Author Archives: Carl Middleton

About Carl Middleton

Independent design professional - specialising in graphic design, typography, corporate identity, communication and marketing.

Reverse Engineering –

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Analogue Forms for Digital Application

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One process I am constantly working on in both the print workshop and the design studio is the design and development of new typefaces. Once each design is complete, I aim to publish them digitally and thereafter manufacture in wood for use in the print workshop.

The first stage begins in the sketch book with outline designs one letter at a time – the process is very time consuming but takes us away from the usual confines of the computer – which we enjoy.

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My initial studies utilised a modular grid as the framework to develop simplistic letter forms – consisting of only vertical and horizontal elements. The final alphabet relates considerably to the pixel, affording the font an interesting ‘digital’ personality. At present I have only developed an uppercase version of this typeface as it is only really suitable for use in headlines or large scale display work.

As the design is rectilinear it will be a fairly simple operation to construct from wood for letterpress printing.

Middleton

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A more complex design (below) was inspired by incised Roman lettering. I have been developing the shape, proportion and geometry of each letter over a long period of time. The final proposal includes:

  • A very light stem weight across the whole alphabet – affording a delicate letterform – taking your eye away from the structure of the letter to the terminal and change points.
  • Serifs take a larger proportion of the stem ending – definitively punctuating each terminal and visually anchoring the letter.
  • The junctions and change points adopt curvilinear transitions – removing harsh and abrupt, acute angles.
  • Within two letterforms (P, K) the structures are totally disjointed – affording an experimental treatment to the traditional letter form.

The challenge was to design a typeface with a foundation in the traditional heritage of ‘hand cut’ lettering but afford the final treatment a contemporary, digital styling.

I am currently developing a range of different weights, lower case letters, punctuation, accents and numerals for this typeface.

Neat

Further information will be posted as the project progresses.

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Another typeface currently being developed is a contemporary styled sans serif. Like the project above the transitions adopt a curvilinear treatment – this generates an interesting visual massing at the change points.

As the project develops it will be interesting to see the impact on legibility and readability of this typeface, and if it is viable when used to set large bodies of copy.

Thinguy

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Further work in progress below:

Stirling

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© Carl Middleton – 2019

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While you were Sleeping –

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September 2018

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Using the Studio B platform I infrequently carry out commercial letterpress projects but am always engaged in some shape-or-form on ‘projects that matter’. Currently I am making work for the ‘While You Were Sleeping’ initiative, set up by Sara Burgess.

The text below introduces the project, qualifies its rationale and establishes the emphasis:

While You Were Sleeping – Sara Burgess

In 1440, Gutenberg transformed the way the world received its information, spreading news and ideas to those who wouldn’t have access otherwise. Today’s technology has introduced a barrage of tweets, feeds, email, txts. And as before, a world of good and bad rode in along with it. I live and print in Amsterdam now, but California is still very much a part of my life. But this last year the US morning news has become the painful, daily affront to my morals, beliefs, and principles. I am pained and shamed by what has become of my country in such a short time. I feel a kind of outrage I have not experienced before and often a need to numb and brace myself with an apathy driven only by self-preservation. It often feels that while I was sleeping another irreplaceable piece of land, another human right, another cornerstone of decent values was erased. While I was sleeping. And now it’s gone.

I propose a project to highlight those events that rock our every day. That makes me afraid for the future my five-year-old faces. That makes me ashamed of my privilege. That makes me cry when he can’t hear me. That depletes me, on behalf of our defenseless planet. That makes me fear the new treatment that women will face. That makes me say, just how does someone get away with this?

I call on the letterpress community to join me in print. To return to the truth. To print in facts, images, and type. Because in our type, we can convey beauty and messages, and call attention to ugliness and hope in ways that nobody else can. Please choose one headline from the past year that has impacted you the most. Do fact check it from multiple, established, truthful references. Set it. Check it. Print in black and white, or in color. Print ornate, illustrated, or in austere simplicity. Print in all its letterpress glory. Print it 100 times.

