Making Errors

After a recent encounter with the lovely people from Cereal magazine and the extremely capable brothers of Raspberry and Jam creative video I felt inspired to blog about something which cropped up in our days filming together.
Since we started in 2010, we've barely had time to really sit and look back on what we've achieved and how we've done it - but something came up on the day which completely captured the modern approach to Letterpress, and captured how we use letterpress to produce our stationery.
So I thought I would try and explain modern letterpress without pushing aside or forgetting about its traditional beginnings.
Traditional letterpress printing, flat, crisp and well inked.

Traditionally Letterpress is a flat print. We set the type, make our packing just right so as not create any indentation upon our paper and print. The outcome is a crisp, perfectly inked flat print. Letterpress originated this way, from the days of Gutenberg, Caxton, Caslon and Baskerville, a flat print - a print that could barely be seen to be pressed into the paper - was a fine print.
Anything else was considered the work of a poor printer, a print that bruised the paper or bit into the card - this was just no good.

Some more fine examples of traditional letterpress printing from Incline Press

From the advent of polymer in the 1980's, we find ourselves with a slightly more flexible and hardy material to work with, both literally and creatively. Polymer allows us as designers to use anything, from an illustration to hand lettered text. Now we have a material that will take a beating, a material that is sturdy enough to last several print runs and not break or become damaged within the process - and a material with which we are able to press into our paper to achieve a different kind of finish to our prints.
When printing with moveable type, it should not make an impression onto the paper, amongst other things this can cause the type to become damaged and therfore useless for future printing needs. Polymer allows us to make this impression without damaging the type, especially when we are using type that is of a certain age, rare or of great importance.
There are still working type foundries in the UK and US today making a wide array of fonts, such as M & H Type in the States and Whittington Press in the UK. More working type foundries here.

Bespoke Meticulous Ink letterpress invitations, both on extra thick board - a must for that sought after bite.

However, as purveyors of fine print - and designers who enjoy the variety and creative freedom allowed to us by polymer, we find polymer something we could not live without.
It allows us absolute creative freedom within the design, not to mention the flexibility within the paper and board we print on - allowing us to go up to weights as thick as 2100gsm.
The images below will explain the differences between traditional and modern letterpress printing techniques. I feel neither should be compared as both have their own qualities, each presenting type and design in their own individual way.
For us, our preferred method is the modern way, but this does not mean we dislike traditional printing, nor do we look at it with disregard and abstain from using traditional print methods. We look to traditional printing as our elder, something to look back at with respect and to admire when you know how much tweaking and adjusting goes into a crisp flat letterpress print.

We print letterpress in error, and we know this - it is this modern way of printing in letterpress that we tend to prefer, 99% of the time. We know it is not the way letterpress was intended to be but it is how we and many others have found to be a very pleasurable way to print.

Letterpress on GFSmith colorplan board, a versatile substrate for a good impression.