As printing methods have evolved from presses to pixels, the craft of letterpress printing has become somewhat of an “endangered species”—threatened into obsolescence by the constant march of time and progress. However, there is a resurgence of letterpress studio operators in America, men and women whose hearts have been imprinted with an indelible passion for keeping the tactile, practical art of type, ink and paper alive.

In this project, we seek to contribute to this letterpress revival by accurately representing the motivations, investment, apprenticeship and professional progression of a letterpress studio owner. Through interviews, passive and active observation, influence mapping and other ethnographic techniques, our goal is to understand the culture of letterpress, both on an individual and collective level, as well as its connections to related arts communities such as bookbinding, screen-printing and live music. 

Due to geographic constraints, we will utilize a multi-site, comparable case ethnography design with each group member conducting a typical case selection within their state of residence, which will include letterpress studios in Texas, Missouri and Ohio. There is a possibility to extend the research to a reputational case selection as we explore the connections within the broader community. For the purposes of this project, we will be exploring letterpress culture within the United States, not globally. The intended outcome of the research will be an analysis of how particular individual and collective attributes contribute to the culture. In an increasingly technologically driven world, the letterpress shop and the artifacts it produces have re-emerged throughout our visual culture. How has this occurred and what can we learn from the culture that may paint a better picture? We do not intend to provide prescriptive steps for establishing or growing a letterpress shop, but rather contribute clear and actionable information for letterpress proprietors and aspiring entrepreneurs of the craft that would like to further a practice in the twenty-first century.


Want to learn more? View the complete case study here.