I hope to have one hundred presses from the world over participate. Imagine 100 statements printed and on display in a gallery. Five will hang in gallery spaces. The remaining 95 will be boxed. Some of the boxed sets will be sold to cover the costs of the binding, exhibitions, shipping etc. The physical sets will also be submitted to libraries and collections as a historical and artist document from the past year.

If you choose to participate I thank you in advance. It should be said that I do not stand to profit from this exhibit. It will be tremendous amount of work to make it a success. My hope is that we can make an impression with print. Recharge the words before we fall into slumber and never accept this as the new normal. For some I hope that the process will provide a catharsis, for others perhaps it will bring about new ideas for change.

For further information about this project email Sara at: whileyouweresleeping100@gmail.com

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Sleep

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The text (detailed above) is deliberately set with very uncomfortable inter-letter and inter-word spacing. I wanted the uncomfortable detail of the headline to be represented in an visually compromising way. Composed specifically to slow the reading process down and to ensure that viewers have to labour to navigate the text. It is set without illustration, decoration and printed in a single colour – to focus the attention on the detail of the text, not to decorate or re-qualify the tone of the information. Resulting in a stark, uncomfortable graphic treatment – hand inked and printed, so punctuated with inconsistencies and errors, making each one consciously – ever so slightly different.

To learn the correct inter-word and inter-letter spacing a great publication is:

Finer Points in the Spacing and Arrangement of Type by Geoffrey Dowding (published by Wace & Company – Clerkenwell, London).

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  • Stock: 120gsm / Ivory smooth 
  • Size: 210 x 210mm
  • Print: Single colour – PMS 806 Fluro Pink
  • Type: Perpetua / Gill Sans
  • Edition: 100

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© Carl Middleton – 2019

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Letterpress Heritage –

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June – 2018

In search of Letterpress

Ask anyone who has a passion for letterpress printing if they have enough type, presses, furniture or ink in their collection – they will probably answer – no!

The search for redundant presses, type and equipment continues worldwide – little by little small studios and print workshops are gathering the lost fragments of the printing industry and bringing it back to life. ‘Restoration through use’ is a phrase echoing across the globe – the letterpress community is helping to ensure that printing’s heritage is not lost.

I have been searching for over three decades for serviceable printing equipment. At times I have been very lucky, but it’s beginning to get much, much harder to find. Internet auction sites display cases of wooden type split, with sales of individual letters as apposed to usable cases – after all, it’s more profitable to sell off letters one-by-one! Coupled to this, avid dealers are traveling the UK (and far beyond) gathering up the remains of our printing heritage as quick as they can find it. In recent years prices have rocketed and now a complete case of wooden type can fetch as much as £300, with small proofing presses receiving bids in excess of £4000. I am concerned that soon contemporary printers will not have the budget to support the development of their collections – so the race is on.

Even though it’s getting more difficult the Studio B answer to the initial question is definitively no (we don’t quite have enough yet), so our quest (getting progressively harder) will continue…

Miller & Richard

A rather full lock-up.

The first items I collected were individual letters purchased from ‘antique fairs’ and ‘car boot sales’ followed by complete cases of type from on-line auctions (back then it was easily affordable). Wherever my travels took me, there would always be opportunity to increase the collection if only, one letter at a time.

Hours have been spent scanning junk shops and small ads in newspapers and from time to time has resulted in a haul of type being found. The process is a little like metal detecting, lot’s of little leads often resulting in little or nothing but occasionally the odd treasure is found. My finds have included – a wellington boot full of four point type from a lay preacher in Devon, some illuminated letters from a farmer in Scotland and the latest find, a Peerless treadle press from a retired printer in Somerset. Some expensive, some cheap, and some on the very odd occasion free, gifted to what has been deemed (by some) as a very good cause.

With the Studio B collection in mind, if you are reading this text and have an old press resting in a garage, or a case of type in the loft gathering dust, please do get in contact – better it gets used, enjoyed and the heritage of printing can be passed on to following generations of ‘would be’ printers.

