OK, this is proof that letterpress stationery has hit a peak in popularity: Apple is surfing the wave.
There was a thread of discussion running through the NGA Print Symposium about the way that letterpress is marketed in the design world, now that its original purpose (printing everyday items of information) has been made obsolete. This promo ticks all the boxes:
-- the essential sideways shot of the final product so that you can see the physical difference to an offset or digital print
-- the use of creamy pastel colours, to appeal to the (mostly female) consumer base
-- the language used in the video and blurb, with all the right buzzwords:
one of a kind
beauty seen and felt
elegantly crafted design
unique letterpress elements
The last two made me guffaw: elegantly crafted design... WTF does that mean?
And unique letterpress elements... the mere use of the word element suggests that there is more than one building block that can be chosen, which negates the word unique.
Note to universe: if it's unique, there can only be ONE of it. Something cannot be quite unique. Either it is or isn't.
There is NO WAY anything printed in multiples is unique. You can personalise it, but it will still only be unique if you only ever print one. Every time I see a site where you get to pick out pre-designed elements to put something together that is 'unique', I always think of that bit in Monty Python's Life of Brian:
Yes, we are all individuals!
I'm very interested in the emphasis on printing being physically noticable, as if embossing/debossing is a signifier of taste or cultural difference. A number of years ago, embossing was something tacky done to Christmas and birthday cards and then covered in glitter. There seems to be a deep need to resist the flatness of contemporary printing... or maybe the flatness of contemporary consumerism? That would explain the whole craft industry.
I cannot set myself apart from this trend; I take the sideways shots, I have been know to create deeply bitten surfaces, and occasionally I use photopolymer plate to print from. I'm also working on a line of cards to sell at exclusive venues in Canberra. I am part of this. But I've never been one to just jump in and join; I have to understand why it's happening, and to try to participate meaningfully.
Actually, the way I am different is that I'm not a design/craft studio, I'm repurposing letterpress towards printmaking rather than design, which is the other way that the equipment is surviving in Australia particularly. I don't make these exquisitely clean surfaces, because to me that would be no different to making a digital or offset print. I guess I use the ink in the way these printers use embossing plates -- to differentiate myself from contemporary commercial printing.
There is a conference in the UK about this on Friday that I would kill to be at, but I don't have the money to get there. I'm hoping to get the papers afterwards for a jolly good read. One of the reasons why I'm thinking through this stuff aloud to you is that I'm trying to write a paper on this for a printing conference in Melbourne next year. So any (constructive) discussion in comments would be most welcome :)