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Monthly ArchiveOctober 2014

Studio projects Saturday October 18 2014 10:28 am

Philadelphia University / October 18, 2014

We are going to try and write at least a couple of things about each workshop we do and maybe single out a couple of pages that have something worth mentioning. Not so much as to describe the events of the workshops, but to expand on some of the things that tend to happen ‘around’ the workshop.

This is the second Creative Letterpress workshop using “All I know is…” as the start of the text for each of the pages. We did a much better job of setting it up this time, trying to push students to say something meaningful.

Above you can see the lockup for the 2nd color on the left and the final, 2-color broadside on the right. You can click on the image and see it double sized.

On the broadside on the right the 1st and 3rd rows have been rotated to orient all of the pages the same.

You can click here to see an idea of the final form of the book.


One of the things that is apparent in looking back at this and other workshops is our experience with letterpress and these workshops is that we seem to have the ability to see the difference between a student making a mistake that is truly a mistake and a mistake that is truly a wonderful accident. Misspelling the word “devil” by setting “dveil” is probably just a mistake. But turning a capital E backwards might be a wonderful accident because it looks like a trident and turning it backwards makes it stand out. No one would notice it might be a trident if you put the letter in the correct orientation, because it would just be an E.

This page from the workshop had a nice element of rotating the Es which connects the experience very distinctly to letterpress. This is strangely easy to do in metal type and really, really hard to get to it in InDesign.

The page below did a great job of illustrating the sun with the use of two typefaces, one light and condensed and the other with an extreme difference between thick and thin. The use of the ‘fist’ for the “I” in “RISE” works quite nicely. The typefaces give a nice sense of glow to the sun. Probably worth mentioning that “I” at the top which is an “H” rotated 90 degrees. Piece works quite well and in a way that I suspect wouldn’t be a very logical path on the computer. We would love to see this lead to a logical path on a computer.


It is amazing how useful a smartphone can be and at the same time how awful. We sent a nice long note to the students trying to help them prepare for the workshop. We wrote what we thought was a good note about “What would a good student do?” on our blog to encourage students to be actively involved, asking good questions, standing close, etc. Not one of the students read it beforehand. I suspect that they read the original note on their phones and it is just too hard to follow through on the details when there are a number of links and the length of the text gets too long.

We aren’t at all sure what we can do about this.

Studio projects Monday October 13 2014 02:36 pm

Visit by Jim Moran of the Hamilton Type Museum to Lead Graffiti

In the photo: Ray Nichols (left) with Jim Moran looking over the 2014 Tour de Lead Graffiti Stage 19 poster.

Jim Moran, director of the Hamilton Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, spent a nice couple of hours with Lead Graffiti Monday, October 13, 2014. Jim had spoken to AIGA / Philadelphia over the weekend and was coming to Newark, Delaware, to speak to a Visual Communications class of Ashley Pigford’s. Ashley, who shares a studio space next to Lead Graffiti, asked if we would like to get some time with  Jim before his UD talk and we jumped at the opportunity.

We drove the hour up to Philadelphia to pick Jim and his wife, Nance, and drove them the hour back to Newark. The drive back offered an opportunity to talk about Lead Graffiti and to give him some background information that would help us jump into the important projects we wanted to show once we arrived.

Overall, quite a nice day. And for anyone interested in letterpress a pilgrimage to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, is a rite of passage.

Jill and Ray had visited the Hamilton Type Museum back in 2006 when it was at its old location. Recently relocating to 1816 10th Street, Two Rivers, Wisconsin, they have a new view overlooking Lake Michigan.

personal & workshops Saturday October 11 2014 08:44 am

What would a good student do?

I’ve been thinking about writing this entry for a while as I often bring it up in Lead Graffiti’s workshops. It would be good if we could get students to read it before they came.

When I was teaching in the Visual Communications Group at the University of Delaware, to add a bit of pressure to my students, I would often raise the question “What would a good student do? Right here. Right now.” to turn a simple opportunity into a miracle.

Most all educational programs do a reasonable job of exposing their students to educational opportunities, but the question is often, what does the student do with that opportunity. Some teachers probably give better assignments. Some schools have more or better field trips & speakers. And they all have libraries. Everyone has access to almost every website, blog, tweet and photograph on the planet.

We’ve had some 850 students over the past 5 or so years who have interacted with Lead Graffiti through workshops, tours & shorternships. Sometimes professors through their classes drag their students through the experience and at other times it is a choice that the student has scheduled and paid for on their own.

We at lead Graffiti surely think that one of our workshop experiences has value, but we’d like for it to have 5 times the value. We give the studio tour. We show some of what we think is our best work and we show work from a number of other letterpress shops. But to really find a way to take the experience up a couple notches we need a bit of help from the student.

I’m writing this with the notion that you’ll find yourself sitting in a letterpress workshop in Lead Graffiti This is a different place than you’ve ever been, organized in a way you couldn’t possibly understand if you had a week, working in a technology (or maybe a non-technology) and a process you don’t know, probably using a measurement system you might barely know, and you are asked to do a creative project without sketches. You cannot possibly know  what to do.

Just ask yourself the question, “What would a good student do?” “Right now.” “Here.

My additional advice is to ask it 150 times that day.

I, for one, do not believe there are no bad questions. There are a gazillion bad questions. They are the ones that don’t move you anywhere. “Do you like working with letterpress?” Duh. “Why do you like working with letterpress?” may get the discussion to a place you need.

You need to find the time to ask a dozen good questions over the day. 10 of you will generate 120 good questions. Some will have good answers. And it is a good idea to ask them so the other students hear those answers. And for them to ask good questions so you can hear those answers. It needs to be a question that a good student would ask. One that moves their work forward and not sideways. It needs to be a question that gets the answers to a number of other questions and also setting up even better questions. Sometimes a good student will just stand close.

What would a good student do? Right here. Right now.

Take a look at our online portfolio and see the things we’ve done that interest you. Bring it up when we are showing work. If we don’t show it ask us to. “How did you get the work?” “Did it lead anywhere?” “What is it about that piece that would make you to want to put it in your portfolio?”

Lunch is a good time when things are calmer and everyone is within hearing range.

An interesting things about asking yourself “What would a good student do?” is that it doesn’t take any more time to do it than to not do it.