Letterpress/Prototype Lab

New Additions

Over this past summer we added several pieces of equipment to our Letterpress and Prototype Lab. As many of you know we have this lab that includes several letterpress proof printers, a 3-D printer and several inkjet and laser printers, all dedicated to giving our students an edge both in printing knowledge and comp preparation. Basically this equipment helps are students perfect their “making craft”. We have now added a laser engraving machine that tremendously increases our capabilities in making computerized die cuts and personalized components in a variety of materials.  We also added a 4 color screen printing work station that expands our capabilities in printing in multiples. From paper to packaging to tee shirts, all are now possible in the lab. This summer I installed the equipment and built tables for production and storage. In the previous post I talked about our experimentation with creating type high fonts using the laser engraving machine. My last project this semester in Pre-press class is to design a tee shirt. This semester we will design and prepare it to print  as usual but now we will actually print the shirts, giving the students the actual experience of printing! The images that follow are photos of my first print on our new equipment.

Individual Study in Design, Summer 2016


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Graduate Summer Project

This past summer, 2016, Jesse Warne and I worked on his summer grad class. The class was an Individual Study in Design class in Typography. His primary object was to explore different methods of creating type high blocks for use with a Letterpress.


Proposal: DES 5930 – Individual Study in Design, Summer 2016

Future Directions in Type Creation

Letterpress printing is a form that has long been in decline. This tactile form of relief printing is one of the oldest known ways of reproducing visual and written communication.

The physical nature of production using letterpress and the unique look and feel of its finished products has given it a staying power that defies its practicality. Since its inception it has lasted through many other innovations in printing technology. The once thriving industry of of type foundries creating sets of metal type however have all but dried up. With only a small boutique market of letterpress shops and studios seeking new type for their collection the previous means of large scale production are not feasible.

Luckily new advancements in technology that have in part contributed to the decline of letterpress popularity have also brought new possibility to the ability of individuals to design and create new type for letterpress printing. Through this individual study course I would like to explore the usage of laser engraving and 3D printing to create type-high wood and thermoplastic fonts and printing plates for letterpress printing. The ability to create custom sets of type offers new and exciting opportunities for the design community as well as great educational possibilities for design students to gain a deeper understanding of typography and letterforms.

Research into how these new tools can be used to create type and some establishment of best practices will benefit future students wishing to utilize this possibility in their projects as well as assist professors within the department in planning future projects that may include these processes or even help guide to creation of new course curriculum in advanced typography and letterpress design.

Project Overview

  • Research required measurements and specifications for type used in letterpress printing and best practices in creating wood type utilizing laser engraving
    1. Larry Hefner and I will be reaching out to Scott Moore for information on creating wood type for letterpress printing. Scott has experience creating wood type and has worked in education on letterpress practices with his daughter Erin Beckloff, Co-Director of the film Pressing On: The Letterpress Film.
    2. Experimenting with various materials and types of wood in the laser engraver to better understand what materials might be best suited for various intended results: durability, speed, cost, quality of print, etc…

• Produce one font of type-high(.918in) wood type of a typeface I previously designed for use in the Letterpress and Prototyping Lab using the laser engraver(this will also include producing the bases for all the cut type and joining them all together)

  1. Determining all of the physical specifications of each piece of type such as height of the letterform/depth of the cut
  2. Preparing the digital file for each letter to be engraved with the appropriate spacing for ease of use in printing

• Produce at least one proof of concept printed design piece using either the wood type created for this course or a printing plate created with the laser engraver

• Explore creating type utilizing a 3D printer

• Document and create process book and video

In an earlier class with Lanie Gabbard, Jesse created a new font that he named in honor of me, thus the Hefner Font was born. I was so blown away, I talked Jesse into working with me over the summer to make it even more real. As you can see from his proposal he wanted to explore the possibilities of our Department’s new laser engraver and his work Department’s new 3-D printer. We both learned a lot and he produced one full set of Hefner Bold type.

