As a Creative Department we are always keeping ourselves at the cutting edge of technology and techniques. However, there comes a time when all the technology in the world doesn’t quite cut it when you want to hone your skills in a certain area. So, we find ourselves standing at 09.00 am on a chilly December morning outside the studios of legendary letterpress printers New North Press in London’s east end.
After watching the brilliant documentary ‘Typeface‘ a few years back about the artisan typographers at Hamilton’s Wood Type Museum in Wisconsin, I had a longing to learn the process of hand setting wood and lead type, and then printing using the old-fashioned letterpress technique.
And so we spent our morning selecting our typefaces, measuring each character and line in points and em’s (no changing the font size here with a click of the mouse) and then literally leading (with strips of lead), kerning (with strips of lead) and adjusting line length, justification and height with a baffling array of blocks, spacers, magnets and ‘furniture’ – when our poster was set firm in the galley we were ready to ink and print. Each galley was inked, adjusted, proofed, re-inked, adjusted with tweezers, re-proofed, adjusted, paper substrate changed, pressures increased and proofed again until we had a galley worthy of an actual print.
Above are our final efforts on what proved to be a fabulously rewarding day learning how to consider the real charm and beauty of hand-done typography, and the significance and nuance of using typography alone as our means of conveying a message.
Thanks go to Graeme and Beatrice at New North Press for their patience, humour, hospitality and expertise in guiding 5 newbies through the process to a finished print.
We hope we put everything back in the right order!
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