"The craft ethos is coming back into life somehow...people want to touch it again, they want to feel that someone's made this; it hasn't come from a machine or a factory, somebody's actually sat down and thought about it and used their eyes and their hands and they've made this thing..."
Listening to Alan Kitching talk about the practice and art of his craft is an inspiring thing. A leading practitioner in letterpress printing, typography and design, Alan uses only traditional methods for printing and refrains from using technology to aide his artistic process. Alan's knowledge, talent and ongoing passion for the authentic, age-old printing process is encouraging a resurgence in the design world. Many digital designers are especially looking to the qualities found in good craftsmanship to incorporate into the aesthetic of contemporary digital design.
Writers and critics have been calling it 'a renaissance of craftsmanship'. In an age where technology dominates almost every aspect of life, the past decade has welcomed the rapid return of the handmade quality, aesthetic & process into digital design. Alan has developed a style that allows him to move and work with the contemporary times but also to stay loyal to the element of craft. Something that, upon close observation, is always evident in his quite graphic work: the imperfect, tactile, subjective, human, natural qualities that can be found in craftsmanship.
His recent collaboration with Monotype is a perfect example of how Alan can adapt and thrive in the digital age. Two of the biggest typographic forces who are at the top of their game in their respective fields; one works with his hands, the other works with technology. Monotype are global trailblazers in type and home to some of the world's most popular typefaces including Times New Roman, Gill Sans and Arial. The collaboration with Alan is first and foremost a celebration of type, but it was also a chance to see what qualities the handcrafted element can bring to typefaces that were conceived digitally.
The collaboration process
Alan collaborated with Monotype to produce a collection of work that would pay tribute to five influential graphic designers of the past century: Tom Eckersley, Abram Games, FHK Henrion, Josef Müller-Brockmann and Paul Rand, honouring their life and work. He chose individual typefaces from the Monotype archives for each designer, he then created his own hand-cut letters out of card to be used on the printing press. He produced five pieces for the exhibition that all feature overlapping type; choosing distinct colours and compositions that would represent the work of each individual designer. The monographs were then mass screen-printed and made into leaflets to accompany the exhibition.
The finished pieces blur the line between handcrafted and digital art, even so, on close observation the craft element shines through in the finer details; a brush stroke or a tiny bleeding of ink into the paper, these are some of the unavoidable and beautiful qualities of handcrafted that can add depth and character to the art of digital design.
'The element of craft has been lost in design, to see Alan's work re-invents that.'
- James, Creative Director at Monotype
We have a fantastic print workshop coming up at Gather this year, run by our good friend Nick Hand. Have a go at this beautiful craft yourself & book tickets for Gather here
Alan's latest book, Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress, was released in April this year. Read more about the beautiful book & Alan himself in an article by It's Nice That
The video below shows a glimpse behind the scenes of the Kitching/Monotype collaboration process, well worth a watch!