Letterpress: Looking Backward to Look Forward


  • Alexander Cooper
  • Rose Gridneff
  • Andrew Haslam


This paper explores the value of retaining letterpress workshops within art and design schools, not merely as a tool to understand our past, but as a means to critically reflect upon our future. The benefits of teaching letterpress to graphic design students as a way of improving their understanding of typography are well documented. There is an argument for preserving 'craft' subjects including letterpress within the curriculum, as they foster immersive learning. The letterpress process is a significant teaching tool that complements, and can act in conjunction with, computer-based design education. This paper seeks to build upon these debates, examining the intersection between the practice and theory of an otherwise technologically outdated process. The paper focuses upon 6x6: Collaborative Letter-press Project as a case study. The project brings together six leading UK Higher Education Institutions with active letterpress workshops. It encourages the sharing of best practice within a specialist subject area, through the creation of a collaborative publication where students and staff are linking their practice with critical and reflective writing in relation to the medium. Traditionally, workshop areas have been concerned with the acquisition of a skill, often taught through rote learning or technical demonstration. By positioning students at the centre of the process they have been encouraged to form their own perspective on the discipline. Through the examination of evolving letterpress paradigms, it is possible to question why we do something; as opposed to how it is done.






Journal Article