New Year, New Type

Starting a new year with a printed homage to great type is always a good idea. Starshaped scored a great deal of new metal and wood type this year and it's time it pulled some weight. So this year's New Year card features type from a few different metal type foundries alongside the snowflakes from our collaboration with Moore Wood Type. newyear1The idea was to take a standard rectangular form and make it appear as if the snowflakes were swooping in to break it apart. Below is a reversed image (so it's easy to read) of the main sections of the type form before separating them.

newyearHow about a typographic rundown? 'Wishing' is a new cast of Ray Shade by Hill & Dale Type Foundry in West Virginia. 'You A' and 'ew ear' are Latin Ornate and Tuscan Graille, both from Skyline Type Foundry. 'Starshaped Press Chicago' is 6pt Camelot and the N and Y initial caps have yet to be identified. 'Happy' is a mortised initial cap with Dakota. The three main borders are from Bixler Letterfoundry, courtesy of Punky Press, coupled with tiny bits and pieces from our collection.

After a quick carbon paper proof of the forms, I scanned them so that I could figure out the best angles and build the rest of the piece digitally. This is the cheat sheet printed out with the placement of the sections and snowflakes. It is marked up to determine the measurements of the angled furniture I needed to cut to square up the sections.

cheatsheetHere you can see the angled furniture that holds the sections in place and keeps them flush with the rest of the form.



cornerformI first pulled a few proofs on the actual paper with the entire form to set up placement and look for any wacky spacing issues. After that was established, I took out all of the second color, leaving just the sections to be printed in burgundy. I marked the spacing with a sharpie so I would remember what I added in place of the type that was there.

burgundyformThe burgundy read well on Wrought Iron, dark gray stock from Neenah's Environment line. It matched the Paver Red envelopes from French Paper. Printing dark inks on dark papers can always be a bit of a crap shoot but this worked well. Silver is a no-brainer. The registration is pretty tight, and given the angles in play here, that's impressive.


newyear4Next up were the snowflakes. I trimmed most of mine to be as close to the edge of the design as possible so that they could almost sit on top of each other.

snowflakesFiguring out what ink they'd be printed in was more challenging. My first thought was opaque white so I could test how this would perform on the gray paper. But the white competed with the silver and the type receded, which was definitely not desirable. So I tried transparent white as well as variations on this with differing degrees of silver and black mixed in. The final was a combination of all of these.

testingsnowflakesWhile the snowflakes were set up on press, I used them to print the front of the envelopes as well, where they appear a little darker on burgundy stock. The silver on these is particularly striking. More great initial caps.

newyear5I was very pleased with how the cards turned out, as they hit all of my bases for typography as well as great paper and ink combinations. The challenges of setting this form were also very pleasing and it's great to see both old and new type functioning on a heightened level. One of the plans for the studio this year is to really highlight some of the gems of the Starshaped collection and use them in similar ways to how they would have been used 100 years ago, but with (hopefully) a modern breath of fresh air.


Sky's the Limit

How great is it that metal and wood type are still manufactured today, albeit by a small group, and that we call these makers our friends? For years Starshaped has enjoyed a strong relationship with Skyline Type Foundry, run by Sky Shipley. Formerly in southern Illinois and now in Arizona, Sky has consistently cast quality type on his Thompson casters, and I've been buying it up almost as fast as he can create it. The time had come for a collaboration and here it is! Working exclusively with Skyline type, I built this behemoth form of ornaments and type. The quote is one provided by Sky, and one of his favorites (and did I mention appropriate?). TskylineinstaThe idea for the print was to form an actual piece of type, or sort, out of hundreds of smaller pieces of actual type, and then to print it to look like a shiny piece of type. I decided to create an angle in the design and then print in three shades of silver to give it a textured and luminous feel. After an initial proof all in one color, I subdivided it into the three color sections. Pictured here is the last and lightest silver run.

skyline5My first thought was to create the text block in a circular form to mimic a pin mark, but Sky doesn't cast his type with pin marks, so I left it rectangular and set (nearly) solid and force justified to fill the space inside the piece of type. This was also a great place to put the non-border ornaments that Skyline offers.

