• 1_tw_5

    Lead type ready for use

  • 2_tw_14

    On Kitching’s course, you actually get to touch type

  • 5_tw_9

    More than that, you get to physically set it

  • 6_tw_10

    Lunch is provided, and typography-related conversation flourishes

  • 7_tw_11

    By the end of the workshop, everyone’s expected to have printed something

  • 8_tw_7

    Alan Kitching is ever-present, distilling 50 years’ worth of advice

  • 10_tw_8

    Kitching’s studio contains three presses

  • 11_tw_4

    Prints drying on racks


Alan Kitching's Concise Typography Workshop

Posted by Rob Peart,

Alan Kitching’s Concise Typography Letterpress Workshop is exactly how you’d imagine it: a chance to work with type with your hands; a rare opportunity to touch it, move it, caress it if you feel that way (which I did) – to do things you just can’t do when it’s stuck on the other side of a shiny piece of glass…

Kitching is world-reknowned for his atypical use of the letterpress – for creating beautiful, timeless designs that betray the antiquity of their process. He has been involved with this real, tactile method of printing for the best part of 50 years, so it’s no wonder he appears to sweat metal type and turpentine.

The two-day workshop begins with a short introduction to the equipment and terminology we’ll be using—randoms, galleys, furniture and lead—all essential information for the budding compositor-come-printer. Then it’s straight down to it, into the type and onto the presses. The process, although overwhelming in its instantaneity, is spontaneous and exciting. Within fifteen minutes we have our first print proofs.

The aim of the workshop – aside from teaching you more about type than you ever thought it possible to know – is to create a typographic composition that demonstrates an entry from Part 3 of Rudolf Hostettler’s the printer’s terms. First printed in 1949 (Alan has the 1963 edition), this slim volume contains well over 1000 terms relating to printing and typography. Alan has chosen 215 of them, to be part of a brand new edition consisting of all the works produced by the students of the workshop. 

At one point Alan holds up a blank dummy. This, he tells us, is how the final book will appear. It looks big. There’s a maximum of four people on each workshop, so, he calculates, the book is going to take about ten years to finish.
Both days are spent designing, proofing and refining under the guidance of Alan and his two extremely capable assistants, Jon and Ross. Towards the end of the second day a frantic rush to begin finalising for print begins, and it’s time to get onto the largest of the three in-studio presses to print the design in an edition of 15. 

Finally, after all is printed and dried, and the cleaning up has taken place, we’re sprung by “external examiner” Fernando Gutierrez. More of a casual chit-chat than a crit, Fernando talks through our designs one by one and continues by talking through his own work, including his use of letterpress in commercial projects. Quick decisions the process force you into making attach a spontaneity to final designs you wouldn’t necessarily associate with such a mechanical method. Fernando has worked with Alan on multiple occasions because of this specific characteristic, most effectively on his labels for Spanish winemaker Telmo. Following so much talk about wine, it’s onto the pub for a proper debrief, with a quick pitstop via Alan’s other studio, a typographic Alladin’s cave.

The typography workshop operates from Alan’s studio in Kennington, London. Many thanks to Alan, Jon and Ross for organising the trip and the massive tea pot.

Posted by Rob Peart

Most Recent: Events View Archive

  1. List

    And so the crème de la crème was announced, with five of D&AD’s highest honour – the Black Pencil – awarded this year. From radio advertising to branding it’s a diverse selection that’s sure to get people talking. It’s great to see some of our favourite projects from the last year recognised, and some we weren’t familiar with (the brilliant radio station for dogs, for instance) being celebrated. Without further ado, here they are!

  2. Lego-greenpeace-its-nice-that-top-

    D&AD has awarded White Pencils in a category of their own since 2013, and these recognise design and advertising projects that “demonstrate that marketing and marketing communications can be a force for good,” in the words of D&AD CEO Tim Lindsay. Four projects have been awarded the philanthropic pencils this year, two for brand and two for not-for-profit advertising and marketing communications. Here are the projects recognised this year…

  3. Doty-list

    The category winners for this year’s Designs of the Year have been announced, including a nod to one of our favourite projects, Marcel’s Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables campaign, which scooped the graphics category nomination. The campaign was nominated by our very own Alex Bec, and was created to champion the beauty within misshapen fruits and vegetables, which are sold at Intermarché for 30% cheaper than their more traditional-looking counterparts. The overall Design of the Year from the six category winners will be announced June, and all are on display at the exhibition alongside the other nominations (read our thoughts on it here) until 31 March 2016.

  4. Dandad-opinion-itsnicethat-list

    It’s Nice That founder and creative director Will Hudson was part of the D&AD Black Pencil jury this year. Here he is on judging one of the industry’s main awards, and why it helped change his mind about creative competitions…

  5. Alexchinneck-londondesignfestival-itsnicethat-list

    A 35-metre high upside-down electricity pylon was the stand-out project announced for this year’s London Design Festival today, but once again none of the headline projects are graphics focussed.

  6. Pmu-int-main

    People in the graphic arts world have got an infernal problem with Pick Me Up. It’s the Taylor Swift of illustration events: everyone claims they’re not into it but when it comes on the radio they know all the words and are happily singing along. My opinion on it has undulated for years, but going to the private view last night made me realise that all this time I doubted it and listened sceptically to the rumours surrounding it, I was totally wrong.

  7. Elcaf-int-list

    The East London Comics and Arts Festival (ELCAF) has just announced its 2015 dates, and after the storming success of last year this year it’s doubling up! Not only is the one day extravaganza growing to fill a full weekend across 20 and 21 June, but it’s also going to be filling two different venues with its trademark workshops and talks, and a new series of masterclasses held in collaboration with the House of Illustration.

  8. Offset-2-int-list

    Dublin’s terrific creative festival OFFSET is back this weekend and having now confirmed the full line-up, 2105 looks set to be another cracking three days of creative inspiration.

  9. Iam2015-bluebaby-cover-list

    We’ve long trumpeted the exciting, eclectic creative scene in Barcelona and now a new event talking place in March will harness this energy with an array of international speakers. The Internet Age Media, or IAM Weekend, promises to connect “the ecosystem that is shaping the future of design, fashion, technology, visual arts and music, from a media perspective.”

  10. List

    Dublin’s OFFSET festival is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the creative conference calendar, and early indications suggest that 2015 is all set to be another cracker (or craic-er, if you will). For three days in March the Irish capital is taken over by a brilliant line-up of art and design speakers (and a fair bit of socialising) and we’re looking forward to going back this year for another hefty dose of inspiration and enlightenment.

  11. List

    When we post work on It’s Nice That we don’t really know what that can lead to, but it’s always terrific to hear that creative collaborations have sprung from an article on the site. It’s even more terrific to hear of a coming together like this between Wild Beasts and animator and illustrator Mattis Dovier as part of The Jameson Works.

  12. List

    Last month we held an evening of talks at Mother London to showcase some of our favourite creative projects made possible through crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Since it launched in 2009, it’s no exaggeration to say the organisation has changed the way the creative world works and it was great to hear from some of those who had made the most of the new opportunities Kickstarter offers.

  13. Main1

    Just over a week ago It’s Nice That’s Jamie McIntyre and I took a train from London to Glasgow to the much-antiticipated Graphic Design Festival Scotland. We had been invited by Beth Wilson and James Gilchrist, two students who had recently graduated from Edinburgh College of Art. During their degree the two had found themselves working best when together, and decided to form Warriors Studio as a duo. They began thinking about the climate of graphic design in Scotland, the need for something new and exciting and – most importantly – what the hell they were going to do when term ends and they were turfed out to fend for themselves.