Studio B – telephone: 01823 401 302 / email: carlmiddleton@neatdesign.org

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July – 2018

D. Stevens Printers – St Ives

Lino

I was recently contacted by a printing workshop based in St Ives (Cornwall) where the owner was in the process of retiring from the printing industry. The photograph above shows his wonderful (working) Linotype machine – this is one of the items he is hoping to sell (fingers crossed it goes to a good home where it continues to be employed). Sadly I don’t have enough space in my workshop to accommodate it. I did purchase a few cases of type and furniture and plan to go back and collect a rather large (double height) type cabinet and more type cases to fill it!

If you are looking for a printer’s stone, a large Arab treadle press, galley racks, printing cabinets and type there is still a lot on offer – the contact details are:

Anthony Stephens – telephone: 07786 809 849 – email: antstevens62@hotmail.co.uk

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November – 2018

Linotype Saved!

Fingers crossed a buyer may have been found for the Linotype and it will be heading its way east to become part of the collection of working printing equipment at Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre. http://www.amberleymuseum.co.uk/

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January – 2019

The expanding type collection

Studio B was very pleased to be donated four cabinets of metal type (100 cases). We have been steadily working to catalogue this new edition to our collection and have been enjoying experimenting with the contents –

The new editions to Studio B include complete cases of:

  • Bell: 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Bell italic: 18 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Bembo: 11 / 12 / 18 / 24 / 30 / 36 point
  • Bembo italic: 11 / 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 30 / 36 point
  • Bembo titling: 30 point
  • Garamond: 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Garamond italic: 14 / 18 / 36 point
  • Gill light: 12 / 14 point
  • Gill: 10 / 12 / 18 / 24 / 36 / 48 / 60 / 72 point
  • Gill medium: 14 / 18 point
  • Gill bold: 10 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Gill extra bold: 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Goudy: 18 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Perpetua: 12 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Perpetua titling: 24 / 36 / 60 / 72 point
  • Plantin: 10 / 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Plantin roman: 10 / 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Plantin italic: 10 / 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Times: 10 / 12 / 18 / 24 point
  • Times bold: 24 / 36 point
  • Trafton script: 24 point

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June – 2019

Researching Printing History – South West

In searching through the Somerset Records office I came across a number of documents recording a huge number of printing companies working throughout the south west. The Master Printers Annual 1965 lists 28 members in Somerset alone:

  • Albert E. Allen – Weston-super-Mare
  • Barnicotts – Taunton
  • Bigwood & Staple Ltd – Bridgwater
  • Cannell, Ball & Co – Weston-super-Mare
  • Castle Cary Press – Castle Cary
  • Clare, Son & Co Ltd – Wells
  • C & J. Clark Ltd – Street
  • Colourprint Services Ltd – Weston-super-Mare
  • Cox Sons & Co – Williton
  • W. B. Frampton & Sons Ltd – Weston-super-Mare
  • Hammett & Co Ltd – Taunton
  • Hyssett & Son Ltd – Weston-super-Mare
  • Lawrence Bros Ltd – Weston-super-Mare
  • Robert W. Lee Ltd – Bridgwater
  • G & M Organ – Wrington
  • Patey & Co – Burnham-on-Sea
  • W. R. Pettigrew – Wells
  • Rockwell Printers – Wellington
  • Shearn Bros & Co – Burnham-on-Sea
  • Edwin Snell & Sons Ltd – Yeovil
  • Watchet Printing Co – Watchet
  • Waterman & Son – Stoke-sub-Hamdon
  • Wellington Printers – Wellington
  • Western Gazette Co Ltd – Yeovil
  • Young & Sons – Chard

There were a number of south west based colleges who provided training for the printing industry including: Somerset College of Art (Department of Printing – Mount Street, Taunton). The annual lists the following courses available in Taunton:

  • Line composition – evenings only
  • Monotype Keyboard – evenings only
  • Compositors’ work – day release
  • Letterpress machine – day release
  • Photography – day release
  • Litho artists – day release
  • Litho machine – day release
  • BFMP Technical Knowledge – evenings only
  • Order Clerk’s Work – block release and evening class options
  • Diploma Art & Design – full time and block release options
  • City & Guilds: typo. design – day release

Studio B’s printing press was purchased from Somerset College and would have had its origins in the department of print in Mount Street. The photograph below shows the newly constructed art and design block built when the art college joined the technical college in the early 1970s.

