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Monthly ArchiveSeptember 2016

Studio projects Wednesday September 28 2016 06:17 am

“If there’s a rule, there’s a smart way to break it”
Talk 4 of 4 at Kutztown University
September 2016

We didn’t want to repeat the intro to these talks all 4 times so you can read it for the first talk here.

Here are couple of preliminary thoughts that are the focus of the talks (all worth repeating) that are going to weave through most of these projects and talks.

• If there is a rule, there is usually a smart way to break it.
• Know the answer before you hear the question and then reword the question.
• Rage against the default in as many times and ways as you can.
• Fight any urge to take the easy way.

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Example #1 : Thunder Road for the Treehouse School of London

New Lead Graffiti friend, Mark Cashion, and old Lead Graffiti friend, Bill Roberts of Bottle of Smoke Press invited us to design the format, print the covers, and bind about 200 copies for a project to benefit the charity Ambitious about Autism, home of TreeHouse School in London.

Nick Hornby (a British author best known for his novels High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Fever Pitch) wrote Songbook, which included an essay published by McSweeney’s about his love of the song “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen. Mark and letterpress printer friend, Jim Camp, had the idea of reprinting Hornby’s Thunder Road essay, along with the lyrics to Springsteen’s song, to raise money for Ambitious about Autism. Proposals were made and permission was granted by both writers. The text for the essay and lyrics was designed and printed via letterpress in Los Angeles by Jim Camp at synaesthesia press.

While we were involved in the first stages of the project we suggested trying to get Springsteen to sign 30 or so of the copies which would be used for a deluxe version. We were told that he had already gently refused an initial request for just such an involvement. We thought, “What the hell” and set about to produce a hard cover version. We mocked up a prototype and Tray did a wonderful retouching job placing the text & graphics to create the finished look in hard cover form. This was resent to the Springsteen camp and…

We produced 200 soft cover books signed by Nick Hornby, 34 hard cover books signed by both Nick Hornby and Bruce Springsteen which were numbered A - Z. Six of the extra copies were produced as the deluxe deluxe copy which included a clamshell box and both the hard and soft cover versions of the books. These 6 copies were used as presentation copies to the 6 participants in the production of the project.

We love the idea of Bruce Springsteen writing “Lead Graffiti.”

“…Hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with m.”

Example #2 : Arc de Triomphe finale

We wanted to include one of our Tour de Lead Graffiti posters where Ann Lemon was involved. For the first couple of years the final poster was more of just a listing of the various winners, times, etc. of the Tour de France. By the time we got to that point our brains could see the light at the end of the tunnel and it, along with our bodies, was starting to shut down and going into hybernation mode.

To fight off our inclination to do this one easy we got Ann, one of my favorite graduates from the Visual Communications Group at the University of Delaware, involved on the project.

In the past this final stage looped the Champs Élysées 8 times to finish the stage and the Tour. Ann stepped in and wanted the poster she was collaborating on to be a cool one, so she was having none of the hybernation strategy.

Those circular elements are from one of those sets of large checkers (the game) you see at Cracker Barrel restaurants. Ann’s son Amos did a killer job designing the Arc de Triomphe out of typography and rule.

Example #3 : Shakespeare and the Boston Marathon

This was an afternoon’s diversion. We had been thinking about doing a poster related to the Boston Marathon bombing, but had a hard time with what to do. One morning my computer reminded me that it was Shakespeare’s birthday. Surely, I thought, there must be a Shakespeare quote that would work.

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none” from All’s Well, that Ends Well worked perfectly.

You’ll notice that the word “Shakespeare” is a seemingly misprinted run with some blind debossing. I won’t get into it here, but to do that the poster was run through the press only one time. See if you can figure out how you could accomplish it.

Here is a bit of the explanation.

Example #4 : Il Pluet

There is a collaborative book project named “It’s a Small World” the originates out of England. The 5″ x 7″ book is produced by a variety of contributing presses which design one page about some element about printing.

We had done the project the previous year, using the opportunity to experiment with our Interype linecaster.

The Intertype is a fast way to produce “hot metal” type, but we took a different path this year.

One of the images Ray had on his shelf of visuals to use was the poem Il pluet (it’s raining), one of Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes, a term he coined early in the 20th Century for a “shaped poem.”

