STL Print Week continues with a panel discussion held at Central Print on what’s happening in the world of type and letterforms.
On a quiet block just outside of the bustle of downtown St. Louis, Central Print is a candy store for letterform enthusiasts. Drawers upon drawers filled with typefaces line the center of a crowded room, the rest of the expanse dotted with relics of an old-fashioned industry’s past, mixed with the illustrious work of local printmakers.
The panel was mediated by Eric Woods, owner of The Firecracker Press. He kicked off by introducing each of the speakers present: Ben Kiel of Typefounding, David Wolske, Bob Magill of Monumental Type Foundry, and Scott Moore of Moore Wood Type.
Each brought an interesting perspective to the topic of type. Moore is one of only an estimated 3 in the world who continue to make wood typefaces. Wolske’s collection of letterforms reflects a lifelong obsession of a true collector. For Magill type is a continuing labor of love, and Kiel, a designer, converted to the world of black and white shapes to create tools years ago.
Kiel highlighted how much of a niche typeface design is in the world. Noting that “less than 500 people” are into it. He joked that all it would take to wipe them out would be the collapse of a single breakout room at a convention, and there would be no more of them!
The panel covered several subjects of their field, including historical developments of typeface technology, how younger generations are reviving the industry, and why they are doing it.
“The argument can be made for developing and using any art” Magill said. “There will always be a group that prints and there will always be another group that finds another way. But it takes all of us together. There is room for both.” Kiel emphasized that point as well. He mentioned his frustration with people who say “Don’t we have enough fonts in the world? But no one asks if we have enough paintings. But no one asks if we have enough paintings.”
But the question arose whether or not this art form has a place in the next generation. He was optimistic, noting that “young people have an interest in this,” but in unsuspecting ways. For example I like to see what they do with these tools [wood letters]…I’ve learned not to second guess these designers,” Moore agreed. When asked about looking at the next generation of printmakers, he remarked with excitement at how interesting it is to see the possibilities they open themselves up to. Moore said he enjoyed watching “students in the lab printing, and then the next thing you know they are printing all over the shirt they are wearing!”
When asked about the future direction of typography and letterpress, the panel replied with an enthusiastic “forward!” Kiel elaborated on this statement, “I see typefaces as solutions to problems, and there will always be more problems in need of solutions”.
STL Print week continues through the weekend, ending on Sunday with a market showcasing the region’s best printers and makers. Visit stlprintweek.com to learn more on upcoming events this week.
Central Print is non-profit arts organization with a mission to promote and preserve the art of printmaking.