On the Road with Moveable Type

Few would have chosen to build a new studio in the shell of a 1982 Chevy Step Van. Kyle Durrie did, so she could take her press on the road. Eight months into her nation-wide tour, she arrived in Greenville, South Carolina where I met her at a demonstration at the Greenville Library.

Her truck welcomes visitors to ink a page with one of her two presses. On tap for today: a souvenir of the event reading “Greenville Type Truck, 2.16.12.”

When I arrived with my daughter, we rolled the red ink onto the letterblocks. After carefully positioning the paper and locking it into place, we pulled the press across coating the page with this image:

Moveable type gained widespread popularity starting in 1435 AD with the invention of the Gutenburg printing press. The moveable type press created what we now refer to as “mass communication” – the ability to reproduce and send the same information to many people.

Moveable type has now been relegated to the artist community as computer and personal printing technology has diminshed the need for a letter press. But, moveable type presses have a lot to teach us about why desktop publishing (on Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign or other programs) is set up the way that it is. In fact, using a letter press should be a required lesson for all students learning about graphic and layout design.

Three things we might learn about Microsoft Word from moveable type:

  1. Font Size: Font size seems tricky to many authors because different fonts do not appear to be the same size when both are 12-point, for example. The size of a font depends on the size of its largest, quirkiest letters and is related to the size of the block onto which it would be placed.
  2. Leading: Named for the strips of lead that were placed between rows of text, leading is the space between lines.
  3. Kerning: Kerning refers to the space between characters. The term comes from the word corner, because the corners of the letter block could be cut to allow overlap of space between characters.

To learn more about Durrie’s mission to spread moveable type across the country, visit her website, www.type-truck.com.

Moveable Type Truck from Jon Hall on Vimeo.

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