Casting each line based on the center location of each letter took us 6.5 hours. While I’m not sure our visual translation of Apollinaire’s poem into periods set the poetry world ablaze, it was a great way to spend a day and learn something about our Intertype and how you could control it.

Example #5 : Laboratory Press Projet

We ended each of our talks with a discussion of this project. You can jump over to the 1st of these 4 talks and read about it as Example #5. You can jump over to the 1st of these 4 talks and read about it.

Studio projects Monday September 26 2016 01:06 pm

“Fight any urge to do it the easy way”
Talk 3 of 4 at Kutztown University
September 2016

We didn’t want to repeat the intro to these talks all 4 times so you can read it for the first talk here.

Here are couple of preliminary thoughts (which is worth repeating) that are going to weave through most of these projects and talks.

• Fight any urge to take the easy way.
• If there is a rule, there is usually a smart way to break it.
• Know the answer before you hear the question and then reword the question.
• Rage against the default in as many times and ways as you can.

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Example #1 : Waldorf School of Philadelphia 8th grade diploma

Look at any diploma you’ve ever gotten. Honestly, for the people who normally do diplomas it is a lot easier to do a nice black one, stamp the name pretty easily (they’ve got that all pretty mechanized, where we have to set it by hand). We showed a nice certificate project back in Example 1 of talk 1 of 4 that you can look at.

Here are 2 more diplomish projects we’ve done. Kalmar Nyckel. We had great fun doing the border for it.

And the AAUW.

You could photocopy or inkjet print everyone of these, but where’s the fun in that.

Example #2 : Moments Carved in Paper

The books are fairly simple, both in their scale (5″ x 9″) and also in their construction (flutter book), but we find lots of ways to complicate things and hopefully make the stories in them interesting to the reader or book collector.

You can go to our blog entry about this book and also can see the other two books in the series so far (we should be finished with book #4 within 3 weeks) in our portfolio under “books.” They are right near the top.

Example #3 : All Preservation…

Would be interesting if we could go back and redo this poster now that we know a lot more about letterpress printing and do it the same way. It took Jill 6 hours to lay out the poster. Then it took me 8 hours of painstakingly leveling each piece of wood type (which was taken from our orphan type), raising them to the correct type-height to print well.

Jill also did that nice handrolling on the paper stock before printing the line. This was done to give out as a keepsake for an American Printing History Association national conference. We just put a stack of 125 of them on the registration table with a sign asking people to only take 1.

Great fun doing this poster and we love talking about it.

Example #4 : TdLG / Wind

This may be my favorite poster we did of the 115 we did for our Tour de Lead Graffiti project. I bounce around among about 5 of them.

The quick story is that crosswinds broke the peloton into 4 groups. The need to be able to draft the rider in front of you is important, and when you lose that, it is hard to get it back, even for the best cyclists on the planet.

You can read the whole story here.

Example #5 : Laboratory Press Projet (that is not a misspelling)

We are showing this as the 5th piece for each of the talks as we think it is a significant challenge that we can make to all of the students we are talking to. I’m not sure how many will hear what we are saying, but those that do should get a lifetime of better creative work. Read it at the bottom of the first talk here.

Studio projects Thursday September 22 2016 11:02 am

“Rage against the default”
Talk 2 of 4 at Kutztown University
September 2016

We didn’t want to repeat the intro to these talks all 4 times so you can read it for the first talk here.

Here are couple of preliminary thoughts (which is worth repeating) that are going to weave through most of these projects and talks.

• Rage against the default in as many times and ways as you can.
• Fight any urge to take the easy way.
• If there is a rule, there is usually a smart way to break it.
• Know the answer before you hear the question and then reword the question.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Example #1 : Col du Glandon

You can read the whole story with lots of pictures at the bottom by clicking here.

We’ve not been saying much about the Tour de Lead Graffiti project as a whole as we’ve just been focusing on a poster here and there. Below is the clamshell which we build to house the whole year’s set of posters. This one is for 2015. We produce special-made pastepaper for the cover of the clamshell.

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Example #2 : O’Connor / Wildman wedding invitation

When we do custom wedding invitations we typically interview the couple to find out something about them that will make a good invite. Erin and Ray made beer. It took about 3 minutes of talking to them before we came up with doing a set of 12 beer coasters. Honestly, just about as easy as that sounds.

You can read more of the story by clicking here and going to our portfolio page.

