Alan Kitching plays with type

As someone who spent countless hours of her childhood in her mother’s letterpress studio – doing odd jobs, scoring paper, organizing boxes of envelopes and playing with the ancient-looking wood and metal type in the old, wooden pull-out drawers, I totally get the overwhelming sensation Alan Kitching felt when he first stepped foot into the commercial typesetter where he apprenticed when he was fifteen. Kitching is now a much older man with a long gray beard and a long-established graphic design and letterpress career, but it was at that moment as a teenager when he walked into the letterpress office that he knew he had found his home.

You might think someone whose chosen profession involves hours of back bending work humped over a desk or huddled over a Heidelberg would live in relative obscurity, but Kitching, who’s known for his bold use of wood and metal letterforms printed in bright colors has been given several honors (and graphic designers are seldom officially honored). He was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry and was elected to the Alliance Graphique International. He makes no distinction between personal and commercial work – both are equally free and expressive. He’s done projects for The Creative Review, The National Theatre, Dazed & Confused, Penguin Books, Random House and Saatchi, to name only a few (see images below).

His name is in the news now because he’s once again leading The Typography Workshop in Kennington, a two-day letterpress intensive, coming up in September. For anyone with the means and the inclination, it’s a must – literally one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. If you’ve ever taken a roller to a thick pool of bright ink and watched it glide along the barrels of a finely tuned letterpress machine, you know the feeling. Those sensations – the grooves of the paper, the hum of the cylinders, the smell of the press and the freedom to play with thousands of pieces of type really are worth a $1,225 workshop with a master craftsman and his team.

Have a great idea of your own? Send it to QUIRKY, premiering in August on Sundance Channel