1970

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July – 2019

New arrivals for Studio B

Five new cases of metal letterpress type were delivered today:

  • Bembo: 18 point
  • Clarendon bold: 30 point
  • Dorchester script: 18 point
  • Rockwell heavy condensed: 30 point
  • Gothic condensed: 36 point

We look forward to experimenting with some interesting additions to our collection.

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© Carl Middleton – 2019

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Letterpress Workers Summit –

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Imagine an event where print enthusiasts from across the globe travel to attend, work together, share knowledge and celebrate their creative and cultural differences. In a nutshell this is the Letterpress Workers Summit (LPW) an annual event, developed over the past seven years held in Italy’s industrial capital, Milan.

2019 saw fifty attendees, with a strong cohort of European and Scandinavian printers and even people traveling from as far away as Japan, Russia, Brazil and America. The Summit is a four-day event initially conceived by Officina Tipographica Novepunti – a letterpress collective based in Milan. Housed at Leoncavallo (Italy’s oldest anti fascist squat), a raw industrial, redundant factory building. For the duration of the summit printing presses are loaned from individual studios across Milan and some are even transported from Germany and France. LPW takes a great deal of effort, enthusiasm and time to make it work. It relies upon good will, sharing resources and boundless positivity.

Each year the event follows a single theme (this year Identity) and Letterpress Workers collaborate in small groups, creatively responding to it. Language is no barrier, but approaches to printing can make for an interesting dialogue – where sometimes the microscopic differences to setting and printing type can impact on productivity, but overall always help to extend the broader discourse, when ‘talking type’.

At the end of June I attended my third Letterpress Workers International Summit. An event attended by invitation only, so I was very pleased to be asked to return. This short-term collaborative artist residency facilitates a platform to work together, share knowledge, cultural approaches, and ways of thinking (not only about letterpress). Each day the dialogue spans a very broad spectrum of topics, from:

  • rules / dogma / freedom – in relation to approaches to print
  • composition – style over substance
  • different approaches to inter-letter spacing
  • the performance of ink and paper
  • colour theory in relation to message
  • the political context and use of type in relation to its heritage, design and origin
  • language and form and dialect
  • evolution of technology in relation to print and production

The list is endless – and the debate continues each year…

Images above: clockwork from left – Work generated responding to the LPW theme Fear. Collaborative prints in action with other attendees. Work generated responding to the LPW theme ‘Hope’.

LPW01.png

The Letterpress Worker’s team printing themes have been:

  • 2012: What if we were living without electricity?
  • 2013: Market
  • 2014: Borders
  • 2015: Dance
  • 2016: Fear
  • 2017: Resist
  • 2018: True / False
  • 2019: Identity

For more information about LPW visit:

http://letterpressworkers.org/ or https://www.letterpressworkers.net/en/

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© Carl Middleton – 2019

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Work in progress –

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May 2019

A Show of Hands – Bath Spa University

Tim Jollands (visiting research fellow at Bath Spa University) send out an invitation in early 2019 for letterpress printers to generate work inspired by the manicule (or more commonly titled as a: printer’s fist) – the deadline for submissions was the 31st May 2019.

I had been experimenting with lino relief pressings, so this became an ideal opportunity to employ a new process for me, coupled with my more regular letterpress compositions.

I elected to set a quote from Robin Kinross (Fellow readers notes, on multiple language, 1994) in Perpetua and Franklin Gothic over a detail taken from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, as depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Rome).

carlmiddleton

The exhibition opens on the 27th September – 2019 at Bath Spa University (Corsham Court) and travels thereafter to the University of York.

