ypographic Printing Program
with Dafi Kühne
Letterpress printing itself is not a design concept. Therefore, bad design concepts and typography don't improve just because they are printed with labor-intensive manual techniques. This is why we focus intensely on the concepts and details of typography and design before undertaking any physical production. Our goal is to give participants a visual repertoire to help create ideas and work out profiled typographic solutions.
Breaking the Rules
Only those who know the rules can understand when they are breaking them—and how to break them. We actively study the rules of typography and “good” printing, visual hierarchies, grids, proportions, printed forms, and white space—then we can reinterpret and break these rules. Typography can be meticulous and precise in some details, yet simultaneously wild and chaotic in other aspects; we welcome it all.
Typographic Printing Program critically reflects the history of traditional letterpress-printed typography while eschewing the romanticism often evoked by artists using conventional tools. Letterpress printing has shaped our typographic system for more than 500 years; we want to activate that history, modernize it, and make it accessible and attractive to contemporary-thinking designers. Only by experimenting and combining it with modern tools, processes, and progressive conceptualization can we fully bring this old technology to the 21st century and preserve it for the future.
Semantics vs. Style
The semantic connections between typographic forms and content are essential to good typography. We don't think in boxes called style, but in typographic colors, smells, sounds, rhythms, volume, tastes, thoughts, and their links to the content. Rather than applying and reapplying given styles and repeating visual ideas, we want to develop sensual connections between content and form and push the quality of printed communication.
The program is a typographic research lab. We focus on experimental typography and poster design concepts. Only by pushing boundaries in a safe institutional environment (with fictional tasks) can we re-set the future limits of commercial design projects. New interpretations of old printing technology happen by exploring legibility and expressive typography while creating a playful connection between content and forms. In this way, we can actively examine the future of typographic poster design and letterpress printing.
Poster design is the ultimate discipline of visual reduction. One loud message visualizing one concept must be enough to capture the attention of viewers. Within the broad field of poster design itself, we choose to work with typography, limiting the use of type and type-related forms to communicate a message. Within these restrictions, we see the challenge to explore the essence of graphic communication, applicable to any visual design field.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Typographic Printing Program offers a diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning environment that involves participants from different countries and backgrounds from all around the globe. Our Switzerland sessions from 2016–2021 had participants from twenty countries and five continents, with professional backgrounds ranging from young graphic design students at the start of their career, to very experienced university-level instructors. For each session, we select a diverse group from letters of motivation and CV—never portfolios. Participants at any level are welcome as long as they are motivated to work intensely and open to new approaches. Typographic Printing Program is committed to respecting all gender identities, ages, ethnicities, and nationalities. All exercises and theory materials suit every level of experience. We support each other and finish workdays together. While we critically analyze and discuss the output of our work sessions and encourage everyone to engage in rich group discussions, we do not accept any disrespectful behavior; we are committed to providing an environment free of judgment.
In 2022 we offer two different winter sessions (I–II) in Pasadena, CA, and two slots for the summer session (III–IV) in Näfels, Switzerland. Each session can be booked individually and there is no order to the coursework, as the two sessions in Pasadena and the one in Switzerland have their own qualities. Sessions in Pasadena can be booked back-to-back at a reduced total fee. The session in Switzerland is offered two times, to accommodate for different universites schedules.
Letterpress Research & Experimentation Lab
Session I, Tuesday–Sunday, January 4–9, 2022, in collaboration with HMCT Archetype Press/ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA
6 workshop days, fee $1200.00 [USD]
Explore the full potential of letterpress printing and what it means in the 21st century while learning new techniques and using unconventional materials such as cast plastic resin type, vinyl stickers, and more. At HMCT Archetype Press, you will develop and document a visual vocabulary by working closely with Dafi Kühne, the Swiss printing wizard. Each participant will document one specific technique for a catalog produced by the class. The fee includes six fully-coached workshop days, plus all materials (meals and accommodations not included). This session is for letterpress printers at any level of experience who want to learn new approaches to an old technology. Not only beginners, but also experienced printers will learn new approaches and experimental techniques. The class is also suitable for graphic designers with a strong interest in letterpress printing (entry-level welcome as long as you are motivated).
This class can also be booked back-to-back with session II, for a reduced total fee of $2000.
