Design Research.

To help inform our approach to design Neat regularly engage in continual professional development (CPD). This takes many forms from the attendance in design forums, print and publishing exhibitions and software training. One activity which we engage in regularly is letterpress printing workshops at Studio B.

Letterpress by its nature is time consuming and although linked securely to the principles of graphic design and typography, it’s method feels a million miles away from our regular siting, that adjacent to a computer. Letterpress printing is a physical process, each stage needs careful consideration as to alter it, as projects progress can be time consuming and laborious. Once printing is complete, the process does not end – letters have to be cleaned, returned to their specific sections in designated cases and the spaces between the letters put away too.

Although time consuming, the process does afford a rare contemplative space, foreign to our contemporary world punctuated by a digital bombardment – there is no ‘cold calling’ or ‘junk email’ to navigate and once completed, hands are washed and physical work that has been generated celebrated – honest, labour loved.

Our letterpress work is currently on display in Ireland (Dublin – Print Museum), America (Hamilton Type Museum – Wisconsin) and held in the V&A permanent collection.

We do not carry out commercial letterpress projects but are always engaged in ‘projects that Matter’, currently we are making work for the ‘While You Were Sleeping’ project initiated by Sara Burgess. The text below introduces the project, its rationale and emphasis:

While You Were Sleeping – Sara Burgess

In 1440, Gutenberg transformed the way the world received its information, spreading news and ideas to those who wouldn’t have access otherwise. Today’s technology has introduced a barrage of tweets, feeds, email, txts. And as before, a world of good and bad rode in along with it. I live and print in Amsterdam now, but California is still very much a part of my life. But this last year the US morning news has become the painful, daily affront to my morals, beliefs, and principles. I am pained and shamed by what has become of my country in such a short time. I feel a kind of outrage I have not experienced before and often a need to numb and brace myself with an apathy driven only by self-preservation. It often feels that while I was sleeping another irreplaceable piece of land, another human right, another cornerstone of decent values was erased. While I was sleeping. And now it’s gone.

I propose a project to highlight those events that rock our every day. That makes me afraid for the future my five-year-old faces. That makes me ashamed of my privilege. That makes me cry when he can’t hear me. That depletes me, on behalf of our defenseless planet. That makes me fear the new treatment that women will face. That makes me say, just how does someone get away with this?

I call on the letterpress community to join me in print. To return to the truth. To print in facts, images, and type. Because in our type, we can convey beauty and messages, and call attention to ugliness and hope in ways that nobody else can. Please choose one headline from the past year that has impacted you the most. Do fact check it from multiple, established, truthful references. Set it. Check it. Print in black and white, or in color. Print ornate, illustrated, or in austere simplicity. Print in all its letterpress glory. Print it 100 times.

I hope to have one hundred presses from the world over participate. Imagine 100 statements printed and on display in a gallery. Five will hang in gallery spaces. The remaining 95 will be boxed. Some of the boxed sets will be sold to cover the costs of the binding, exhibitions, shipping etc. The physical sets will also be submitted to libraries and collections as a historical and artist document from the past year.

If you choose to participate I thank you in advance. It should be said that I do not stand to profit from this exhibit. It will be tremendous amount of work to make it a success. My hope is that we can make an impression with print. Recharge the words before we fall into slumber and never accept this as the new normal. For some I hope that the process will provide a catharsis. For other perhaps it will bring about new ideas for change.

For further information about this project email Sara at:


Author: Carl Middleton

Independent design professional - specialising in graphic design, typography, corporate identity, communication and marketing.

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