Printout roundup

by Steve Watson in March 2015
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We had a fantastic night at The Book Club last night for our first ever Printout print special. We’d deliberately invited speakers from a wide range of print projects, but Jeremy and I were still surprised at the incredible variety on display.

People of Print
Marcroy Smith from People of Print kicked us off with a brief history of his magazine Print Isn’t Dead, which came into being as a result of the difficulty of publishing a book (the beautiful People of Print Book, which came out just a couple of weeks ago and has been two years in the making).

Printout-POP1 Printout-POP2

Compared to that sort of long lead time, Print Isn’t Dead gives an opportunity for experimentation, for example using very different print technologies to create custom covers. For Element002 (above) they worked with screen printers Heretic Studio to create individual covers, and for Element003 (below) they used an HP Indigo printer to allow people to create their own type-only cover.

Printout-POP3 Printout-POP4

The Long Good Read
Marcroy’s talk was a brilliant reminder that while print may be an old technology, there’s plenty of innovation happening there, and our next speaker, Dan Catt, continued the theme.

Dan spoke about his Long Good Read project, which began with him working within the Guardian and experimenting with data to pull out the newspaper’s most popular stories. Initially a web-based project, it moved to Kindle, before Dan collaborated with Newspaper Club to print a newspaper, “curated by Guardian editors, readers and robots”.


Working with his own algorithms and Newspaper Club’s ARTHR layout software (below), he’s a self-styled “benevolent dictator” who sets the robots to work on the same task 20 times, knowing they will lay the newspaper out “magically and sometimes terribly”, allowing him to pick the best layout to go to print. The whole process, he says, takes him about an hour a week, and is just one of his many experiments with different outputs for news.


Belleville Park Pages
From algorithms and newsprint, our next speakers transported us to a world of hand-made artisanal literary publishing. James Bird and Will Cox are the co-founders of Belleville Park Pages, a single sheet of original poetry and prose published every fortnight and folded by hand into a wonderfully pleasing print package.


The project began when the pair met at a spoken word event in Paris and realised there was no magazine dedicated to the best contemporary short literature. Strapped for cash, they set themselves the challenge of producing an entire print run on just €40, and Belleville Park Pages was born. Now two years in, they’ve published high school kids alongside New Yorker regulars, their only selection criteria being that the writing should be original and exciting, and every copy of the magazine is still folded by hand. It’s a really wonderful project that has grown out of a community of passionate contributors and supporters and I was really inspired by their story.


The Pitchfork Review
Our final speaker of the night was Michael Renaud, creative director of The Pitchfork Review, the print magazine published by Pitchfork Media. He talked about the place of Pitchfork today, and the fact that it’s a filter, not an aggregator. So whereas other media properties like Pandora or Beats use algorithms to recommend music, Pitchfork works instead by selecting the best and most interesting artists and showcasing them. Seen from that perspective, the print version becomes an opportunity for elaborating on what they do online, “answering a lot of questions about us behind the digital curtain”.

It’s also a local Chicagoan project, printed just across the river from the Pitchfork offices at Palmer Printing, one of the last remaining businesses on the city’s historic Printers’ Row. It was clear that above all else, The Pitchfork Review is motivated by passion, driven by a group of people who understand the strengths of both print and digital, and are able to use both to great effect.

It was an excellent night, and thanks should go once again to Park Communications, whose support allowed us to fly Michael over from Chicago. Jeremy recorded the night again and a podcast version will be available in the next few days – if you couldn’t make it last night it will be well worth listening out for.

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