Setting up a letterpress flatbed proof press for safe experimental printing with unconventional materials, plus five new approaches to making printing blocks (including casting plastic resin replacement sorts). You will have time in the Press to explore and develop several techniques.
See this provisional PDF schedule for session I.
This session is co-organized with and hosted by:
Session II, Tuesday–Sunday, January 11–16, 2022
in collaboration with HMCT Archetype Press/ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA
6 workshop days, fee $1200.00 [USD]
Once you have seen and understood certain things in typography, you can never “unsee.” In that sense we intoxicate the workshop participants with typography. We talk about typographic details and develop a deep understanding of the theory and history that lies behind it. In the HMCT Archetype workshop we will work with an inspiring archive of letterpress equipment and foundry type as we manually explore typographic and design history. This acquired knowledge can be applied to contemporary digital practice. Over the course of 6 workshop days, we will develop typographic layouts that will be letterpress printed by each participant. This class is intended to be a lab environment for designers and printers to explore experimental analogue typographic poster design and its relevancy in the digital landscape. The fee includes six fully-coached workshop days, plus all materials (meals and accommodations not included). This session targets graphic designers at any level of experience, as well as letterpress printers with a strong interest in contemporary typography (entry-level welcome as long as you are motivated).
This class can also be booked back-to-back with session I, for a reduced total fee of $2000 [USD].
Working with analog typography, analog typographic sketching, learning from the history of letterpress printing, lots of theory as well as practical exercises, developing a skillset to produce typographic poster layouts.
See this provisional PDF schedule for session II.
This session is co-organized with and hosted by:
III. & IV.
Full Typographic Printing Detox in Switzerland
Session III, June 26–July 9, 2022
Session IV, July 24—August 6, 2022
at the Babyinktwice Studio in Näfels, Switzerland
13 workshop days, 12 participants
Fees and deadlines:
CHF 1690.00 [Swiss Franks], until February 14, 2022
CHF 1790.00 [Swiss Franks], until May 1, 2022
CHF 1890.00 [Swiss Franks], after May 1, upon availability
Clear your mind and embrace the new! Full Typographic Printing Detox in Switzerland with Dafi Kühne is an intense 2-week summer program in Switzerland for international graphic design enthusiasts. It started in 2016 as Typographic Summer Program with one summer session over 2 weeks and established over the last years to a 2-session summer program. The workshop’s goal is to bridge the gap between analog design and production tools and professional contemporary typographic posters. The participants will go through a number of analog tasks to experience the layout qualities of simple type-only layouts. All the experiments and layout exercises will be realized with traditional letterpress printing presses and physical type. Through this very slow but accurate analog process, the participants will learn to put emphasis on concept and micro typography. This program is a great opportunity for the participants to see and learn first-hand from one of the few internationally successful contemporary letterpress poster designers. After a rigorous design process, the participants will each produce a letterpress printed typographic poster printed with a variety of production tools like physical type (wood & metal type), chipboard, lasercut mdf, linoleum, hand-cast Ludlow type slugs, and many more… Every aspect of the design process that is taught and intensely trained with the tutors in the analog way will be easy to translate to the contemporary design practice for the student’s future career. The workshop will be held in English.
We offer 2 summer sessions in 2022 (III. and IV.). Both sessions will have a similar program schedule, though guest lectures and instructors may vary. Get in is on a Sunday evening and wrap-up is two weeks later on a Saturday around noon. The program consists of a total of 12 fully coached workshop days. Each day, we begin 9.00am and regularly work until 6.30pm, with a 1-hour lunch break and some shorter breaks throughout the day. The intense workshop is meant to use the time as efficient as possible to detox you from any bad typography. Loaded with as much educational information as we could—having as much fun as possible. Please be aware, the program is ambitious and intense: but it doesn’t require any specific typographic knowledge or experience with letterpress equipment. All we need is a very motivated group of participants. The summer sessions target graphic design enthusiasts and type nerds of any level and experience, letterpress printers with a strong interest in contemporary experimental typography, any entry level as long as you are motivated.
The course fee includes twelve fully-coached workshop days, plus all workshop materials (However; individual travel cost, meals and accommodations are not included).