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February 2019

The Drugstore Gallery – Axbridge

I am currently in the process of developing a brand identity, signage system and marketing assets for The Drugstore Gallery (Axbridge, Somerset). The gallery is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Axbridge, an apothecary store dating back almost four centuries. It showcases both contemporary and traditional artworks as well as affording visitors the opportunity to book the space as meeting or even holiday accommodation.

Initial discussions centered around the need to develop a logotype which would echo the galleries heritage, but to site it, clearly with a contemporary resonance.

After a number of initial digital renditions (which did not totally satisfy the brief) I elected to retrieve some of the ‘hand cut’ grotesque type from my collection. I selected a very unusual typeface, which was then re-drawn and digitalised, enabling me to make printing blocks for further print testing.

Blocks

Implementation of the brand: edition / visitor and order books, button badges, rubber stamp, exhibition labels and promo cards.

Promo04

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July 2018

Optical Detailing

At Studio B serendipity is a highly regarded resource and it is often embraced and used as a primer in the generation of new letterpress printed works.

Whilst re-ordering the shelves during (yet another) ‘tidy up’ session I came across a large number of typography related ‘hand outs’. These were used when I lectured at London College of Printing (now London College of Communication). The documents relate to the styling and application of type. On closer inspection I felt they would be useful as an ideal starting point for a new printing project.

Detail

Work in progress – the first proof: Optical Detailing – still some way to go before its completed to the correct standard. A little more time to address fine tuning, compositional consideration and this could become page one in a new set of studio instructional posters. But first some kerning by hand.

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January 2018

The Elusive Oscillating Roller

After almost five years of searching for an oscillating roller, one has finally been found and the refurbishment of our Soldan Proof Press can be completed. Soldan presses were used in large numbers in colleges across the UK to train printing apprentices in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Our press was purchased from Somerset College of Arts and Technology (SCAT) in 2012 who had owned it for over fifty years.

The press was being used as a storage table and had a number of original elements missing. These sized presses are becoming quite rare so the opportunity to purchase one could not be missed. After a little struggle and navigating a pallet truck it was bought back to the studio and off we went printing the largest possible posters we could fit on it.

I originally used the press by inking everything by hand as both the oscillating and inking rollers were missing and the electric drive motor did not work. Once fitted with the elusive rollers and replacement motor we were off. It’s a great press, very flexible and accurate and has become the centrepiece of our studio.

As arts curriculums have evolved and analogue processes make way for digital, large numbers of these presses have been sold off or in the worst incidences given up for scrap! They take up lots of space and need furniture, leading and of course type – so, often colleges elect to adopt etching or screen printing as their primary print process – very few can afford the space to house letterpress / etching / screen etc. SCAT currently have a large Western press and a Farley so they still offer letterpress printing to their students – sadly they are one of a decreasing number of educational establishments that still do within the UK.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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December 2017

The Soldan Proof Press – Owners Club

Further updates on the Soldan Owners Club. Our press (serial number – 121: 121) is one of only three known Soldan Proof Presses still being used in the UK. The other two owners are:

  • Justin Knopp – Typoretum – Colchester (serial number – 121: 132)
  • Walden Press – East London (serial number – not confirmed)

Rod Shaw – Beyond Letterpress, has refurbished two over the past five years (121: 125 and 121: 122) both presses have found new owners, being sold and exported to printers in Europe.

There is little documentation specifically detailing the Soldan ‘Proof Press’. Publications I have found to-date mainly describe the ‘Proofmaster’ or ‘Lightning’ printing presses. The Precision Aids for Letterpress Printers publication (1958) describes two presses available from Soldans:

  • Proofmaster No.1      4 ft. x 6 ft. 9 in.    18.5 x 24 in.   £760
  • Proofmaster No. 20   5 ft. x 7 ft. 6 in.    23 x 31 in.    £895

Soldans Ltd – 5-11 Theobald’s Road – London WC1

If you have a Soldan Proof Press or know of anyone else who may have one please get in contact – telephone: 01823 401 302 / email: carlmiddleton@neatdesign.org

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© Carl Middleton – 2019

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