Speaking of the interplay between analog and digital techniques, one thing that I do quite often is make digital mock-ups of something that will be letterpress printed. It’s a quick way to work with multiple colors, transparency, and sometimes, depending on the discrepancy between a face in lead and a face in bytes, the computer can be used to rough out what type set by hand will look like.
(Side Thought: Might it be useful to have a digitally rendered version of certain faces in lead, at an accurate scale and set width? One of them main advantages of digital design is the “bottomless typecase” and how it allows for the breaking of one massive barrier to book design: the ability to see the book and the text as a complete sequence before all the time is spent setting it in lead. A printer might have enough type to set a small book of poems up in its entirety, but it is rare that one printer has enough of one face to set even a short (10 or more 5” x 8” pages) prose piece. One could have one’s book Monotype cast as a whole thing, and then refine in the stick from there, but a) that’s expensive and time-consuming, and b) you end up with a lot of Monotype afterwards.)
I start the design process with the color digital mock-up, testing out a bunch of ideas, usually moving from very drastically different overall approaches to very small refinements once a general design has decided upon. (The mock-ups are usually made as multi-page InDesign documents so that I can click through and compare different versions rapidly.)
The images above show some of the mock-ups for the cover/jacket of ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [an island]. The long images are what the cover will look like completely folded out (there are flaps that wrap around to the inside of the book) and the smaller images are what the front cover would look like on its own. The paper I will be using is orange, and the printing will be in a bunch of different colors, at varying degrees of opacity, all overprinted closely. The transparent gray circle is actually a digital rendering of an already existing relief block. (We have lots of interesting shape blocks at the Press at CC, and I often make digital versions of them. Which goes back to my earlier comments about a digital lead type.) This cover, despite all the colors, will actually only be printed with one polymer plate and the single circle relief block. It will be 7 or 8 runs (there’s printing on the interior too). It’s always interesting to see the real, physical print slowly emerge at the press after I’ve become so familiar with the screen version. I am always surprised by how the printed thing looks, by how much better it looks, by how real it is someone’s hands.