The letterpress printing typography is an important technology in print industry, but it is usually overlooked. Even though such a technology have been invented for over centuries, but it is still extremely important in the printed marketing material, no matter it is a poster or a leaflet, because it is important to make the printed marketing materials to be friendly to the readers, which has made the arts of the typography imperative in order to make the words come to life. Based on this reason, it has impacted the ways that it can be received by the readers and the great design of typography is able to convey the feeling the readers and reinforce the brand images as well as deliver the values of the brand to the audiences. Therefore, it is as important as the colors as well as the used of imagery on the printed materials and are supposed to be given the attention it deserves.
While researching the history and development of letterpress printing, there has been revival in the popularity of letterpress typography in today’s printing. Dating back to the middle of 15th century, Johannes Gutenberg was considered as the father of the letterpress printing who invented the movable type printing, and printed nearly 200 bibles with the first printing machine he created (Moran, 1973). the letterpress printing had been used until the nineteenth century and was replaced by offset printing. However, at the present time, because of the technological innovation, such technology has been brought new life to letterpress and made it more flexible. Based on this factor, the research question of this paper is that what reason that that such a technology had been brought into the eyesight of the public again, and what contributions of the coming back of this technology bring to and impact the society.
According to the research of Moran (1973), which has discussed the importance of the invention and development of letterpress printing. He also explains typography evolution through the era of Gutenberg. This source gives a clear explanation on why the development of this process has led to interest and research of letterforms in their appearance, size and structure to help creating their meaning. As the digital technology develops, people’s eyes for beauty also has changed and become diverse, while the traditional typography techniques combine with the latest digital technologies, it has a greater availability to display the content with more information and is able to create a lasting first impression as well as boost the trustworthiness and credibility toward the audiences. Indeed, a good typography is able to help people to effectively communicate their messages much more clearly and is able to help in guiding the audiences to take the desired calls to actions. On the other hand, typography is also able to be used to highlight the key points of the important information and grab the attention from the audiences, because it is important to select the proper fonts which are most appropriate for the messages that to be sent to the target audiences. For instance, the letterpress printing materials for the professional services are less likely to feature the comic sans font.
On the other hand, the study of Garfield (2011) focuses on the development of printing press movement and other printing methodology, most people have accepted a new digital approach in letterpress printing. Technological advancements have made us conveniently choose a typeface from an endless collection of design, this source helps me to understand how the growth of technology changes the way designers interact with typography. Therefore, at the present time, there are hundreds or thousands of letterpress printing fonts can be chosen from as well as chosen the wrong ones is able to have the massive impacts on their looks as well as their feels of the marketing materials. Therefore, a larger number of fonts can be inspired from the initial front and has become more and more diverse, the development of the digital technology has boost such a technique to make it have much easier to develop new fronts and to be spread to their audiences.
Moreover, Moreover, the study of Drucker (1984) has discussed the ways that the letterpress typography’s visual and formal qualities can help to deliver her written works. She also analyses the advantages and disadvantages of using letterpress printing which helps me to know more why letterpress printing has the ability to increase the communication of a printed piece. As the popular typography techniques at the past time, it does have many of the advantage since the limitation of technology and it seems that people did not have too many options (Kafka, 1972). However, while in the modern life, the letterpress technology has been widely used in the print shops for the off- line works such as perforating (the partial cuts for making tearing off any of the sections of a paper much easier); scoring (the creases in a piece of paper for making the folding much easier), embossing (to raise the impressions on the surfaces of paper), die- cutting (to punch out the shape like stars on the paper), and foil stamping (to attach the shiny artworks to the paper like diplomas).
Letterpress printing in the modern society
Letterpress is the oldest as well as the most versatile technique that used in the printing industry. It has been the dominant form of printing till the 60s which the offset lithography has replaced it, and began its domination (Citrawireja, 2015). However, the techniques of letterpress are still in use at the present by many of the graphic designers for creating specific invitations, cards, announcements and posters. Even it seems that such a technique has become out of date, but undeniably, the existence of it reflect that it still has some advantages that people value at. Based on this factor, the following will discuss its advantages to make it still be valued by people in the modern life, and also discuss its disadvantages in its use.
The advantage and disadvantage of letterpress printing
The traditional letterpress is hand-crafted letterpress, each of the letters of types will be placed into a holder, which also known as composing sticks. Because the printed images are the mirror image, the types need to be set on the right or left as well as upside down. As long as they are on the press, the ink roller would just touch the top surfaces of raised areas, and the non-printing or the surrounding areas will be still lower and will not receive ink (Breig, 2014). Ink has been directly transferred to the paper, and this is very cumbersome.
On the other hand, editing colors of the fronts can also be applied in the technique, however, each of the colors need to dry before applying the next color, therefore, it takes time and not good for mass production in commercial use
Moreover, with this technology, it is also not able to print images. Drawings and photographs have to be converted to the photo engraving, it is an expensive and slow process in turning images into the raised metal lines and dots (Franklin, 2016). As a result, the budget would be much higher but will take a much longer time.
With the letterpress printing technique, it is a great way to describe the letterpress products such as words as crisp as well as clean with the bold images. The letterpress has been widely recognized by its displaying spectacular typography. There are much time goes into such a handcrafted work of arts. Through being hand- made, it has increased the values of the products and have been seen as high ends (Hoinski, 2015). Letterpress has been printed on the thick and heavy card stocks that create the indention with or without ink. Therefore, it is a great way for the designers to design cards and card board artworks.
In conclusion, as the technology develops and the society progresses, the letterpress techniques have widely been replaced by other techniques that based on the digital technology. Indeed, such a traditional technique are not able to meet the requirement of today’s mainstream, but it does have its position at the current society because of its unreplaceable features. Rather than being used in the media press, its use has increasingly shifted to the creation of artworks by providing the designers to use such technique in creating valuable work. This is the way that the letterpress existence.
Moran, James. Printing Presses: History and Development from the Fifteenth Century to Modern Times. Faber and Faber, 1973.
Garfield, Simon. Just My Type: A Book about Fonts. Gotham Books, New York, 2011.
Drucker, Johanna. “Letterpress Language: Typography as a Medium for the Visual Representation of Language.” Leonardo, vol. 17, no. 1, 1984, pp. 8-16.
Hoinski, Michael. “Artists Find an Audience for Painstaking Letterpress Printing”. The New York Times. 2015.
Citrawireja, Melati . “A visit with David Goines: Berkeley’s legendary letterpress printer and lithographer”. Berkleyside, 2015.
Breig, James. “Early American newspapering”. Colonial Williamsburg. 2014.
Franklin, Allison. “Resurgence of the Letterpress, Actually Thanks to the Internet”. INK SOLV30 blog. 2016.
Kafka, Francis. “Linoleum Block Printing”. Courier Corporation. p. 71. 1972.