I first studied letterpress in the late 1980s, when it was barely used commercially and seemed to be a dying craft, as no new equipment was being made, metal type foundries were fading, and hot-metal systems required parts that no longer existed and maintenance few people knew how to handle. (The movie Linotype tells this story very well.)
I thought it would disappear for good. But it was saved through a combination of digital and analog factors that I'll be bringing to bear in my new crowdfunding project, Hands On: the Original Digital, a limited-edition book of my reporting on type, design, and punctuation that I'll be letterpress printing at the School of Visual Concepts. SVC asked me to be its 2017 Designer in Residence, inaugurating a program to bring in outside experts to make use of their facilities to learn, create, and teach.
Here's the video explaining my Kickstarter campaign:
What saved letterpress in part is photopolymer plates. You can create work digitally, send it to a service bureau (notably, Boxcar Press in New York), and they create film from the file just as we used to do for offset printing, but then expose a photosensitive rubbery material. Exposed areas harden. The rest washes away. And these robust plates can be used on letterpress equipment. It bypasses the problem of a lack of and the fragility of metal type.
That's how I'll be able to make this book. I'll design it digitally (in InDesign), have plates made for the interior pages, and then print it on a press at SVC. It's the best of both worlds.
SVC teaches visual communications, such as user experience (UX) design and graphic design, but has a full-blown letterpress program with regular courses and special events. The program's founder, Jenny Wilkson, asked me to be in residence and will mentor me on this project.
You can read a lot more about the project at the Kickstarter page, and I hope you'll consider supporting it!