The People Powered Press at Clerkenwell Design Week

Journal · 14th June 2019

Sweaty, grimy – one of us a bit bloodied – and wearing our scruffiest clothes – that’s how we rock up to design festivals.

We’d loaded the tonne or so of the People Powered Press into the van early that morning, and by 4pm when we arrived at Clerkenwell Design Week we probably didn’t quite fit ‘the look’.

The festival’s website explains, “Clerkenwell is home to more creative businesses and architects per square mile than anywhere else on the planet, making it truly one of the most important design hubs in the world.”

Pondering on that little nugget of London-centric PR (and with memories of our spoof launch of The North™ from our “Shoreditch studio” fresh in our memories), we’d set off from another beautifully creative patch of land to head south with the People Powered Press.

We were heading for Fedrigoni’s Studio on Clerkenwell Road, where the press would be in residence for three days, alongside Foilco, who were running foiling workshops and taster sessions.

As our hosts, Fedrigoni provided the beautiful Materica paper, in ten colours, to print large-format B1 posters with visitors to the festival… and beer. They also gave us and our guests all beer – with their massive beer fridges providing as much of a draw as our massive type.

Over the next three days, we gave a number of talks about the press, about its accompanying typeface, Graft, and about These Northern Types, the project from which the press first emerged, to dozens of festival guests.

Over 100 of them printed posters on the press which they could take away afterwards – design students, letterpress enthusiasts, artists and lots of groups taking long lunch breaks from local design studios – some of them disappearing towards Farringdon tube station, working out strategies to get their massive posters home unsmudged…

The press saw constant action, and it was good to see it featured as one of Time Out London’s top five picks from the festival on the back of the recent World Record announcement.

It was also good to meet a surprising number of people who told us about the printing presses or type they had hidden away in their lofts – or in their grandparents’ memories – and to have so many conversations with people who were excited by the physicality of the press and the Graft typeface – people who spend much of their working life designing digitally as we do. Not to mention the many, many designers living and working in London who’d moved there from Yorkshire and other places in the north of England and who seemed particularly pleased to see us!

Clerkenwell Design Week also turned out to be the perfect opportunity to launch Graft digitally, in four weights.

And then it was Thursday afternoon, and the tonne or so of metal that makes up the press had to be taken apart again and loaded back into the van for its journey home to Leeds.

Oh, and then Oli had to change his travel plans (and his attire… in a fish and chip shop toilet, we hear!) when we discovered that These Northern Types had been nominated in both the Typography and Book Design categories at the D&AD Awards – picking up a wooden pencil for typography. Read more here…