New Business Cards with a Rich History

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Whenever I go to the MN State Fair I make a point of stopping by the Newspaper Museum because you can see the old school printing presses in action. I appreciate the fine workmanship up close and marvel at engineering that went into those machines sometimes a century ago. Although the machines are obsolete for newspaper printing, they are now used to give printed material an extra touch of luxury and craftsmanship.

Although design technology and tools have advanced rapidly, the time-honored method of letterpress printing adds a tactile and unique character to printed pieces. I’ve been interested in using letterpress printing for a while now, and the opportunity finally arose when Kazoo needed new business cards. Ellen brought in her good friend Morgan Hiscocks, who is a letterpress aficionado and frequent volunteer with the Minnesota Newspaper Museum, to help us execute the project. Morgan has a Heidelberg Platen Press (see video below), a printing machine that was introduced in 1914. It’s one of the pieces of century old equipment that I’m especially excited to see in action at the Newspaper Museum every year.

We designed our cards digitally, and then a PDF of the design was used to create negatives, which Morgan then used to create photo polymer plates. During the printing process, an automated roller applies ink–perfectly matched to Kazoo’s brand color–to the polymer plate, which is then pressed against the paper to transfer the design. We chose a medium weight, cotton paper that allowed the press to make an imprint on the card without showing through to the other side.

The finishing touch on the cards was the edge painting. Ellen used a book press to compress the cards and then apply our supporting brand colors to just the edges of the cards. This last step added a subtle touch of color that brightened up the cards and made them a little more playful. We encourage all our clients who want something unique and luxurious to consider letterpress printing!

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Print History Fact: Many people know about the Gutenberg Press, invented by Johann Gutenberg in Germany around 1450. However, the first printing ever done was by the Chinese. Relief Printing, a process in which you cut away from a flat surface and apply ink to the remaining raised surface, dates back to third century BCE China.

 
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Mila Samson