press, stretching the image digitally to match the scanned broadside and putting together in a 512 pixel-wide format for the blog and then a 1000 pixel-wide format for the enlarged image. But for a first run at it, here are the lockups of 3 individual pages with the final printed version. You an often see the filling of the hole where the initial letter went when the first color was printed. This was the title page so it didn’t have to follow the “All I know is…” and start with an “A.”

“All I know is that I prefer books”

In this workshop we are trying to work as fast as possible to get a cover designed, a title page designed, 12 interior pages, and then make the covers (lot of steps) and then fold and tear the broadside to get it into the accordion fold format, an then get them put together (which is also a surprising number of steps) without using glue or sewing. This was a really nice effort for the inside title page.

“All I know is here and now”

Quite a simple page, but with the “ON:OW” being written in “time” style (09:44) it is just a great idea for adding a twist to writing the words. The 3s replacing the Es add a bit of numbering to the typography, throwing the visual off kilter just a bit. Nicely done using a very solid grouping of wood type.

“All I know is that someday I will do what I love”

Always fun to work with people who are completely new to letterpress. Anyone that knows what they are doing would avoid curving those 2 lines like the black plague. We just need to do a better job of explaining that the space taken up by that wonderful A could be filled with only a couple pieces of furniture and a few pieces of leading. Oh, well. We’ll put that in at the next workshop. Still a wonderful elegance to go with that fancy copperplate initial cap.

Studio projects Wednesday March 18 2015 12:22 pm

Moments Carved in Paper: Book No. 1


Bound by hand and printed slowly & patiently via letterpress, Book No. 1 in the Moments Carved in Paper series has turned out quite nicely, we think.

Our story begins in 1999 with Craig Cutler’s photo of a Gutenberg Bible for the cover of Life Magazine’s 100 Incredible Discoveries, Cataclysmic Events, & Magnificent Moments of the past 1,000 years. Amazing to even shoot for Life Magazine, much less the cover, Craig’s moment in the sun (one of many in his career) turned out to be a foreshadowing of the journey our creative lives were about to make.

The timing was right to give VCUK, our Visual Communications / United Kingdom study abroad a try. The next omen occurred on a VC field trip to Ogilvy where Nigel Kent, their Director of Typography, pointed us in the direction of Alan Kitching who taught letterpress at the Royal College of Art. A visit in VCUK’01 took us to Kitching’s studio, where there seemed to be some interest on the part of the students. Our first letterpress workshop came the next summer in 2002, when the student interest perked up considerably.

A visit to St. Bride Printing Library in 2002 clinched the aha! moment. Seeing the original tissues from Eric Gill’s Gill Sans typeface was a perfect setup. And then “Ornamented Types,” a book of outside-the-box type specimens exquisitely printed via letterpress by Ian Mortimer, was the tipping point. We fell for every hook, line and ink.

In addition to Craig Cutler, names mentioned in book No. 1 include Karla Burger Cushman, Bill Deering, Alan Fletcher, Ari Garber, Nigel Kent, Alan Kitching, Mark Samuels Lasner, Ian Mortimer, Nowlan Nichols, Raymond Nichols, Nigel Roche, David Rose, and Ben Thoma.

All the books in our Moments series are in the flutter book format. This means each spread is printed on one side only and the foredges are glued together to form the text block. The paper is a sexy Somerset Textured White, 300 gsm. By printing on only one side we can push the type into the paper quite deeply. Book No. 1 has two photos and some colorful Lead Graffiti elements that give a nod to Eric Gill and wormholes.

No. 1’s cover is St. Armand Colours Caribou #190, made in Canada. Very nice to hold in your hands.

Regarding future books in this series, we hope to get a number of student perspectives on many of the moments that involved my teaching or VC. Most of the stories connect in some way with that part of my life.

In a future book we will revisit Raven Press. We have to tell Ben Thoma and Karla Burger Cushman’s story about getting the illustrious Alan Fletcher to design the Raven Press logo. And at least one of the posters we did with Alan Kitching during his workshops needs to make an appearance.

If you have some favorite stories about your days in those first years at Raven Press, I want to hear from you. And even if you don’t have Raven Press stories, please keep in touch.

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