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Example #3 : Grateful Dead & Alphabetachaos

Click here for the story.

This piece is so new we’ve not even put it in our online portfolio.

You can click here to see a film we did of the lockup of the 3rd run on the alphabet along with how it looks doing the handrolling.

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Example #4 : Swarm of Bees

The whole story by clicking here

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Example #5 : Laboratory Press “Projet”

We repeat showing this project as the last example at each of the talks, so you can read it at the bottom of the first talk here.

talks Tuesday September 20 2016 06:27 am

“Know the answer before you hear the question”
Talk 1 of 4 at Kutztown University
September 2016

Ann Lemon, a former student and now Assistant Professor at Kutztown University, asked Jill and I to do 4 talks (consecutive Mondays and Wednesdays) to groups of about 25 of her students about letterpress, showing some of our work, and giving some advice about developing a creative process.The students, typically sophomore level, were enrolled in Ann’s “History of Graphic Design” course and many were taking beginning typography which fit nicely into the discussion with our work.

We thought we would write about the work we showed that might help them remember what they saw and thought we would start with an image from our website of some of the stuff that makes up the letterpress process.

1. copperplate of a tailpiece: a triangular graphic element typically used at the end of the last column of a story or book. We had this one made after scanning one in the type collection of a friend.

2. advertising cut: a zinc cut of a 24-bottle case of Coca-Cola bought on eBay.

3. leading: thin pieces of soft metal used as line spacing. Shown is 18 pica (6 picas = 1 inch) x 18, 12, 6, and 2 points (72 points = 1 inch).

4. wood type: Gill Sans (W), Kabel with circumflex (O), Cheltenham Outline (O), and multi-color chromatype (D). WOO came from eBay and the D was part of a 60 job case purchase from a collector.

5. reglet: thin wood spacing. Shown here is 20 pica x 12 and 6 points.

6. steel furniture: spacing typically used to fill in larger areas than leading or reglet. Shown is 20 pica x 5 and 2 pica.

7. ampersand in the middle is 96 point Caslon Italic metal foundry type (our largest metal type). We also have 72 and 84 point purchased from a letterpress friend.

8. copperplate of our Lead Graffiti logo started by scanning an 1885 British banknote and fooling around in Illustrator for a month.

9. composing stick with metal type: the composing stick is used to arrange type and spacing in a very solid rectangular shape that can be locked up for printing. Garamond 72 pt (M), Melior Italic 60 pt (E), Neuland 60 pt (T), Rubens 60 pt (A), and Outline 60 pt (L). Garamond was bought as part of a full run of roman and italic 14 - 72 point weighing approximately 1,700 pounds, Melior bought from a letterpress friend, Neuland through the LetPress listserv, Outline on eBay, and Rubens from the estate of a collector.

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We decided to base each of our talks on one of 4 topics that we’ve found to be bottlenecks to creative thinking, especially to younger design students. Each talk will include Lead Graffiti 4 projects (different for each group) and will end with a student “Projet” from the classes of Porter Garnett, director of the Laboratory Press at Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie-Mellon University.

• Know the answer before you hear the question and then reword the question.
• Rage against the default in as many times and ways as you can.
• Fight any urge to take the easy way.
• If there is a rule, there is usually a smart way to break it.

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Letterpress example #1: Roland Hoover “Lifetime Achievement Award” certificates

Roland is a real letterpress hero of ours. The chance to do something important FOR him was a real honor.

A few years ago we had bought a big run of Garamond metal type from him. The type was in galleys (metal trays) and as we put them away in our studio we were printing each galley of type as documentation. As we were doing this we took 1 sheet and overprinted each of the galleys onto the sheet (about 8 layers).

We decided to use the overprint as a thank you to Roland which you can see below. We often love disturbing the readability of type and this was a good outcome.

In 2010 the Chesapeake Chapter of the American Printing History Association wanted to honor Roland with a Lifetime Achievement Award. We jumped on the opportunity to do the certificate for the occasion and thought we would utilize the same overprinting using the Roland’s Garamond.

The border of the certificate reads “The Chesapeake Chapter | of the American Printing | History Association’s Life | time Achievement Award”. It took a while to get the type spaced evenly. We printed the border by rotating the locked-up type 90° and printing it 4 times. The first three runs are dark grey with the last run being in solid black to achieve a semblance of readability. The outside type is Roland’s Garamond. His name was in Neuland.