Here is the video:

Pre-Press – Project 2


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Our Pre-Press class was designed to educate and train our students in the proper preparation of files for commercial offset printing and other areas of Design production. It was never intended for highly creative portfolio preparation. Each project has a specific goal in training the students in a new method of print production. As an example, the first project is simply recreating an existing brochure to introduce the students to proper file preparation on one color and four color production including correct file resolutions, the difference between RGB and CMYK, scanning and print mark up. There is absolutely no creativity in this project. After saying that, one of our program’s primary goals is to develop all our students to be better creative problem solvers. So, when ever possible I like to interject an element of creativity and push this fundamental goal.

Project 2

Project Description:
This project deals with the design of a typical informational rack brochure. Because of client budget restrictions you are limited to a two color solution.The use of spot color is important. Duo-tones and other two color effects are acceptable.
Create a rack brochure design for a company of your choice. You have total freedom to choose the company and control the design solution by your choice, so make good use of this freedom, you will never get this freedom in the real world. The brochure should communicate general information to the company clientele and prospective clients. It should convey a design style consistent with the company and its target market.The only restriction is the 2/2 spot color solution mentioned in the project description. You must generate all copy and graphics for your chosen client.The copy and graphics must be appropriate for the client, brochure and its intended audience. Start your design process in the normal manner with a well thought out concept statement, thumbnails, roughs and then finished comps.

Solutions:                                                                                                   Typically, the students react to the limited budget and produce simple, mediocre solutions with little thought to a creative solution. The last couple of years I have witnessed a marked change in this approach. Many of the students now view this limitation as a challenge and push their designs to a more fluid and creative combination of basic elements and come up with “portfolio quality” work, which is exactly what I want and expect them to do!

This year was the best yet! CONGRATULATIONS!

Here are some of their examples:

New Semester – Life After Retirement!


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Yes, there really is life after retirement. Officially, I retired after the last Spring semester. Everyone asks me how I like retirement, my response is usually something like “it doesn’t feel a lot different.” It really doesn’t and that’s a good thing! I loved what I was doing before and I love what I am doing now. I am still teaching but now it is a reduced load. I am only teaching one class per semester. This semester it is Pre-Press. This reduced load gives me a little more time to work on my guitars and pursue my painting career. Over the summer I made slow but steady head way on both. I have two new guitars in the works and I picked up a new gallery, JRB Art at the Elms, in the Paseo district. JRB has actually sold a couple of big pieces. The latest will be hung in the new GE Building in OKC.

"Minions and Pink Ridges" being hung at the new GE Building

“Minions and Pink Ridges” being hung at the new GE Building

My one class, Pre-Press is going well. We just finished our first assignment and I have assigned a 2-color brochure project for the second. I have posted about this project in the past. Here is the link, which should help my students get started;


At first this project might seem simple, so simple you might think it difficult to do anything creative. THAT IS THE CHALLENGE! Put on your thinking caps, go back to the basics and do something GREAT!

Graphic Design 1


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This project is a revised version of our Dead Center Film Festival project. The revisions allow for more flexibility and hopefully creativity by the students. Here is the new revised project:

Find an existing weird film or music festival. Learn all about the event and who typically attends it. Then create a systems brand for this event.
The ability to take a design through multiple applications is a critical element to the creation of a brand. Here you want to create a system that is unified BUT ALSO HAS A LOT OF VARIETY. You explored this in Computer Graphics 1 in the Propaganda Project.
Now we’re going to take this to the next level! We’re going to create a brand system with a logo, 3 full color 18 x 24 posters, a black and white 4.25 x 5.5 hand out, a full page and aquarter page ad for the Gazette, a Volunteer Pass, a Competitor Pass, a VIP pass and a general admission ticket.
Do your research. Develop a concept. Don’t forget the basic design process:
1. Identifying problems and opportunities: Analyzing real-world situations.
2. Framing a design brief: Problem clarification and specification.
3. Investigation and research: Information gathering.
4. Generating alternative solutions.
5. Choosing a solution.
6. Developmental work (AKA sketching).
7. Modeling and prototyping.
8. Testing and evaluating.
9. Redesigning and improving.
10. Presenting and Producing
1. Logo
2. Series of 3 full color 18 x 24 posters
3. One black and white 4.25 x 5.5 hand out
4. 1 Full page and 1 quarter page ad for the Gazette
5. Volunteer Pass
6. Competitor Pass
7. VIP pass
8. General admission ticket
9. Packaged digital files
10. All process work as digital file
This assignment often results in a killer portfolio project…people who do well on this project typically go above and beyond…they do not procrastinate and they do not settle for “pretty good” Try to really crush this one…I know you can do it!

