Behind the Scenes at Typecraft Wood & Jones

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I have just become aware of the extremely gorgeous catalog Stefan Bucher designed this Spring for Deborah Butterfield’s exhibition at L.A. Louver. How this catalog came to be so beautiful is a stellar story of designer-printer collaboration, so let’s go there.

On his own blog, Stefan has documented his translation of the artist’s work and her process to the printed page. At the end of his perfectly-paced, highly-illustrated read, this bit made me prick up my editorial ears: And let’s not even talk about the printing. Except to say that it took five days and nights, because I put in oodles of complex crossovers that make printers go crazy, and make it so I get to sleep on press for a week. But, as per usual, my friends at Typecraft worked miracles. So, Stefan put me in touch with David Mayes at Typecraft, who explained in 6-color detail how he put Stefan’s original design vision through the budgetary reality filter with reverse deadline calculation attachment.

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As you can see on Stefan’s blog, he gave each of the 18 sculptures its own section, introduced with a solid full-bleed spread – which he planned as a CMYK build. {Decoded: What looked like a single color would in fact be “mixed” on press from tiny, tiny dots of the same four colors used to print the photographs of the sculptures.} However, if you think about how a book is put together from different signatures, you can understand Typecraft’s concern that the shade on the left-hand page would not match the shade on the right-hand page, because the two pages would be run on separate press-sheets – along with photographs whose imagery required differing color adjustments.

Because Typecraft specializes in art catalogs, this is precisely the sort of thorny issue {Stefan’s term} they excel at dealing with – ideally, as early in the creative process as possible. David comments, “Stefan immediately understood why we recommended switching these 18 tints to individual spot colors. He also understood that the budget couldn’t bear 18 of them, so he reduced the number to six – and we ran them at different densities on different spreads, which in essence created six additional tints. Stefan sequenced the tints throughout the book to ‘hide’ the recurrences.”

Then, the Typecraft team {owner J.J. Gish, sales manager Joe Nuñez, and pressroom manager Bill Heron} moved on to the challenge of sequencing the signatures, based on the spot colors. Thanks to the book’s small format {Bonus Card!}, two signatures fit on a sheet. The 6-color Heidelberg could handle the four process colors {CMYK} plus two spot colors in a single press pass – bearing in mind that color adjustments on press for the images on one signature would impact the imagery on the other signature. Stefan adds, “At this point, we also decided to switch from a matte paper to a glossy sheet, to get better color fidelity. We added a satin aqueous coating to protect the sheets during the bindery processes and give the matte look and feel we wanted.”

Back to the finessing on press: Not only were the CMYK interstitial spreads switched to spot colors. Not only were the signatures paired on their press-sheets by analyzing the requirements of the CMYK imagery and the spot colors. But the sequence of inks on press was varied to optimize color fidelity. Stefan says, “In some cases, the sequence of crossovers led us to points where we had to pull and redo plates. There was simply no other way to get color we’d be happy with. A visiting colleague accurately summed it up as a Rubik’s Cube of Printing!” I am too awed by the complexity of the process and the beauty of the result, to make a pun about not changing horses in midstream!

Photography: Stefan Bucher and David Mayes.

Alyson Kuhn, the editor of Felt & Wire, has several years’ experience in combining {and often layering} specialty-printing techniques on small surfaces, almost always one color at a time. The Butterfield saga almost boggled her bridle!

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Comments (1)

  1. Posted by Laura on 06.16.09 at 8:09 pm

    I’ve surfed over to Stefan’s site and was AMAZED at the diagonal crossovers. Well done Typecraft!

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