Letterpress Introduction

Letterpress printing is a massive part of the development of how designer created their work in order to communicate with the audience. Letterpress is a craft that dominated the print industry for years until technology development which meant that letterpress printing is now a unique craft practiced by few.

We were given the task of creating a small A5 piece that responded to the given type/printing foundry using a work to describe their approach to type design. The group I was in looked at Dalton Maag. I completed some research on Dalton Maag and presented this within my sketchbook. Being an international type foundry I found their work really interesting to read about as well as visual looking at some of their work. Through my research I found that they developed one of the first typefaces that could be used across a variety of languages such as Arabic and Chinese. This was part of their rebranding of Nokia and the fact that they created a typeface that could work global was an inspiration to me.

In order to get my ideas around the word I should use within my piece I decided to mind map all my potential key words to describe their approach. I then circled the words which I thought could be utilised. However, in the end due to the inspiration around the Nokia typeface I decided to go with the word ‘cultural’ because of their thought to make the typeface accessible to many culture and languages.


During the workshop I was shown how to set my type and how to print using the press. I found the process very fascinating as I hadn’t done anything like this previously. It taught me how much time printers used to spend setting type before digital technology evolved which is something I think people don’t think about. I’d like to include letterpress more within my future practice because I feel that there is a lot that could be done when combining both digital and traditional methods of working.


Firstly I used the typeface 48pt PLAYBILL U & L as this was the first one out, I took time to ensure that all the letters were facing the correct way in order to print correctly. I learnt that the groves on each character need to line up to ensure that they would print correctly. To lock it into the frame I used various bits of furniture to ensure that it wouldn’t move and would print. I then placed the frame into the press, made sure that the ink was on the roller and printed. I thought the outcome was interesting because of the embossing style that the print had compared to digital printing. I completed various prints using this frame.

I also experimented with over laying two colours to create a different effect. I decided to do this as in one image that I had seen Dalton Maag produce had characters overlaid in different coloured inks which I took as inspiration. I used tracing paper to print onto first then place my original print behind the print on the trancing paper then used masking tape to secure it to the bed. Next removed the tracing paper to print again on the paper this time.

I then decided to experiment with a different typeface, after looking through many different ones I decided to use 38pt Graphigue which was extremely different from the typeface I had originally used. Using this typeface again using the word ‘cultural’ to related to Dalton Maag, I experimented with rotating the paper so that the text was running in various directions.


I found that by rotating the paper gave me this really abstract placement of text which I think is unusual and contemporary for using the letterpress. This was my final outcome (above) that I produced. I feel that the word does express the type foundries approach while being inspired by a piece of their work to create this approach. I chose this typeface to use in my final outcome as I thought that it gave more tone and texture to the print. I think that I have completed the task as throughout my research the idea of culture and being inclusive to all through their typeface design was clear and the phrase ‘cultural’ sums this up nicely.

I throughly enjoyed my letterpress workshop and feel that it’s something I would like to learn more about and include in my own practice. I would like to potentially experiment with create long pieces of type rather than just single words.

Daltonmaag.com. (2018). Dalton Maag | Nokia. [online] Available at: https://www.daltonmaag.com/work/nokia [Accessed 2 Oct. 2018]. 
Etherington, R. (2018). Nokia Pure font by Dalton Maag | Dezeen. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2012/05/13/nokia-pure-font-by-dalton-maag/ [Accessed 2 Oct. 2018].
Harris, M. (2018). Dalton Maag on designing custom typefaces for brands like Netflix, the BBC and Nokia. [online] Digital Arts. Available at: https://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/news/typography/dalton-maag-on-designing-custom-typefaces-for-brands-like-netflix-bbc-nokia/ [Accessed 2 Oct. 2018].
Myfonts.com. (2018). MyFonts: Creative Characters interview with Bruno Maag, Dalton Maag, September 2012. [online] Available at: https://www.myfonts.com/newsletters/cc/201209.html [Accessed 2 Oct. 2018].

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