As sometimes happens, my teenage daughter the design maven, pointed my attention to a very interesting website, in this case showcasing the work of printer and designer Ross MacDonald (not to be confused with the pulp novelist who authored the Lew Archer series). His specialty is producing antique looking original printed works using old technology and clever tricks. He’s designed special books for movies like the Bible featured in the recent movie Book of Eli and has also produced custom letterpress work for posters and book cover designs, and is the creator of a series of peculiar vintage-style cartoons which I had seen before in various magazines but never really looked into more deeply.
MacDonald documents much of his work very thoroughly, with images, videos and explanatory articles on his website. His latest article is on a really fascinating hand-designed book called Wapurgisnacht created for an upcoming horror movie project, though he won’t reveal which one. The details on the construction of the book and the aging techniques are really fascinating, particularly his use of material from other antique books scanned and reconfigured to fit his needs.
Also fascinating is some of the work coming out of his Brightwork Press, which is a collection of old printing presses and an amazing assortment of antique letterpress type located in a workshop behind his house. A good example of this work is his article on a letterpress print project he did to create a title page for an article in LA Magazine, which also includes an excellent and detailed video of his presswork. The article on the letterpress printing he did for the Bible in Book of Eli is also interesting. And don’t forget to check out some of the peculiar vintage-style illustrations and cartoons he’s done for publications like The New York Times.
My one complaint — aside from not knowing what secret horror movie he’s designing the Walpurgisnacht book for — is that I wish there was more on MacDonald’s website. I suspect he’s done many other interesting projects, but only a few from the last year or so are documented. I have high hopes that if we keep an eye on his webpage we’ll get to see a lot more in the future.
A slightly different version of this article appeared previously on Blogcritics Magazine.