Tag Archive for 'Design'

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Human Hand Varnish On Black Business Card

Straight from Hawaii, Human Hand sent us this fine business card design for letterpress printing. And we love the name. After all, human hands touching the tactile printing is what this letterpress card is all about. It is a subtle tonal varnish on one side and PMS 877 metallic silver ink on the other. The paper stock is our custom 200lb Wausau Eclipse Black cover weight.

Hatch Design Lecture At CVA

Hatch Design created these invitation cards for the upcoming leaders of design lecture with Joel Templin at my alma mater, College of Visual Arts. Should be a top notch talk.

We letterpress printed these 4 x 6 sized cards on French Muscletone Construction Pure White. One of the things we really like about this sheet is that it is a single ply 140lb Cover rather than a pasted, multi ply sheet. Most other commercial papers from other mills achieve a thicker paper by pasting a 2 ply sheet for thicknesses of 130lb and up. That makes the sheets stiff. Since the French sheet is a single ply, it is a bit softer and less rigid – both qualities desirable for letterpress. However, since French is achieving that thickness with a single ply, there is more evident pulp formation within the sheet. This means that the pressure needed to print a solid area of color is significant and results in a “salty” more textured printed appearance. That texture in large inked areas is something we like and embrace in printing with letterpress. HOWEVER, read this disclaimer before you send us art with lots of ink going down.

And letterpress printing isn’t just for small runs. Twenty thousand cards just rolled off the press. But, it is important to understand that for letterpress, each color is a separate pass through the press. This job was able to print both of these cards two-up on a press sheet. Still, these sheets had four separate passes for 3 color /one color. That’s a lil bit of printing.

The Craftsmen of Fine Technology

These letterpress business cards were the perfect fit for web development and design company Ackmann & Dickenson. We like how these guys frame their business as “Craftsmen of Fine Technology”. They designed these cards and we letterpress printed them to reflect craftsmanship.

And this card did require some crafting. We started with the making of a custom duplex paper – 160lb Mohawk Loop Ivory Smooth pasted to French Construction Nightshift Blue 100C – totaling a thick 260lbC card. Next we letterpress printed them with two colors on each side, silver and tonal navy inks on the blue side, then blue and gray inks on the ivory side.  We printed a couple 8up forms to meet all the employee name versions needs and then die cut them with small inverted corners. Viva tactility and technology.

Iron and Ornament in New Orleans

My wife and I did our first visit to New Orleans on Friday the 13th this last month to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. Stayed in a condo in the French Quarter that was on the haunted buildings tours. Weird how that stuff lines up, ehh? Despite that uncanniness, it was an excellent trip. New Orleans has such a rich texture and patina of ornament everywhere. The food was amazing. Three favorites you must check out if you visit are Eat, Elizabeth’s, and Willie Mae’s Scotch House.

The beautiful iron and flourishing ornament of the area had me transfixed with everything I passed. Here are some photos I took for graphic inspiration.


Shine Advertising Knife Wrap Ephemera

This ephemera was designed by the folks at Shine Advertising to dress up a pocket knife mailing sent to their clients as a promotional item. You might ask if that is really letterpress? Yep, actually that’s four color process plus two spot color letterpress printed one pass at a time. That means that lil’ piece of paper went through the presses seven times. (six color passes and a letterpress matrix score) Certainly not a typical use of letterpress, but that’s why it was so fun to print it. Laying down color one at a time means a little guess work as you build the color density for the final image, but fun to watch it unfold. The process printed picture was from CSA stock images and worked pretty well to break out into plates even though it started as a heavily line screened image. The plates were printed with a 90 line per inch screen on Mohawk Loop Husk 160lb Cover.

Also be sure and check out the flash light wrap we printed for Shine last year.