To help with presentation and to reinforce our previous work with grids and grid systems, I created a secondary presentation project.

As mentioned and as you have discovered this is an extremely large project with a large number of component. When choosing a presentation style, designers should consider the audience and what would be the best method to communicate the final design solutions. This decision is a very important part of the process because if the project is not presented in the best way it literally could be rejected, regardless of its effectiveness.
Most of the time, some type of finished dummy comp gives the client the best idea of how the project will look and feel. In other situations the designer might decide a sophisticated digital presentation would be a better solution. Ultimately this decision will be an option the designer must choose based on their personal presentation style. In all cases it is a decision that demands attention, prior planning and superb execution because as stated before the life of the project depends on it!
For this project, I am going to set the method of presentation. I would like all components to be presented on three 20”x30” panels. On one panel place one of the three posters at full size (18”x24”). Place the remaining 10 elements on the remaining two boards. Remember the grid project, here is another important use of the grid. Work with the grid and hierarchy to create an interesting layout. Keep the descriptive type to a minimum visually. It should be understated and never overpower the primary work! The font pairings and layouts are totally up to you. Consider fonts that you have already used in the project to add consistency with your graphic system. You could also consider jumping the gutter (space between boards) to increase size, importance and hierarchy of elements. Use what you have learned in Computer Graphics 2 about grid layouts and digital mock-ups to add visual interest and a touch of realism. Give your design and layout the time and importance it deserves!
In addition to these three required presentation boards you should consider additional dummy comp components. For instance if your design solution includes a laminated pass worn on a lanyard, create a real dummy comp on a lanyard to include with the presentation. Create a pocket on the back of the board to hold these dummy comps. This also gives you an option of photographing these objects for the presentation board rather than creating a Photoshop mock-up.

The students responded well, here are examples of the first solutions of Get Festive!


Advertising Design


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Magazine Series Project

By this time in the semester the students in this class really start to understand print advertising and this project gives them the creative freedom to SHINE! This group is consistently raising the bar and it is getting harder for me to select the images to post. So, what the heck, I’ll just post a lot.


Hidden Treasure!


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Periodically I post articles about equipment and how to use the equipment we have. This post is more about the location of useful equipment. We have three wall mounted cutters that are excellent for cutting foamboard and mount board. One is located in the computer lab in the Art & Design Building, room 105. The second is in the Materials Lab in Evans Hall, room 04. The third is slightly hidden and is not in a classroom. It is in the hallway just beyond the coke machine in the Art & Design Building. This location is one of the appealing things about this cutter. Because it is in the hallway you can access it any time you are in the building.

Here is a video to help you locate and use this cutter.

Advertising Design


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Newspaper 2

This project was designed to teach students how newspaper print ads are sold and sized. The column inch concept is totally new for most students. They understand terms like full page, half page and quarter page but if you told them they have 50 column inches to use for advertising they wouldn’t know what you were talking about. In addition to the size, this project is limited to black and white. To add to these obvious problems it is only their second attempt at print advertising. In my experience it takes about three project before they start making the mental shift from design solutions to advertising solutions. As always each semester’s group of students seems to get better and better. The results from this project were overall very good. Here are some examples:

Graphic Design 1


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This semester we have made a few changes in the Graphic Design 1 curriculum. Here at UCO we are constantly trying to improve our classes, to better prepare our students for success in the professional world. So, every year we re-evaluate our curriculum and try to improve the areas and projects that are not working as well as we would like them. This year GD 1 got some minor revisions to help the student solutions fit better into the overall Program structure. Here is the revised first project for GD 1.


