Typography Classes Experience a Letterpress Proof Press

By Jeff DelNero
Faculty, College of Fine Arts and Production

Students typesetting with wood type

This Fall, GCU’s Digital Design Typography Class had an opportunity to experience setting wood type to print on a letterpress proof press. They were able to fold and stitch their own binding for their semester sketchbooks.

What is Setting Movable Type and Letterpress Printing?

The method was developed over 500 years ago by Johannes Gutenberg. He was a German publisher who introduced printing to Europe with the printing press. This invention replaced handwritten calligraphy, left to the Printing Revolution in Europe and is said to be a milestone of the second millennium.

Letterpress printing is the printing of text and images using a press with movable type or plates, where reversed surfaces are inked, then pressed into a sheet of paper. The types are made from both metal and wood. Metal types were better for commercial printing involving small type, such as newspapers, while wood types are best for larger projects such as posters and playbills.

Typographic Design Course

All equipment and knowledge were provided to the students by Jeryl Jones, who teaches one of the Typographic Design courses. She also is a designer and printer of Orange Press Studio with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Arizona State University. She studied there, under Rob Roy Kelly, John Risseeuw and Dan Mayer. Her artist books can be found in collections locally and across the United States.

Orange Press Studio is a custom design and fine-print letterpress shop. They do business or social stationary systems, occasion cards, wedding invitation collateral and more.

The Effect on Students

The opportunity to work hands-on with this equipment allows the students to learn so many aspects of typography like leading and spacing, yet in a very analog and natural way. These aspects of design are everyday occurrences in layout tools like Adobe Illustrator, but with the ability to see and hold the space in the form of metal and wood before printing brings so much more understanding without “memorization” because the encounter was tangible.

If you want to learn more about Grand Canyon University’s arts program within the College of Fine Arts and Production, check out our website or click the Request More Information button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.