This old-school printing process is an excellent reminder of where we’ve been—our creative roots—and what’s still important. Art. Craftsmanship. A personal touch. In an age of we-want-it-now, high-tech immediacy, letterpress is a throwback to a simpler time, when patience and quality really meant something.
That's why, this holiday season, our designers rolled up their sleeves and partnered with Union Press to handcraft limited edition letterpress posters for our friends and clients. Our hope is that, like us, they'll appreciate the art, the effort and the message, which all work hand-in-hand.
Letterpress: A Very Brief History
From the 15 th century through the middle of the 20th century, if you wanted to print a lot of something, you had to print it on a letterpress. Letterpress printing is done by inking a plate with a raised surface of type (or images) and pressing this inked surface into a sheet of paper, creating what most people today love about letterpress—a deep impression.
Letterpress printing was replaced by the cheaper and more commercially viable offset printing (which uses flat rubber rollers). But many letterpresses survived, saved by hobbyists or other design and art enthusiasts. The machines themselves were often beautiful, cast out of iron and built to last forever.
On an unseasonably warm day in October, two Cramer designers, one art director, one copywriter, and one letterpress guru came together to learn, teach and create at Union Press in Somerville, MA. We already knew what we wanted the poster to say—we were there to determine just how we would say it.
We were honest about our letterpress talents and know-how: we had none. That's where Eli Epstein came in. As the owner of Union Press, he patiently guided us through the process.
The first step was to choose our letters. Eli took us into the back room, where he revealed drawers upon drawers of wooden and iron letters, in dozens of different typefaces.
Overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices, Sarah, Lisa and Juliet, the designers amongst us, got to work—pulling letters out, putting them back, arranging and rearranging, literally getting their hands dirty (the letters were, of course, covered in ink).
After a few hours, each designer had selected letters and flourishes—stars, a pointing finger—to convey our message.
Eli showed us how to move the letters from the table onto the press (it involved inserting iron space fillers—much more time-consuming than the good ole spacebar) and we were ready to start printing. After a quick tutorial, we each took a turn at the press, printing our drafts in black ink.
In reviewing the results, we realized that there were elements of all three designs that we liked, and some that worked better than others. We took the drafts back to Cramer and sat with them, collaborated and consulted. Ultimately, we decided to combine the three designs into one complete piece, choosing three different, but complementary, colors. Upon our direction, Eli compiled the three different plates and printed our finished product.
Happy holidays from Cramer.