University of Oregon, Eugene, USA
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Project. Letterpress Postcard Edition

Purpose. To allow beginning students to explore the limitations and versatility of letterpress printing as a medium.

Assignment. Design and production of anonymous text-based postcards, mobilizing the authority of type and the expressive capabilities of handset composition. "Wish You Were Here" must appear on every card.

Step 1 - Discuss Precedents. Highlight re-mixing strategies by a range of practitioners: i.e. Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Marcel Broodthaers, Dieter Roth, Ed Ruscha, Fluxus, DJ Spooky and the Stencilists.

Step 2 - Set Parameters/Set Versos. Limit number of typefaces and ink colors that can be used on a single card. Identify a single phrase to appear on every card (wish/you/were/here). Set and print one standard form for the versos to create continuity across the edition.

Step 3 - Write + Print Prospectuses. Considering the act of appropriation and translation, participants write text for a prospectus that frames the project's intentions Prospectus may contain practical information about edition size, number of participants, date, site and sources; or it may convey an opaque message - the choice is left to the designer. The copy is then typeset by hand and printed.

Step 4 - Remix! Participants cull a passage from an extant source - literature, song, news media or advertising- then fragment, re-order and repeat it to create fields of visual and semantic interest. The phrase (wish/you/were/here) is looped-in. Contrasts, shifts in size, weight and orientation are deployed. Display type or inverted wooden letters may be locked up and printed as a random ground onto which other carefully composed forms appear.

Step 5 - Send + Receive. Cards are numbered, addressed and sent through the post, yet in the spirit of Duchamp, who destabilized the notion of a consistent edition, the receiver is sent only one from the pool of possible prospectuses. This single printed piece informs the receiver's expectations of the edition as a whole. An understanding of the endeavor itself, therefore, varies depending on who gets whose prospectus. It is a game of chance establishing an intriguing link between maker and reader. This playful act allows for the questioning of authorship/authority and the value placed on standardization. Ultimately, each participant plays with the notion of "here" (if I'm here, are you, in turn, there?) and the time delay implicit in the sending of a postcard.

Format. Two-ply museum board cut into 8 x12 sheets to yield four 4x6 postcards, along with foundry type, brayers, ink and proofing presses.

Time. Three weeks to produce. One additional week to number, collate, and send.


Megan O'Connell promotes, produces, and distributes letterpress books, broadsides and ephemera under the imprint of the Dead Skin Press. The press' products can be found in the collections of Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center, The Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, and The Alternative Traditions in Contemporary Art Archive. For the past decade she has taught design courses at the University of Oregon, where she serves as Director of the Typography Lab and AIGA faculty advisor. She is a founding member of Creative Material Group, a consortium of practicing intermedia artists, and holds memberships in S{o}TA and ATypI. Recent projects include am i in my text or am i out, an interactive installation at TypeCon2004 and City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco; and an upcoming publication of Sweet Mathew by reknown British author Charles Nicholl. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and a degree in Book Arts from the University of Minnesota. For additional information visit

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