Kitching started Omnific studio with Martin Lee and Derek Birdsall, who he had met through Anthony Froshaug, in the late 1970s. They worked from a studio in Covent Garden, then still surrounded by typesetters and other service people, until rents shot up and they moved out to a toy factory in Islington. By this time some foundries were starting to sell off their type, and Omnific bought up a press and installed it at their new studio: “All this type was selling off cheap, cheap-ish, and it was the last chance to get this stuff. So we bought it all and I continued printing there for around three years until I decided I wanted to leave. I didn’t really know what I was going to do but I wanted to buy the press and the type and go and print somewhere”, Kitching says. “I didn’t want to be a jobbing printer but I wanted to start out on my own. It was a very precarious thing to do because we were successful, well-established, and I was taking a backwards step, it was a bit of a leap in the dark.”
The new book, Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress, will be published Laurence King on April 7. A ‘Collectors Edition‘ of only 200 copies featuring a limited edition, numbered print by Kitching will also be available. Laurence King have produced four short teaser trailers for the book:
The Guardian visits the London home of designer, artist and typographer Alan Kitching:
The rooms in Alan Kitching’s home are arranged like one of his letterpress prints. Some are stacked, some are wedged, some aren’t in the right place. One dominates, while others bow out. But each room, like each letter, makes an impact and has a purpose.
From the outside, it’s obvious this isn’t an ordinary home: three large, shop-style window panels showcase Kitching’s iconic prints – word-based images in big, bold type. A fourth is given over to local notices: jumble sales and student art shows. “That was Celia’s idea,” Kitching says. “She was more gregarious than me.” Celia Stothard, his late wife, bought the property 19 years ago. She chose it for its flexibility: a place for them to live and hold talks, exhibitions and performances. She was a designer and artist, too, as well as a jazz singer.
The building is a former alehouse in Kennington, south London, buttressed up against a courthouse (local folklore has it that Charlie Chaplin used to come here to fetch jugs of ale for his mother). Storage rooms cascade off the back of the ground floor, where Kitching runs the Typography Workshop, into a cellar crammed with his extensive, 19th-century type collection. Upstairs, a high-ceilinged mezzanine has a reading nook reachable only by the swivel of a library ladder.
In a special report, WNYC’s On the Media recently took a look at the publishing industry and print books. It covers a lot of ground — including the subversive history of adult colouring books, Amazon’s bricks-and-mortar bookstore, and South Korea’s quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature — but the opening segment, ‘Why the Publishing Industry Isn’t in Peril‘, withLA Times books editor Carolyn Kellogg is an excellent overview of the current state of US publishing:
At The Bookseller, designer David Pearson talks about his new cover designs for Pushkin Press’s ‘Found on the Shelves’ series celebrating 175 years of the London Library:
At the heart of successful series design is motif – be it colour, type, grid, imagery, or other visual touchpoints – yet Pearson’s latest covers for Pushkin are perhaps less obviously groupable. “The series identifier is a subtle one,” he says, “but it is present in the use of decorative borders. I had begun to explore this idea of active border-making with some of Pushkin’s Collection Covers; the idea being that a decorative border can provide a layer of meaning or a tension point within the cover, and not simply act as a framing device.
“For The London Library series, this takes the form of overlapping tyre treads in ‘Cycling: The Craze of the Hour’; snaking, northbound steam in ‘The Lure of the North‘. It’s a small thing to hang your ideas on – and it matters little if no one notices it – but it ensured that I didn’t flounder at the beginning of the design process, as I had something to kick against, an inbuilt challenge to wrestle with.”
Pearson attributes much of the covers’ liveliness to the illustration, which he is quick to credit: “I intend to broaden the illustrative scope [further titles are scheduled for November] but for this first selection I’m relying on tried, trusted and incredibly talented hands. Joe Mclaren produced the illustrations for ‘On Corpulence’ and ‘Life in a Bustle’ – and as with all of Joe’s work, the result is joyous.” The additional images were sourced from illustrations within the texts themselves, giving some of the covers a distinctly vintage appearance.
Each of the covers will print using a spot colour – one outside the gamut of four-colour CMYK printing, as it cannot be created using a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (“key”); as a consequence of this it is bolder, more vibrant and less ubiquitous (and therefore more striking) – and will feature black foil-blocking on uncoated paper stock.