Typographic theory: microtypography and macrotypography. Conceptual design work, critical analysis and structuring of content. Hand-typesetting, kerning, linespacing, rags. Handling of letterpress proofing presses and other printing equipment. Analog typographic design iterations to produce a typographic poster layout. Full analog production of a poster, print form making, printing in several color-runs, quality control, presentation, analog typographic sketching, learning from the history of letterpress printing, lots of theory as well as practical exercises, developing a skillset to produce typographic poster layouts.
See this provisional PDF schedule for session III.
See this provisional PDF schedule for session IV.
We provide a list of hotels in Näfels to help participants to find a place to stay during the sessions. Please look into the list and secure an accommidation timely.
HMCT Archetype Press at ArtCenter in Pasadena, CA
The 2022 winter sessions (I+II) are presented in collaboration with Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography [HMCT] in Pasadena, CA, and hosted at HMCT Archetype Press. Established at ArtCenter College of Design in 1989 and now housed under the HMCT, Archetype Press offers students, the public, and visiting artists the opportunity to practice what has become a digital age rarity: setting type and printing by hand. Past visiting artists include Amos Kennedy, Jim Sherraden, Dafi Kühne, and Alan Kitching/Kelvyn Smith [The New Typography Workshop]. The extensive collection of American and European foundry type, wood type, and ornaments—originally belonging to renowned printer/typographer Vernon Simpson’s legendary typesetting Hollywood shop—residing in over 2,500 cases, is one of the largest letterpress facilities of any design school in the U.S. As an experimental typographic studio under the direction of HMCT Executive Director Prof. Gloria Kondrup, students learn from an exceptional group of dedicated instructors how to set and print type on twelve Vandercook proof presses. Over 200 collaborative books, broadsides, and chapbooks have been created during Archetype’s 32 years. For more information, visit archetype.hmctartcenter.org.
In the past 9 years Dafi Kühne has organized several workshops at his studio for different schools and university classes. Here you find some photos of comparable workshop situations at the studio in Näfels.
A / C
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I want to take all classes. Where do I start?Nice to hear. Generally, there is no order to the coursework, as all Sessions in Pasadena and Switzerland have individual qualities. If you can start with the shorter, one-week Sessions at HMCT Archetype Press in Pasadena, these are smaller packages. But also jumping right into the Full Typographic Printing Detox is not a problem.
Does the Full Typographic Printing Detox require a previous participation in the Typographic Toxication or Letterpress Research & Experimentation Lab?No. All the classes can be booked individually.
Do I need any previous experience in letterpress printing to participate in any of the sessions?No. Participants at all levels are welcome here, as long as they are motivated to work intensely and try new approaches. All printing exercises and instructions are designed to take participants from any level and push them as far as possible. Experienced printers, as much as beginners, can jump in at their level.
Do I need any previous experience in graphic design or typography to participate in any of the sessions?No. Participants at all levels are welcome here, as long as they are motivated to work intensely and try new approaches. All typographic exercises and instructions are designed to take participants from any level and push them as far as possible. Experienced designers, as much as beginners, can jump in at their level.
Is there a way to receive college credits for any of the sessions?Those who complete the HMCT Archetype Press workshops may be eligible for Certificates of Attendance and badges from ArtCenter College of Design. For more information, contact email@example.com"
Can you help me obtain a visa to travel to the U.S. or Switzerland for any of the sessions?We can provide program confirmation letters that can help you apply with your embassy. Any visa application process and all travel arrangements, however, are with the responsibility of the participant.
Are meals and accommodation provided with the course?No, though the course fees cover all the needed materials at the workshop—individual travel costs, meals and accommodation are not included and are within the responsibilities of the participants.
Can you help me with finding accommodations for the workshops?Yes, we have recommendations. Especially for the Sessions in Switzerland since Näfels is in the countryside (Studio address: Mühlhäusern 2, 8752 Näfels, Switzerland). Just talk to us. Booking, however, is the responsibility of the participants.
Is there an application fee for any of the Sessions?No, but please carefully read our terms and Covid-19 policy regarding cancellation fees.
When and how do I make the payment for the class?We will send you an invoice after your acceptance. All payments have to be made via international wire transfer or Paypal within ten (10) days of acceptance. All transfer fees (Paypal fees or international wire transfer fees) have to be covered by the participant.
Are the workshops fun?Oh, yes they are the best and you'll make friends forever!