Q&A – Contemporary Letterpress Printing

Studio On Fire principal Ben Levitz answered some questions on contemporary letterpress printing last week for “letterpress week” over at Oh Hello Friend. Here is the Q&A exchange:
Just what is letterpress?
Letterpress is a method of relief printing. It is the process of inking a type high reversed image and then transferring that ink to a substrate, making a print of the positive image. While previous generations relied on moveable wood and metal type, most modern letterpress is achieved with a plastic material called photopolymer. Photopolymer has bridged the gap between the computer and letterpress printing presses. A digital file with correct specifications can be moved to water wash polymer plates and printed on letterpress in place of handset materials.
So why Letterpress? How does letterpress stand unique as a printing method?
Letterpress used to be the primary method of all printing. Nowadays designers have so many printing options – digital printing, offset printing, screen printing – letterpress as a printing method is such a small part of todays printing industry. However, we’ll give you three good reasons letterpress is alive and well.
#1. Tactile Design – Like to feel what you see? That sculptural impression is a primary reason for using letterpress printing. This heavy impression is how letterpress has reinvented itself over the past couple decades. Things like text, line work and patterns offer an impression into soft paper material. As a designer, if you get the artwork right and pair it correctly with a material, the resulting impression is unmistakably letterpress. It is an effect unmatched by any other printing method.
#2. Unique Materials – Just try running a toothy 600gsm cotton stock through a digital printer. Maybe some thick blotter paper for coasters? A thick duplexed stock business card stock perhaps? Even thin onion skin stock or napkins? Yes, letterpress will print it all. Lots of special stocks that just won’t run through modern offset and digital presses. Letterpress offers material versatility that is unmatched by any modern presses. Just don’t ask for slick coated stocks, they don’t like to take an impression.
#3. Upscale Presentation- The materials we print on for letterpress generally cost more than going to any local quick print shop. And the time consuming nature of letterpress printing process means it is not mass produced. It has that artisan quality which sets it apart. The cost of each color makes projects printed with letterpress have a certain simplicity. Generally letterpress projects are only a couple colors. There are no slick gradients or drop shadows. We hear all the time that anything looks better letterpress. We’d say this is because letterpress makes people simplify the design.
What is your heart and passion behind letterpress?
Speaking as both a designer and letterpress printer for the past decade, I’d say letterpress is still gaining momentum as a production method. When people get a letterpress printed business card handed to them and turn it over in their hand, they feel it, look at it closer and consider it . It literally buys extra seconds in their hands. It is this notable pause that exemplifies letterpress printing as a breath of fresh air. As our society increase our digital communications and the time we spend in front of glowing screens, letterpress printing becomes an even more unique counterpoint. It is something we both see AND feel. We are tactile beings and letterpresses tangibleness makes us connect.
My passion behind letterpress printing and starting Studio On Fire goes back to studying original masters like William Morris, W.A. Dwiggins and Fredrick Goudy. These fellows truly understood and merged both design and production. A critique of todays design reality is that fewer and fewer designers understand the production method for which they are designing. As designers we have so many options, we’ve become generalists. At Studio On Fire design and letterpress are dating again. We are committed to making letterpress printing one of the most premium and relevant production methods for contemporary design. Understanding our niche letterpress market and offering production advice to the designers that come to us how we work. Merging design intent with letterpress printing keeps our work exciting.
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Biography – Ben Levitz, Studio On Fire
Company founder Benjamin Levitz received his BFA in Communication Design from the College of Visual Arts. He spent nearly a decade in the creative industry working with design leaders at Kilter, Larsen/California, and Thorburn design agencies. His creative expertise has focused on design as a branding tool for a large and varied list of national companies with work consistently appears in award shows and publications of AIGA, Communication Arts, Graphis, Print magazine and Type Directors Annual. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Visual Arts teaching advanced typography course work.
Ben’s tactile design sensibility led to the founding of Studio On Fire. The studio began in 1999 with a vision of uniquely combining design and production skills in modern letterpress work. Ben left the agency world in 2006 to run the studio full time. The Minneapolis studio currently produces it’s own design and letterpress projects in addition to printing custom work from for an impressive list of agencies and design firms across the United States.
See and read more at the company website studio on fire.

