As an OCA tutor I spend a lot of time waiting for parcels to arrive in the post. The small heavy package that arrived last week was not a student assignment but a brand new metal casting of Rockwell 30pt. Like a growing band of typography and letterpress enthusiasts I have recently purchased my own printing press on which I can typeset and hand print small-scale designs. The language of this form of printing will be familiar to anybody who’s selected a font or increased leading on a computer or mixed up their P’s & Q’s (very easy to do seeing that all the letters are back to front).
However, my Rockwell metal type and Adana printing press is essentially redundant technology that has been superseded by the computer. It’s fiddly and time-consuming to typeset everything by hand, messy to print and they stopped making the Adana over 10 years ago. So why do it?
Given the endless possibilities of digital design, it’s a very good question to ask, but perhaps its limits are part of its charm – it can do less, it takes more time and consequently demands more of you as a designer. There’s also something very satisfying about designing something slowly and getting your hands dirty in the process. Perhaps these are some of the essential qualities of a hobby – the focus is as much on the process as the outcome – the longer the process the more time you can spend it your shed tinkering about.
But I think there’s more to it than that. The recent demise of Polaroid film has seen resurgence in its use, with increasingly high prices being paid for old stock. Call it nostalgic but perhaps it’s only when we see technology becoming redundant that we start to reassess its value as a tool.