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stories 2016


Making the headings for our Mailchimp files.

So much of any designer's time spent on the computer is rushed and at Lead Graffiti we often find it fun to simply slow things down. We like to do various visual elements in a noticeably different style so as to keep a personal quality to our online presence. As we are a letterpress studio we, of course, like working with typography produced via letterpress. In the instance of the headings for our Mailchimp newsletter, we also got to play with some paper, scoring it and then tearing it to expose the inner thickness of paper.

We have a lot of students who pass through Lead Graffiti, by either attending a workshop, field trip and tour with a class, or just hear about us and want to drop by. We thought an explanation of how we do the headings in at least some of our Mailchimp files was done might be useful. Perhaps it is worth trying sometime instead of just adding solid colored type as your headline to provide some visual texture and a visual focus to your type.

For students it is important to keep in mind that every other student on the planet can pull up a typeface, size it, give it a color, and be done. Sometimes you need to do something that separates you from the rest of the crowd. Actually, I would make that "A lot of the time...."

We have a metal typeface in our collection called Agency Gothic. We have it in 72 point and 60 point (the size we used for the labels). Just for additional information we have two other typefaces that are identical (Jefferson Gothic and Phoenix) except they have a few additional versions of a couple of characters.

↑ Step 1: This illustration shows a section of 2 of the 12 complete alphabets we printed via letterpress using black ink. We handrolled the type so it would be uneven. We wanted a strong sense of something handmade and casual.

The printed alphabets were scanned, brought into Photoshop, and rotated so they were exactly level which is important in Step 4.

↑ Step 2: This simply shows 2 more of the alphabets so you an see the difference inking which is more noticable in the bottom of each image.

↑ Step 3: Each of the 2 alphabets was converted to a color. Above shows the two colors we used.

↑ Step 4: The alphabets were overlayed in Photoshop with one of the alphabets slightly misregistered. It is here that we achieved the casual quality we were looking for. Had we chosen different alphabets from our black printing we could have adjusted it. In the end we tended toward the most textural of what we had available.

We created a single Photoshop image with the 2 misregistered alphabets at the top with a blank working space at the bottom.

↑ Step 5: This generally gave us access to 4 of each letter to choose from so we could avoid the nagging visual problem of seeing two of the same letters in a label and you can tell they are the same. You see this all the time in printed work and it is simply evidence that the person that did it was too lazy to work a bit and hide the fact that the type was digital. What is the point in using a handmade alphabet and then duplicate letters to PROVE that it isn't handmade.

We would select one of the letters, starting with the T in TIPS, and drag it to the left side of the workspace.

↑ Step 6: We drew guide lines at the top and bottom of the type and aligned them vertically and improved the letterspacing.

We try to stay organized and are careful to name layers when we have so many and that are difficult to keep track of. Below you can see the Layers Palette and how it looked at the end of our spacing. This way if you looked at the type and just wanted to close up the "FO" combination all you had to do was highlight all of the layers from the O down and when you adjusted the spacing with your cursor everything else stayed the same.

The images you've been looking at above are actually reduced about 65% so you could see more of the alphabet.

For comparison, the illustration above shows the full size of the image as it appeared on our computer screen we were working with in Photoshop.

↑ Step 7: We have several digital pages of blank label backgrounds that we produced in Photoshop using scans of a heavily laid paper. The edges were scored and folded and then torn to expose the thickness of the paper. We like making type and the things around it look like it is made from "stuff" and not just type on a flat white space whenever we can. The shadow was produced completely in Photoshop.

The blanks were longer than we thought we would likely ever need. We could put up another story about making these..

↑ Step 8: We took the final type for the heading and reduced it to 20% of its original size. The type has been placed about 0.5" from the left side of the label.

↑ Step 9: We need to shorten the label so we simply take enough of the right end, carve out the center, and slide it back over the text until we have the right spacing on both ends. This way we also hold on to the right end of the shadow at the bottom of the label. It took a little adjustment to hide the vertical line, but that only took a few seconds.

↑ Step 10: Done.