A Brooklyn Boathouse Wedding

Travis at Lifelong Friendship Society in Brooklyn designed these invitations for his wedding. We love the vintage-yet-modern style with beautiful art nouveau title typography details.  The text for the main invite card is nested into the unique and detailed illustration. The elaborate illustration is complete with birds and bees, spiders web, stylized portraits, and lots of geometric love.

We letterpress printed with brown and gold ink on Pearl White Crane Lettra 110lb. The three cards were printed together (in really tight register) as a press sheet and trimmed to size. The linear artwork paired perfectly with the letterpress process, creating sculptural impression highly detailed press work.

Wild Air Letterpress Poster

This poster was letterpress printed for the Artcrank poster show here in Minneapolis, which opened this last weekend. Since much of this show tends to be image and graphic heavy, we wanted our poster to stand apart with lettering only. It is an excerpt from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Considerations by the Way, 1860. The full sentence is actually, “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air’s salubrity.” (But “salubrity” is such an odd word and just didn’t work well in the design.) The lettering started as a hand drawn sketch, then refined in Adobe Illustrator. We printed with a photopolymer plate on Crane Lettra 300gsm Florecent White at 18 x 24 size.  They are on display now at One On One in Minneapolis.

They sold well at the opening night and are still available. There was some confusion about them being sold out. They are $30, to be purchased at One On One Bike Shop.

You can also buy one, now for sale on our studio site as well. Cost is $40.

Come Visit Us – Open Studio Invitation

On Friday, April 9th begining at 4 PM we are having an Open Letterpress Studio. Come and visit, get out of the office early, bring a friend for a delicious brew of design and letterpress here at Studio On Fire. If you like grilled butchers shop hot dogs, some local brews and other treats, than this is good way to start your Friday night. See all our letterpress beasts and the now famous wall of beer cans. Our “new” 1950′s Swiss Geitz Platen press is suppose to arrive from Germany just in time for the event. We’ll have lots of letterpress samples to look at and a project on press with a print for you to take away. Plus we will have a new tee shirt for sale. (preview below) Hope to see you there.

We are at:

1621 East Hennepin Avenue #226 Minneapolis MN 55414

Enter the building on 16th Avenue SE and proceed to the second floor.

Call 612 379 3000 if you get turned around.

Drop a comment if you are excited to visit.

Vista Caballo Letterpress Stationery

Vista Caballo is a ranch retreat with a special connection to horses in Dove Creek, Colorado. We worked with Thinktopia to design this stationery system for the client. They already had a logo design and needed stationery developed using the existing mark.

One of the things often overlooked in design is the choice of materials. This is something we strive for in our own design work. Material selection can be a central component for building the look and feel of a brand.  In this stationery system we use a variety of brown toned papers to compliment the tactility of the letterpress printing and echo the desert landscape of the location. Kind of like making a color palette, instead we made a material palette. Each piece is printed with the same brown PMS color.

Letterhead is French Paper Speckletone Kraft, Envelope is French Paper Speckletone Chocolate, Business cards and Note cards are Crane Lettra Pearl White 220lb, Labels are Strathmore Soft White crack and peel stock, Journal covers are Fibermark Suedetex Tan 25pt with Smart Genesis Husk 70lbT gutt.

Richness of materials makes this stationery unique.

200 Year Calendar

This wonderfully typographic calendar is the work of Sonner, Vallée u. Partner in Munich, Germany. It is a true information architecture project, letterpress printed on thick cotton paper. Check out their online portfolio for some crisp and polished typographic excellence.

We printed on Crane Lettra Pearl White 220lb (600gsm) cotton stock in two colors -with deep impression text you can’t help but touch. The sheet is a large 420 x 297 mm.

Katie Kirk – Office Letterpress Print

Katie Kirk illustrated this fantastic little print to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Eight Hour Day. You can buy one of the edition in their etsy shop.

We printed it in two color letterpress on French Paper Muscletone Pure White 140lb C, at an 8.5 x 11 size.