Although rarely studied in today’s classroom, commercial engraving for print is a vital element in the practical history of graphic design, typography, and media studies.
This notion, presented last fall at ATypI in Dublin and the APHA conference in Washington, D.C., is based on more than a decade of independent study of steel die and copper plate engraving, the recent installation of a working engraving proofing press and the establishment of a new and growing engraving community in the great American city beneath the sea (New Orleans).
This is the first new and only robust commercial print engraving community in North America.
The legacy through which we have studied, and viewed, graphic design, typography and the book arts primarily have been through the lens of the letterpress form. For over 500 years, almost all of our print communication was fashioned within this framework and according to a necessary, or implied grid. In the western world, almost every description of commercial visual communication is presented in this format; books, newspapers, periodicals, even the orientation and navigation of websites depend on a grid for their structure.
Engraving, on the other hand, is a fluid, free-hand expression restricted only by the perimeter of the surface upon which an engraving is worked. The exquisite beauty and gracefulness of arcs and shading inherent in the engraved line is unparalleled and had become, until very recently, a moribund craft. This was most unfortunate because for centuries prior to the digital age, engraving was the permanent record for teaching and innovation in lettering and especially calligraphy. This presentation will address ways in which the organic nature of steel die and copper plate engraved imagery and text complement and enhance visual experience, why and how engraving should be part of any modern graphic design community. By providing examples of elegant and unique engraved imagery, techniques and methodology, we can inspire the next generation of visual thinkers to keep this important art form alive.
Nancy Sharon Collins has been cited almost sixty times in popular media for her exemplary bespoke hand-engraved social stationery. She is a stationer, veteran graphic designer, typographer, independent print history scholar, partner in Collins, LLC, director of special projects for the AIGA New Orleans chapter, and instructor of design at Southeastern Louisiana University. Her book about American commercial engraving is due out in the autumn of 2012.
TDC members: free
Non members: $20
Student non members: $15