The Gridshow.
Choose something that you love. Create a book that uses a MODULAR grid to arrange the same information to create different visual narratives and attitudes.
Choose something that you love. It can be kittens, matchbox cars, salt, unicorns, and so on. Anything will work provided that someone has already written a history about it. NO WIKIPEDIA…use real, actual books please.
Choose the best history of this subject and take at least 900 words from this book. You will also need to find a time line for the subject you’ve chosen. You’ll be using this text and time line so be sure it’s the strongest and most meaningful you could find. Yes, you may have to type this in yourself so use spell check to eliminate typos.
Create a breaksheet: the book will have 16 total pages including the covers. Folded it will be 7 x 7 inches. Unfolded each spread will be 7 inches tall by 14 inches wide. This book will be saddle stitched. Each spread will have some of the text you’ve chosen with images or illustrations. At least one spread will have a time line. Each spread will use the gird, but remember we want unified variety so do not just repeat the same design solution over and over.
Paper is a vital part of the design process. Pick a paper that is appropriate to your subject. PLAN AHEAD…PAPER TAKES TIME
The completed book as a physical comp.
The completed book as a packaged InDesign file.
All process work as digital file.
Making and Breaking the Grid.
Great book that you will refer to over and over again! Strongly suggest getting it!

Here are a few examples of this semester’s student solutions:

Advertising Design


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OK, I’ve been catching grief from some of my students because it has been a while since I last posted. I agree, so here goes a new semester. This will be my last full-time semester but I plan on continuing my blog so don’t worry, I’ll still be around!

Good and Bad Newspaper Ad Project:

I don’t usually post much about this project because I view it more like an exercise and the results are usually not very good but the students keep improving and I have loosened the project enough to allow for bigger more successful results. Here is the project statement:
From a local, regional and national newspaper pick an ad you think is well designed and effective. From the same papers pick an ad you feel is poorly designed and ineffective. The subject matter, type and style of the ads can be different, but keep the size of the ads approximately the same. Avoid extremely small ads and ads in the classified section. Mount both ads for presentation on mount board and cover with a presentation flap. Be prepared during the critique to justify why you feel the ads are good and bad.
1. To develop aesthetics concerning print advertising, particularly in the context of a newspaper format.
2. To develop and practice verbal justification of concepts and ideas.
3. To establish groundwork for continuation of this assignment.
Local: The Daily Oklahoman
The Gazette
Edmond Sun
The Journal Record
Regional: Dallas Morning News
Tulsa World
Kansas City Star
National: New York Times
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal
USA Today
Using the information you gained from the class critique and additional information from your research gathering process, develop a creative brief (see additional handouts on creative briefs) for each of the three “bad” ads in Part 1. Redesign each of the three bad ads from Part 1. Work through the assignment in a traditional design approach. Start with thumbnails, roughs, and a finished comprehensive. Keep the ads generally the same size as the original. Use pencil and layout paper for thumbnails and roughs. Move to the computer for the execution of the finished comp. Be careful not to jump to quickly to the computer. Remember it is only a tool. You can’t save a bad idea by polishing it with the computer. Your finished comps should be mounted and flapped for presentation.
Three concept briefs, designed and printed from InDesign.
50 thumbnails for each re-designed ad and 3 tight pencil roughs of each ad.
Three mounted and flapped finished comps. Float mount each ad allowing a minimum of a 2-inch margin around ad. Flap each ad with neutral cover weight paper for presentation.
1. Creative concept
2. Target market communication
3. Visual uniqueness
4. Quality of presentation
5. Timeliness of completion
1. Explore existing newspaper ads to discern aesthetics of print advertising.
2. To develop skills in advertising comp preparation.
3. To practice and refine oral and visual presentation skills.

Here are some of this semesters results: