TheeBlog Q&A Sessions: Doug Wilson

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I know most of you have already seen the trailer for Linotype: The Film - hey! you may even remember finding out about it HERE. As a Typography and Letterpress lover, I have been following it for some time already and today I have a special treat I am excited and proud to share. During an event sponsored by Monotype last month in NYC, I had the great pleasure of meeting the film’s Director, Doug Wilson. Doug was one of the featured guest speakers, and being a fan of his work and project I had to invite him to be part of my Hall of Fame and share a few project insights as well as some juicy personal info. Thanks for everything Doug!

Doug Wilson is a designer, filmmaker, art director and teacher that has a passion for letterpress. Born and raised in the Midwest, he has travel in his blood and has visited five continents. With a love of hand-painted signs and a Polaroid camera, he has documented vernacular typography all across the United States.

He has a BFA in Graphic Design and Art History from Missouri State University and has received a Type Design Workshop Certificate from the Basel School of Design. He also spent a summer as a letterpress artist in residence at L’Association pour le Patrimoine Industriel in Geneva, Switzerland.

He is proprietor of The Scarlet Letter Press – printing posters on his Vandercook SP-20 Proof Press. He has taught typography as an adjunct professor and worked at an advertising agency. Doug is now directing a feature-length documentary, Linotype: The Film.

Watch “Linotype: The Film” Official Trailer

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Hello Doug and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions! It was a pleasure meeting you during this year’s Brand Perfect Tour in NYC and learning the backstory behind your project and how awesome Linotype machines are :) So, without further ado, let’s begin…

I know you’re not only a Director, but a Designer as well. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?
If you go by length of time, I am a photographer, graphic designer, letterpress printer and film director – in that order. I received my BFA in graphic design from Missouri State University and that is where I fell in love with design, type, letterpress and the Linotype.

You interned as a letterpress artist in Switzerland! Tell us about that experience…
My wonderful wife was working on her masters degree in Public Health and she received an internship for the summer in Geneva, Switzerland with the World Health Organization. I didn’t officially intern, but I made some contacts in Geneva and found a working museum with letterpress facilities and I printed a few posters during our summer in Switzerland. It was as charming as you imagine.

I’m going to guess here and say you love print/letterpress so much you got your own machines and created ‘The Scarlet Letter Press’. What motivated you to go for it? Was it a goal of yours or was it the lack of available presses?
Letterpress is in my blood and ink is under my fingernails. The Scarlet Letter Press is my personal press where I print, well, anything I want – mainly broadsides and posters. Once I graduated from university, I did not have the same amount of access to a press, so I purchased my own Vandercook proof press.

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As a designer, letterpress artist and instructor, tell us about your relationship with typography – which judging by your work and our brief conversation is a pretty close one.
Typography is a funny thing. It is hard to explain, I just love looking at letterforms and type. Strangely, though, I do not have any desire to design my own typeface, I would rather master someone else’s design.

By the way, I’ve got to mention this! You know you’ve met a good designer/typophile when he provides details such as typeface (SCALA SANS), weight (BOLD) and point size (196pt) of his sweet tattoo! (See below) How hard was it to choose the ONE typeface/ampersand that would get inked? (My apologies for the low iPhone quality photo)
I fell in love with the Scala family a few years ago and I knew for a long time that I wanted a type-related tattoo. The ampersand is my favorite character and I simply love Martin Majoor’s design for Scala Sans – how the top loop does not connect back to the main body gets me every time.

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Let’s talk about your film. Could you describe it in your own words?
“Linotype: The Film” is a feature-length documentary film centered around the Linotype typecasting machine invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1886. Called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by Thomas Edison, the Linotype revolutionized printing and society, but very few people know about the inventor or his fascinating machine.

What inspired you and how did this whole project/adventure began?
I saw my first Linotype about seven years ago at a local print shop and I was immediately intrigued. I’m not sure I would call it “love at first sight” but it was close to that. The more I learned about the Linotype, the more I found that no one really knew about this machine that impacted the entire world.

So, I got together with two of my good friends and we started making a film about it. Hopefully, my mom will like it as well.

… Check out these amazing preview clips we had the pleasure of watching at Doug’s presentation in NYC and that were just released in honor of the 125th anniversary of the Linotype…

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Most letterpress and Linotype enthusiasts loved the idea of your film from the first preview, and the incredible support you’ve received demonstrates a common desire to show the world what these amazing machines did or still do and rescue this art form. Were you expecting this amount of people to share your interest and back you up?
We have been really surprised by the support and excitement for the film. People from all over the world have supported us and it has allowed us to expand the scope of the film and take a few more risks to make a really great final film.

Now, as most of us would love to see a Linotype revival, there are still operators and owners who are very, how would you put it, protective? Did you experience any rejection or trouble while researching, visiting and interviewing operators for your film?
Not at all. Everyone has been excited (and maybe a little surprised) that three young guys have taken an interest in this old technology. Linotype operators are a unique and interesting group of people, but overall, they have been extremely supportive.

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What was your favorite experience from this project? How has it changed your perspective on design and typography?

That is a hard question to answer. A personal highlight was getting to interview Matthew Carter, one of my heroes of type design. Also, the fact that so many people were welcoming and let us into their lives and homes to film about this crazy machine has been great.

As for my perspective or design or type? Ask me once the film is finished and maybe I will have time to think about it!

You mentioned you would be working on post production, editing, etc. these next few months. Any chance of releasing it this year or should we look forward to early next year?
We are scheduled to have a final cut of the film finished by the end of the year. Because of the overwhelming support, we were able to travel more and interview additional people. This will expand the scope of the film, which is great, but most likely, screenings and the release of the DVD will be in early 2012.

What’s next for you? Any new projects you want to share with us?
I really don’t know. I am so focused on making this the best film possible, that I haven’t had a moment to think about “what’s next.” I think that is a good thing.

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Thank you again Doug, it has been a pleasure meeting you and as I’ve said it before, I cannot wait to watch the film! Congratulations on all your success and best of luck on all your current and future projects!
Thanks!

Want more? I know you do! If you want to check out Doug’s portfolio, letterpress adventures or if you want more information including credits, news and updates on Linotype: The Film visit Doug’s website www.onpaperwings.com and the official Linotype: The Film site www.linotypefilm.com

Oh! and if you’re looking for inspiration and lovely and interesting photo sets, you must check out Doug’s Flickr Page

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6 comments
  1. I heard about this film from a professor and thought it was a fantastic idea. Great interview – Thanks for sharing!

  2. nice, can’t wait to watch this

  3. I’m french. I don’t speak english… sorry.
    My name is Isabelle Michaux. I am 53 years old and I was linotypiste in 1979-1981. I love always this machine.
    Thank you for this film.

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