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Design Students Get Interactive


RIT students clean, identify and print a wood typeface for the Cary Collections Adopt-a-Font Program (Nancy Bernardo).


Nancy Bernardo & Kelly Murdoch-Kitt: “Adopt-a-Font Condensed” ¶ Art Seto: “Bootstrapping a New Student-Initiated Letterpress Club: A Case Study” ¶ Rob Saunders: “Inspiring Young Designers with Letterpress Artifacts”

1:30 pm saturday, october 24 ⋅ track 3

These three presentations focused on the theme of making impressions through teaching. In each case, the speakers presented examples of ways in which they have engaged students and designers directly with materials and processes related to printing history. The speakers illustrated APHA’s mission in action; it is an organization that “encourages the study of the history of printing and related arts and crafts.” 

Nancy Bernardo and Kelly Murdoch-Kitt, who teach graphic design at RIT, collaborated with the Cary Collection at RIT. Their sophomore interactive media design students participated in the Cary Collection’s Adopt-a-Font program in which volunteers restore type to useable condition. After cleaning type, the students printed specimens and worked on identifying the type. They then designed interactive websites that featured the type that they had handled and bits of typographic and printing history. Bernardo and Murdoch-Kitt cited the strengths of the project as follows: the students were exposed to RIT’s unique collections and were able to combine hands-on work with digital design. In addition, they gained experience using wood type as inspiration for contemporary design. You can learn more about this project and see samples of the students’ sites online here.

Art Seto, who is an associate professor at Ryerson University, reported on the founding of a student letterpress club in the School of Graphic Communication Management. Ryerson emphasizes experiential learning and is focused on preparing students for careers. Students who are studying within the School of Graphic Communication Management are preparing for careers in design and management in cross media environments. Clubs for printing techniques such as offset lithography and flexography exist at Ryerson and it seemed natural to Seto to found a club devoted to exploring letterpress printing. The goal of the letterpress club is to offer students the opportunity to engage in hands-on, collaborative printing activity. Working creatively within the limitations of time, space, and funding, Seto and his students have established a burgeoning letterpress scene that is drawing notice from across the university.


Students printing on a Vandercook SP5 at Ryerson University. (Art Seto)

Rob Saunders is the founder of the Letterform Archive, a new not-for-profit organization based in San Francisco. The goal of the Letterform Archive is to make lettering-oriented primary and secondary resource materials available to designers. The archive includes a number of mission-aligned endeavors, such as corporate sponsorship and publishing, which support the growth and preservation of the archive. In addition, the archive participates in a joint educational venture with Cooper Union that is called Type@CooperWest. In his presentation, Saunders stated that getting young designers to visit the archive and then inspiring them with collections-based instruction is the goal of the archive. He also stressed that the archive’s resources are available to all those interested in letterforms, including (but not limited to) calligraphers, educators, librarians, web designers, graphic designers, writers, printers, and type designers.

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