When I go browsing in our local vintage shops I always check out the racks of flyers and promotional cards for various local bands and businesses. Sometimes I find a graphic design treasure, and last weekend that treasure was a half-page, two-sided promo card for a movie called Behind the Burly Q which is coming out on DVD next spring.
The card, which I suspect is also the DVD cover, has the look of an aged poster from the period in the 40s and 50s when Burlesque was at its height, which makes sense as the film is a documentary history of Burlesque from its origins in Vaudeville to the reminiscences of surviving stars of the era. The design is pretty bold in its use of creative paper yellowing and texturing. It’s not perfect, but it does get the look of cheap high-acid paper which is a couple of decades old about right. The font choices are pretty good with a clear awareness of the kinds of fonts available for cheap letterpress printing 50 years or so ago.
What I think stands out most is the use of overlapping graphic elements, with photos and blocks of text arranged where they share space but still stand on their own and remain distinct enough to read or view, all in an overall design which doesn’t seem too crowded or unbalanced – especially on the front of the card, much less so on the back. Bringing all those elements together into a coherent whole and making them work together takes a special eye, and I’m a little envious of how well it’s done here, as it’s something I often have trouble with myself. I tend to be afraid to use odd angles and asymetrical placements, afraid that the final result won’t have the balance which it ought to. So I’m keeping the “Burly Q” card around for reference to remind me to be bold in my placements and not fall back on too many predictable positioning.
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Letterpress printing is one of the oldest and simplest forms of printing, using letters carved into wooden blocks or cut from a rubbery material and attached to the blocks and then printed as a whole page composed of multiple elements. Today it is used primarily for poster printing by presses like Hatch Show Prints which have preserved the old type and presses and continue to print the way they did a hundred or more years ago.
Stylistically, letterpress printing is characterized by the use of large, block type, simple printer’s ornaments and sometimes limited attention to making all of the characters match in exactly the same style. Substitution of letters from a vaguely similar font into a line of type by accident or intent is quite common. Because of the primitive printing methods and the age and wear on the type flaws like nicks and faded areas are also quite common, plus there are rarely sharp corners or small serifs as they tended to degrade or tear off. It’s also common to see Letterpress posters where the type has been set with virtually no white space, with the entire printing space filled with type or with solid blank spaces. Because the technology is old, a lot of the font styles are also antique looking, reminiscent of those found in our Wild West font collection.
Our new collection of letterpress fonts is based on type commonly used in letterpress printing, derived from old posters and in some cases directly from letterpress type blocks. It includes a variety of weights and styles and many of the fonts are brand new releases developed specifically for the package. In addition to several of the typical bold sans serif fonts like Caelian and Letterpress Gothic, it includes a couple of “circus” style fonts with Boomtown and Big Show, a couple of heavy weight serif fonts with Plymouth and Bastion, a couple of lighter weight fonts with Stampwork and Atkinson Egyptian and finally two more ornate fonts from the German tradition popular in the midwest at the turn of the last century with Plakat and Wolfram. It’s a nice variety of fonts and everything you need to make good letterpress-style designs like those we’ve features in our recent articles on Hatch Show Prints
All of our letterpress fonts are available individually – just click on the image shown here – or you can get the complete package with all the fonts for an introductory price of only $49. The package is available for Windows or Macintosh, including both TrueType and Postscript fonts. The special introductory price is only going to last only through the end of November. You can order our Letterpress Fonts collection online and dowload it immediately. Just CLICK HERE TO ORDER
We’ve been working hard on developing a new package of fonts based on classic Letterpress designs and that package is almost complete. Rounding out the collection is our new Big Show font, which is a kind of a swanky 1960s take on the classic circus fonts of the 1890s which have come to be associated with the wild west era. It has the giant block serifs of that style, but rounder lines which give it a look that seems more 1960s than 1890s.
Big Show has a full uppercase character set, plus a set of variant characters with more distressed versions of the main character set. It also has numbers and punctuation. The overall effect is rough, but attractive and it creates a strong impression.
Something old. Something new. We’ve done a lot of fonts lately based on antique type and lettering, so here’s something brand new, a font designed to look like the output of a rubber stamp. It’s in the tradition of our Draughtwork and Roughwork fonts, with a sort of technical look.
Stampwork has two versions of the uppercase character set. One set features over and underline artifacts like those produced by the edge of a rubber stamp which is pressed down too hard. The other set is plain. There are also alternative line artifact characters to add variation.
José Guadalupe Posada was a Mexican printer, engraver, cartoonist and illustrator of the late 19th and early 20th century who was enormously influential on the development of Mexican Folk art styles which continue today. Posada is best known for his Calavera cartoons and illustrations which satirized his fellow Mexicans as skeletons in the tradition of Dia de los Muertos. Many of Posada’s cartoons were published as single-sheet handbills and included original hand-lettered captions and titles in a style reminiscent of period newspaper headlines. We’ve previously collected many of Posada’s Calavera lithographs in our Macabre Fonts and Art Collection and now we’re releasing our first font based on Posada’s lettering, somewhat unimaginatively tagged with his name. It’s a rough and bold all-caps character set with alternative caps on the lower case keys, with an offset positioning which Posada used in a number of his cartoons, as demonstrated in the sample to the right. You can try out the free demo version of Posada for either MacOS or Windows. It features just the characters of the standard set. The full combined version of Posada is available on our Ordering Site.