Nick Loar­ing ex­plains how he fused the sound of 74 bands into one fes­ti­val poster

Computer Arts - - Contents -

How Nick Loar­ing fused 74 bands into just one fes­ti­val poster


Nick Loar­ing Hav­ing worked with them nu­mer­ous times over the last five years, I was more than happy to help Leeds-based de­sign agency Split De­sign with their These North­ern Types ex­hi­bi­tion. Ex­plic­itly look­ing at what it is to be ‘North­ern’, my brief was to pro­duce a fic­ti­tious gig poster that was ‘a big fat love let­ter to the North’ – show­cas­ing a wide va­ri­ety of bands that are from… well you know where.


Af­ter the ini­tial buzz of a new job sub­sides, panic usu­ally sets in. Need­ing to pro­duce some­thing is al­ways a good mo­ti­va­tor to start pulling stuff to­gether, and there’s noth­ing quite like a dead­line to whip you into shape. On this project I was asked to re­spond to an ar­ti­cle by [The Guardian’s mu­sic blog­ger] Ben­jamin Myers and a list of 74 bands, with a poster in­tended to rep­re­sent the North’s con­tri­bu­tion to British mu­sic. All 74 of these bands needed to be on the poster, and the rest was up to me. Some ini­tial scrib­bles were made in my note­book, even­tu­ally worked up in Il­lus­tra­tor on my an­cient com­puter to see if any­thing started to stick. I can mock up a poster much quicker this way and it helps me ex­haust a range of pos­si­bil­i­ties that work­ing en­tirely by hand doesn’t of­ten af­ford me.


De­sign­ing through a print­ing process might sound like a weird way to make a print, but that’s what I do – the ma­chines that I use all in­flu­ence (and some­times dic­tate) what I can and can’t do. Like­wise, the type that I use is en­tirely based around what I have, which might seem like an odd con­cept in 2018, but that’s the way it is for me. Split De­sign’s cre­ative di­rec­tor Oli Bent­ley had agreed on the size of the print be­fore I be­gan, as he liked the unique­ness of the long nar­row for­mat I’d used for the posters de­signed for my gig col­lec­tive Golden Cabi­net (365mm x 700mm). This size was achieved by ‘trick­ing’ my 1972 Kor­rex proof­ing press into print­ing a big­ger sheet than it should.

Colour choices are worked out early on as most of my prints are any­where be­tween two and five colours, and lim­i­ta­tions again play a part as let­ter­press print­ing presses are all sin­gle colour ma­chines – the more ink colours I use the more it has to go through the press. I opted for five colours: two or­anges, two pinks, a dark navy and black. This will end up be­ing a to­tal of eight runs once the print is fin­ished. The ink I use is oil-based and trans­par­ent – mean­ing that if you over­print blue with yel­low, the ar­eas that over­lap will go green. This ef­fect is al­ways a part of my posters and can be ei­ther ac­cen­tu­ated or re­duced by adding trans­par­ent or opaque white ink. I wanted many ‘noises’ on this poster that over­lapped, wig­gled and wob­bled all over to build up lay­ers like the best types of mu­sic.


I’ve now played around with var­i­ous el­e­ments in Il­lus­tra­tor, happy with how ev­ery­thing looks. The de­sign is in­tended to look floaty – like sounds that float through the air at fes­ti­vals – over­lap­ping onto each other and mak­ing new sounds. My pre­vi­ous posters gen­er­ally use ei­ther laser-cut MDF or acrylic to print from, which is very ex­act­ing and clean. But here I

felt that hand-cut lino was more suit­able. I print out the fi­nal de­sign on a laser writer as tiles and stick them back to­gether with mask­ing tape. Colour sep­a­ra­tions are also printed out at this point. Trac­ing pa­per is then put over the print­outs, and traced us­ing a pen­cil, this sheet is then flipped and placed onto a sheet of lino and traced onto it so that the de­sign is back to front. I cut the lines with a lino cut­ting tool and then use a Stan­ley knife to cut the shapes out. Each time I trace and cut these shapes they change.


The cut pieces of lino are stuck onto a piece of MDF board with dou­ble sided tape and raised to type high (the height of mov­able type), which is the stan­dard that British print­ing presses are set at. I then use MDF board as the forme (to lock loose type let­ters to­gether), trans­fer­ring it into the bed of the press and lock­ing it in place so not to move dur­ing the print run. The first run is the light or­ange, so I mix some ink ac­cord­ing to my Pan­tone swatch book and then ink up the press. I open the cylin­der head’s grip­pers and feed in a sheet by hand, keep­ing it aligned us­ing the lays. I then turn the han­dle so the cylin­der trav­els across the forme, ink­ing and print­ing the sheet in one go. Once the sheet is re­leased at the end of the press I take this out, re­turn­ing the cylin­der to the feed po­si­tion. Or­anges are printed first, then the pinks, blues and blacks.


With two colours down, the print al­ways looks a bit thin. How­ever, af­ter lay­er­ing up con­trast­ing colours it all starts to come alive and the dif­fer­ence be­tween what’s on screen and an ac­tual print be­gins to shine. Ev­ery­thing is much big­ger, brighter and sharper. The over­lay­ing of the inks starts to work its magic and more lay­ers be­come vis­i­ble which adds to the over­all ‘mu­sic feel’. Once these two colours are down I switch over to a big­ger press (a Van­der­cook SP20) to print a large pink sec­tion as the Kor­rex is too small. As the Van­der­cook is miss­ing its ink­ing rollers I ink 40 prints by hand.

As­sem­bling the brass ma­tri­ces (each en­graved with a unique let­ter) on my hot metal Lud­low type­cast­ing ma­chine, the band names are set into words as they’re in­serted. Molten lead is then fired into them to in­stantly so­lid­ify, cast­ing the words set on a 12pt slug. This process is con­tin­ued un­til all 74 names are pro­duced. I chose Square Gothic type for

“…more lay­ers be­come vis­i­ble which adds to the over­all ‘mu­sic feel’.”

its bold­ness and crisp­ness. Once the type is proofed, it’s locked up and printed be­fore melt­ing the type back down again so it can be used for fu­ture projects.


You may re­mem­ber ear­lier I men­tioned that each time I trace and cut any­thing it changes, and that’s what I wanted to do for the text at the top of the poster. Small text, how­ever, doesn’t trace very well. So into my laser-cut­ter went two pieces of lino that let me cut a faint out­line of Beau­ti­ful Wild Noises from The North us­ing an uniden­ti­fied 12 pica Grotesque in my col­lec­tion

– these had been scanned in and dis­torted in Il­lus­tra­tor. I then take my lino cut­ting tool and cut out the type, stick it on an MDF board and proof it. Any ad­just­ments needed are made and then the last black sec­tion is printed. Black turned out to be more chal­leng­ing than I ex­pected, so I opted to put the pre­vi­ous colour (blue) on last. Prints some­times change on press and this was a good ex­am­ple – I added in an­other ‘blob’ as I felt it needed it.

Once the print is dry, I trim the ends of the sheet, and sign and num­ber them. Fi­nally, it’s ready to dis­play at These North­ern Types.

xx 0101 “The first thing I do is sketch out ideas and words that im­me­di­ately spring to mind.”02 Mix­ing ink – or­ange is mixed with ei­ther trans­par­ent or opaque white to em­pha­sise or re­duce lay­er­ing.03 “I trace the shapes onto a large sheet of lino, ready for cut­ting later on.”







0904 Things are start­ing to liven up on press af­ter four passes – two shades of both or­ange and pink.05 05 “Rolling up the ink with a brayer, which I then use to dis­trib­ute ink onto the press while it’s run­ning.”06 This is the freshly cast (inked) type off the type­caster, which is locked into the press.07 Af­ter the type has been printed and checked, it’s left on the dry­ing rack to air.08 The out­line of the piece is far too fine to cut by hand. So in­stead, it’s laser-cut.09 09 09 09 “Proof­ing the type – – – – here I can cut away the parts I’m un­happy with.” 10 The fi­nal print run on the press. 11 The fin­ished framed poster.


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