Creative Characters S3 E1: Jim Moran, Preserving print history at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum.

Jim Moran Hamilton Wood Type
I think the inherent value is getting your hands active, busy, and dirty, and making things — the tactile result of these finished products in wood type are really exciting.

Jim Moran.

On Creative Characters, we meet the people and personalities behind the brands, campaigns, and designs we love. You can listen to the podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and wherever quality podcasts are available. 

Housed in an old manufacturing building in Twin Rivers, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan lies the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. Dedicated to wood type manufacturing, the museum is home to the world’s greatest collection of type and tools from machines to presses. You can visit on workshop days to see printers pulling proofs.

“Hamilton Wood type manufacturing corporation is one of the key companies in the type graphic landscape, founded back in 1880. Wood type was critical in the world of graphic design at the time, because if you wanted large type, it was easier and cheaper to make it out of wood than it was to make it out of metal and cast it.”

Moran describes the collection of wood type blocks with a deep sense of appreciation. “If [the museum experience] was something we could bottle, it would sell a lot, at least to other printers, because there is a smell of ink and mineral spirits, particularly back in my section. We have so much type on display and while it is certainly very pale when it’s first cut, the patina it takes on is lovely. You have all of these varying shades of tan and chestnut and brown.”

In the fall, the museum hosts the annual Wayzgoose festival, a conference to gather print and design experts worldwide. “What I like about it is that you find older people at the conference and then the 19 or 20 year old student who has just begun taking design classes or typography. The fact that the audience changes maybe by 50% every year is interesting to me too.”

When considering the nature of wood type, Moran reflects on how the process takes us back in many ways to what the body is designed for, which is to be active. It’s a laborious process to set up a wood type letterpress.

He also notes that type presses give creatives a much needed break from digital screens, which can be a reprieve in today’s digital age.

We want to know: When you plan creative projects, are you incorporating digital breaks into your workflow?

Thanks for tuning in! To learn more about the Hamilton Wood Type Museum and its history, visit Save the dates for the 14th Annual Wayzgoose festival, scheduled for November 3-5.

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