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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: