This is why print isn’t dead (to us)

Without fail, every team that we’ve run through the press tutorial with has expressed how refreshing and satisfying it was to design something physically from start to finish. Designers often feel super glued to their digital screens, unable to walk away from it even after the end of the business day. A fair few of us ultimately pick up a hands-on hobby to sort of counteract that—making something with your hands will always be undeniably satisfying.

This is the very reason why we’ve kept our press tutorial running team after team, it’s also just a little bit of self-indulgence on our end, we love print! The proofing press allows us the freedom to design whatever we want within the restrictions of materials we have available to us. Proofing presses weren’t meant to be used in the capacity that we use it today, they were used to do exactly as the name suggests—proofing design for mistakes before it was officially printed using a different machine. To use it to print around 900 covers (times two, three or four for different passes depending on the design) is definitely pushing the press to its limits. Who says print is dead?!

From around issue 6 we decided to incorporate the press a bit more into our magazine because why not?! We had it available to us and it was a useful teaching tool to educate our team about the origins of type terminology.

The team is first introduced to the mechanisms of the press, the limitations of it and materials that can be used. Their first task is to design a team poster using the type available to them—a mixture of metal and wooden letters. With teams that were able to design posters themselves it was interesting to see where their thought processes took them and how they designed their final posters.

With a rough idea of how the press works the team is challenged with designing the next cover, keeping in mind that issue 9 will be the final installment of our three-part series based on place and design (issue 7, 8 and 9 make up this trilogy). This is always a long process and typically doesn’t come together until the end of the magazine process.

Although this year COVID really put a spanner in the works. We had only managed to take our team to the designing stage before lockdown happened (this was around weeks 3/4) and the printing of it didn’t happen until about 8/9 weeks later.

A few weeks of online Zoom meetings and lots of discussions later, we were finally able to see each other again (yay!). Our experience of the pandemic and lockdown inevitably found its way into the magazine and the cover design ultimately became an expression or reflection, rather, of our collective experience. As our designers so eloquently put it, this is their reasoning behind the cover design of issue 9…

The pandemic prompted us to reflect not only on how we communicate with each other as a team, but also how we communicate as graphic designers with our audience. The cover was inspired by the yellow sticky note; a symbol of quick and efficient communication—an all too familiar canvas for our to-do lists, reminders, brainstorming sessions and lo-fi sketches. We chose to print this using a grid of 144 18pt em quads to signify all the parts that come together to communicate an idea. This form is also a playful nod to our neuroses as designers, because everything needs a grid, even a post-it. The ‘X’ on our sticky note is a mark of continuity as the thread that ties this issue with the Place series overall. And if ‘X marks the spot’, this tiny letter form lets our audience know that they’re in the right place, an invitation to open Issue 9 and get right into it (ideally with a nice coffee). But ultimately, we really wanted the cover to champion the uniqueness of the letterpress process, so each copy will be slightly different than the one before.

The inside back cover features six haiku’s. These were written during the peak (thus far) of Sydney’s COVID restrictions, and are musings on the challenges of self-isolation, being creative during this time and generally trying to feel more okay in our homes, and our own heads. In contrast, the poetry on the back cover presents a vision of an idealised post-pandemic future. An exercise in working with constraints, this poem was created by removing parts of the haikus, whilst keeping the composition of their original typesetting. As such, the words of this poem appear in the same spot that they do in the haikus, but with most other words removed, they take on new meaning. Together, the back cover and inside back cover become a kind of ying-yang exploration of the strange circumstances under which Issue 9 was created—a time of challenges, great change and the opportunity to look toward a different future.

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