Ditch Devices and Play with Wood Blocks

— Tyler Hughes, WE 

Digital is dead. Well, not really, but it sure feels like it when you’re shimmying wood blocks together and covering them with ink. Part arts and crafts, part precursor to our computers, the letter press is a clanking contraption that rolls thunderously, turning out hand inked messages, personally crafted images and charming notes. Needless to say, while using a letterpress you’ll forget all about the phone in your pocket. 

Last week, ten WE employees took a break from their screens and keyboards and embarked on a Field Trip to the School of Visual Concepts. The Field Trip perk, available to employees from Learning and Development, sends employees on out-of-the-office excursions to broaden horizons, try something new, and learn a little more about the world around them. Yep, just like in grade school. Which is how we found ourselves donning aprons, spattering ink and pressing posters on a rainy Seattle morning.

Letterpress WE EmployeeDivesting from our digital tethers for a couple of hours to do something more analog and hands on was a refreshing experience – and one that brought some unique challenges. With no “undo” button on a letter press, we were pushed to be more flexible, to improvise, and to “under think” our projects, and it provided a new perspective. “Embrace if something doesn’t come out perfect, or not how you pictured it,” said Jenn Lee. “Accept that, maybe, it looks better that way and that maybe perfection isn’t always the ultimate goal.” Did a couple of letters slip when you did your press? Maybe you look at it as a feature instead of a flaw, and adjust your next press to mimic the out of line letters. Keeley Hughes put it in other terms: “Put the Type-A side away, and just do what you will.” Aside from always remembering to wear your apron when using ink, here are a few other key takeaways from our letter press field trip:

Make it work. Things are always going to change and you’ll have to field a curve ball or two. Go in with a plan, but be ready to adapt and improvise, and maybe turn a negative into a positive, if your well laid strategies slip a bit and you have to make it work.

Letterpress SeattlePlan ahead, and layer up. The best letter pressed posters layer in multiple elements of visuals and text to create truly stunning work. This take some planning, and bringing the right pieces into play at the right times. When putting together a campaign, plan ahead of time how you’re going to layer in your I&A, Social Digital and other experts. “The practice of layering the different elements on the page,” said Joshua Eubanks, “talks a little bit to the potential of using our different departments to tell a beautiful story.”

You have more creative freedom than you think. Give me your most creative idea, but stay in this budget. We’ve all heard that before. It’s daunting, but maybe you have more creative freedom than you think. Here’s how Vincent Jacobi put it: “On one hand we could do whatever we wanted on the letterpress, but we’re still working within the confines of things, such as a set number of colors, or the shapes that were available. But, there was still room to be creative.”

Disconnecting can provide perspective. Sometimes inspiration doesn’t just come from getting out of the office. You may also need to leave your comfort zone, such trading your keyboard for some ink. “Working with something that’s not digital frees up a different side of your creativity,” said Jenn Lee. That different side of your creativity can help you find a novel solution for a client, or add a little extra sparkle to your next event. “It’s important to do something hands on and disconnect,” said Jennifer Archer, “It can make you be more productive.”

Check out our highlight video of our team having some fun at Letterpress. Click below.


Connect with the author, Tyler Hughes, on Twitter and LinkedIn