A year or so later a former student, Vince Straszewsk, emailed me with a request to help with a certificate for a graphic designer friend that had passed away. A group was forming an award in his name. The only rule was that the certificate needed to include the words “Explore every possibility” which was his design mantra.

We thought the border idea deserved another shot. Just this time we would use red, yellow, and blue color, with the required text on each side. The border type is Neuland and the inside is Garamond Italic.

Takeaway: Helmut Krone, one of my favorite couple of historically important art directors, once said to me, “You need to know the answer before you hear the question. Then all you have to do is reword the question to fit your answer.” I use to talk to my students about having ideas “on the shelf.” You constantly look for them. What could you do with this? How might this be applied? You get a picture in your head and then you put it on the shelf, to call down later when you need a solution. Doing the pieces that have little obvious value, because you can do so many of them and because they don’t carry much pressure, can offer important leaps in creativity in some future project.

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Letterpress example #2: Boxcards - These are notecards that we make every so often where we print on the actual packaged goods boxes that much of our food, beer, and softdrinks come in. We had always liked printing on cheap chip board, as we liked the industrial quality of it.

Printing ink is quite transparent except for the metallic ones. We got the idea of not printing the type, but printing everything but the type.

Once we had a booth at the National Stationery Show in NYC and a group from Boxcar (where we have our photopolymer plates made) stopped by the booth. We had about 30 of these cards hanging in the back of the booth. With the large type and the fact that they all have a similar visual quality, they recognized that these cards had been printed from their plates, but you could see that they just couldn’t figure out where all of the color was coming from. The plates only print the background of the type. We just let the color show through from whatever is on the card stock to fill the type.

Additionally, we showed the “Truth Beauty Now” business cards which we printed on the same kind of stock.

Takeaway: You can often take something you know and just turn it backwards or inside out. Look around you for problems to solve. No money, then don’t spend any. Think about what bothers you. We ended up selling around 3,000 of these cards to shops and online.

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Letterpress example #3: TdLG / Breakaway Peloton Rubberbands

You can get the long story about this poster by clicking here.

During our Tour de Lead Graffiti project we would often describe the relationship between the peloton (the main mass of cyclists) and the breakaway as having a rubberband tied between them. We decided we would illustrate that point by printing with rubberbands.

We had nails driven in strategic places to overlap the type, stretched some wide rubberbands across the sheet, and printed them. Then we moved the rubberbands to different nails and printed them in a second color. There is extra packing under the rubberbands to keep the nailheads from printing.

Takeaway: Listen to yourself. A lot of time you have something good to say, but you need to get past the fear of saying it.

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Letterpress example #4: “I found the one my heart loves”

The bride wanted to use the Song of Solomon verse that said, “I’ve found the one my heart loves.” In playing with the size of it eventually the line got large enough so the word “loves” was centered in the last panel. Everyone knows about a couple carving their initials in a tree like “JC+RN.” That gave us the idea to simpy say Hannah loves Jeremy on that final panel instead of the standard invitation design that says, “The parents of…” It was a nice way to single out the bride and groom from the rest of the invitation and at the same time find a new way to design a wedding invitation.

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Letterpress example #5: Projet

This is a student project from the Laboratory Press at Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1927. We think typographically it is about as nice as anything we’ve ever seen. And it is done with handset metal type. This would still be really hard on a computer if you knew were you were going. When working with handset metal type you would have to be constantly retrying various ways to get lines to come out evenly. Getting the sloping bottom of the text is killer hard.

Notice the way the top 2 lines fill the width of the page. And then the next two lines. The work on the tailpiece at the bottom is very well constructed with the ever-narrowing measure. Simply a stunning piece of handset metal type.

Then we showed James Victore afternoon diversion poster, “Any technology-aided shortcut robs you of the work.” We really believe this and it would often be nice for schools to not provide student designers with so much technical support.

James Victore said that really well with, “Any technology-aided shortcut robs you of the work.”

James does a wonderful set of podcasts that you can get to here. Google him as there is a lot of good advice he gives.

We gave away the TdLg and Victore poster to the two students who asked the most interesting questions during the Q & A after the session. A good group with a reasonable number of questions which was nice.

Studio projects Tuesday September 06 2016 02:36 am

If you know our Tour de Lead Graffiti work…

you’ll understand this.