Tskyline4Sky has used many great slogans over the last ten years, including 'Set Your Byline in Skyline' and 'Real Printers Don't Use Plastic', but was always a fan of one of our favorites, 'All Metal, All the Time'. So it seemed like a no-brainer to include that one, given the nature of the project. Below are a few of the gorgeous 19th century faces cast in recent years.


skyline2Here's the final print. Sky has often said that he loves to see what his 'kids' are doing at 'Camp Starshaped'. Well, this summer, camp was particularly awesome. The poster is available for purchase here, though the edition is very small and won't last. Get one today!



Congrats on 10 years in the business, Sky! We're all anxiously waiting to see what comes out of your casters next. Below is a wonderful group photo of my favorite makers taken at the APA Wayzgoose in June 2014, starting with Matt, Geri and Derek of Virgin Wood Type, Sky in the middle, Scott Moore of Moore Wood Type and Rich Kegler of P22 Type Foundry. Long live the type founders!


An Artistic Approach

One of the best collections in the studio is the 19th century typefaces I've been acquiring over the last 15 years. Most of them are pre-1900, and some were created before the standardized point system (it can be pretty annoying to space 13 point type when the spacing doesn't exist!). Luckily, Skyline Type Foundry is creating new casts of some of these typefaces, using the original matrices but with new metal. The beauty of these is that we have access to antique typefaces but in the form of new type.

I wanted to spend some time with these typefaces and ornaments to create new pieces that mimic 'artistic printing' of the 1890s and challenge my typesetting abilities. I immediately sketched out a bunch of ideas for text and layouts based on actual print samples from the time (for inspiration, check out the incomparable Stephen Saxe's photo feed).

The series is open ended; the first three are completed, and two more are just about set and ready to go. Then there are other ideas still on paper, waiting for the chance to pull out more of this gorgeous type and get it on press.

The first print celebrates our home state of Illinois. The inspiration actually came from receiving a new wood block of Illinois from Moore Wood Type. This is combined with an antique copper cut (love the line detail in this), a mash up of typefaces and two simple curves. In this image you can also see the Illinois woodblocks.


And here's a close up of the detail in the copper cut and type. Rustic, the type for Land and Lincoln, is so kitschy and great.


Each print for sale also includes an ink jet print of the form, or type set up, so that the viewer can appreciate just how the print was put together, and understand that it wasn't done digitally. Here's the form for the Illinois print:


The second print in the series is pulled from the song 'Deed I Do, a big favorite. This one works in a brand new cast of Arboret, a lovely and complex typeface (in 12 and 24 point), along with a set of ornaments to mix and match. So beautiful.


My favorite thing about this print is the little line of ribbon type. This was a real find back at the Wayzgoose in Phoenix, as it is not only awesome, it includes a second set of solid background sorts so that you can print it in two colors. The pale purple ornaments are wood, and the yellow is a linoleum cut.


Here you can see the various elements of Arboret to create all the floral ornaments.


The third print is really fun and is perfect as a gift for someone that just accomplished something great.


The border is made up of detailed ornaments and decorative rules (lines), set in a rectangular shape. There's a funky blue background around the edge made up of what we like to call 'icicle border'. This is also one of the best ampersands in the studio. The second light color for 'true greatness' is a linoleum cut; it's not perfect, but then again, very few artistic prints are.



All of the prints are available for sale in our etsy shop. Over the next few weeks (years?) we'll be adding more prints as great ideas strike and more type makes its way into the studio. I make an effort to curate what typefaces find a home at Starshaped so that we can be sure that they are getting used and pulling their weight, so to speak. There are still many that haven't gotten their chance to shine, so they will be getting a stage soon.

Metal Typography in Context

I recently acquired a copy of the new textbook, Graphic Design in Context: Typography, as a photo of one of our type forms appears in the book. typographybookfront


This was a piece I put together 2 years ago to showcase many of the victorian typefaces in the studio for the purpose of photographing them. Forms are so lovely and architectural, and we've endeavored to include process shots on our site, the flickr letterpress forme group as well as this blog to share. Here's the full photo:


And after taking the care to build this, I decided to print a number of copies of it so the actual type could be seen as it was originally intended. It's available on our etsy site.


Just this week I assembled a similarly complex form with more of our 19th century type for a birthday card, which you can see here. The best bit is the little pin set in the corner that requires careful setting in order to line it up correctly.



There'll be more on this card coming soon... In the meantime, if you have any interest in the study of type, check out Typography. It's thoughtfully laid out, very concise and offers a unique perspective on how type functions in the real world. I can't put it down.