Students’ letterpress posters showcased at National Library

Next generation of designers revisit traditional print skills

Date posted

30 March 2016

13:22

The designers of tomorrow have used traditional printing techniques and technology to create an eye-catching poster display.

Students on Edinburgh Napier’s BDes (Hons) Graphic Design course worked at Robert Smail’s Printing Works in Innerleithen to create limited edition letterpress posters.

The project, part of celebrations to mark the National Trust for Scotland property’s 150th anniversary, is being showcased at an exhibition opening at the National Library of Scotland on 1 April. 

The Ink Differently display features posters which were handset using wooden and metal type and printed on the original printing press at Robert Smail’s Printing Works which dates from 1886.

Gen Harrison, Property Manager/Compositor at Robert Smail’s Printing Works said: “This has given us a fantastic opportunity to work with the University’s Graphic Design students to produce a limited edition of letterpress posters to celebrate our special year. 

“Printing, including letterpress, was taught at Napier for over 40 years - from the time it was a college in the 1960s until the millennium. It was where the final generation of time-served compositors and printers were taught - including many with links to Robert Smail's. 

“As Smail's moves beyond its 150 years it is important to ensure it has a value and importance to each new generation. It has been fantastic passing these traditional skills on, as well as seeing their creations. 

“In this world of fast-paced digital imagery, it has been wonderful working with these young people and seeing them develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of printing and a love of letterpress as a craft. The works they have made showcase this brilliantly.”

The National Library of Scotland has supported the project by displaying the final results of the students’ efforts.

The experience has made a lasting impression on the students.

Nuria Boj Negrete said: “For me, Smail's was a very inspiring experience that connected me with the traditional medium, and helped me develop a better understanding of the roots of graphic design. It was amazing to see the process of lettering and learning to work within its limitations.” 

Natasha Broomfield added: “Smail's is one of a kind. We were truly immersed in the experience from start to finish, thanks to the team, who were passionate and attentive. There is no better feeling than spending long days at Smail's, getting your hands dirty and being a part of history.” 

Future/Past: Ink Differently runs at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh from 1 April - 2 May 2016.