The choice of the letterpress revival as a theme for the sixth Character is in fact very metaphoric. It’s much bigger than a group of designers playfully getting their fingers inky. It’s more than just the tactile interaction with a direct process of design and production. To discuss the revival of letterpress is to talk about the importance of ‘take time’ to do something carefully and well. The once-scary word ‘craft’ may even find its way into conversation here as well.
The discussions at Character 6 build upon a wider re-awakening to the sensual potential of design as well as addressing a need to bring a greater purpose to work. ‘Taking the time’ to do something with care makes not just the process more worthwhile but, perhaps more importantly in a production economy, a better final outcome (yes, for the client as well). For most designers this end of the equation seems the easiest – it’s making the commissioners of projects aware of the beneficial potentials for them that may prove to be the challenging aspect of all.
The ‘time is money’ adage is one that is trotted out to promote the speeding-up of the design process. The equation of time with money is one that designers are very familiar with, in fact we confirm it through our systems of ‘hourly rates’. But a reinterpretation of the ‘time is money’ principle could lead to the argument that by giving more time over to the design process we are also investing it (the outcome) with a greater economic worth.
The design while u wait approach that has grown out of the bruising desktop publishing era is one that is simply not sustainable – promoting an industry burn-out rate that is nothing short of phenomenal – while all the time discounting the creative and problem-solving worth of graphic design. The familiarity that many clients have with the production tools used in graphic design has accelerated this disregard, feeding a common assumption that the entire design process should take about as long as it takes to type it / import it / paste it etc.
Rather than being a retreat from technology, Slow Design is reacting to it, seeking to expand the array of approaches and technologies available to the designer – from the most current to the most antique. Because each of these technologies comes with differing time demands, the ‘slowing down’ of the design process opens up a range of possibilities that are certainly worth discussing. And that’s where Character 6 comes in…