After 12 years running a design agency, I had, I guess, fallen out of love with print as a medium. It had become the bit at the end of a project that held all the hope, yet delivered all the disappointment and complications. I think this is place that a lot of designers get to, the craft and the care seemed to have vanished from the print world, at least from the perspective of a designer working on commercial print projects.
I remembered the feeling when I was new to the trade that I got when i saw presses running, and pored over proofs with expert repro guys, in awe of their experience and their ability to spot potential problems before they arose, and to be able to squeeze the most amazing results out of my humble artwork.
I also remember the knarled fingers of a man called Lenny Buck, one of the last of the old-school lead typesetters who used to teach typesetting to university students. When I was at college we'd pay the extra few quid to spend an hour in the type studio with Lenny to learn to set type — we didn't — it was rock hard to do and none of us had the patience, but we all relished the opportunity to just hear a man like Lenny talk about putting ink on paper and all the lurid and hilarious tales that came with.
So about a year or so ago, I decided that I wanted to re-discover my love of print and find out if the craft was still alive. This was one of my motivations for starting Paniagua, the opportunity to design prints and posters that I loved, without a client to answer to and with no compromise on the production.
I had seen the work of Daniel Mather on a few design blogs and thought that he seemed to truly love print and love what he did, so I called Dan and asked if he was interested in printing an edition for me. The first thing that excited me was that Dan was interested in the job — he wanted to see it — and luckily for me he liked it. This reminded me of a time when I felt lucky to be having my work actually printed, and reassured me that Dan actually gave a shit about his work and the output of his studio.
I've produced quite a few prints with Dan now, and the experience has been great. Simple things like being sent selections of ink pulls on varieties of stock, discussing the qualities of various inks on various papers, being shown ranges of halftone options to get the best metallic carbon weave effects on a gloss black flood backing, and basically, hearing decades, nay centuries of experience flow from the mouth of a (excuse this Dan) veritable whippersnapper of a twenty-something printer.
The results of this work with Dan are wonderful, we receive these beautifully and carefully wrapped packages, and i slowly open them with a scalpel, savouring the excitement, eager to see and smell the 50 or so masterpieces within. Each a labour of love, each hand pulled with care and attention, and each inspected by the eye of a true expert. There is no 'God I hope they're ok...' feeling, just awe at quite how amazing they look.
So to summarise, I now love print again. My faith in the printers craft is restored, and I realise that great printers don't have to be old and with decades of experience, they just need to give a shit, love what they do and be doing what they love.
Print is not dead.