Letterpress with the Aaron Draplin Touch

DraplinNeenah Paper

Aaron Draplin — you know, the co-founder of Field Notes and the guy behind the 10-minute Lynda.com logo — has joined the cause to support the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum through the Beauty of Letterpress project by Neenah. His limited edition print has just been issued and it’s only 5 bucks, so get ‘em while they’re hot!

The Beauty of Letterpress was conceived by Neenah with the goal of celebrating letterpress and preserving Hamilton and one of the world’s largest collections of historic wood type.

To date there have been nine prints issued, and last year Neenah presented a $30,000 check to the museum (half from sales of the limited edition prints and half from a donation by Neenah). Draplin’s print is Issue 10 in the collection, and all proceeds will continue to go to the museum.

We got a chance to ask the busiest man in design a few questions about the “whats and whys” of his print titled “Printing You Can Feel.” As is typical of the man, he generously obliged and gave it to us straight…including issuing an order to us all. Read on to learn of your mission, America.

You’re a busy guy; why did you want to make time for the Beauty of Letterpress?
A chance to do a letterpress piece? How can you say no? Yes, I’m a busy guy, but I rarely get to make letterpress stuff. And honestly, I was just excited to get the call and had seen a couple previous Beauty of Letterpress pieces floating around out there. It was an automatic, “I’m in!” Hell, that might be a dimwitted answer, but it’s the truth.

Tell us about “Printing You Can Feel.” What was your vision?
That little “printing you can feel” thing was the first thing that came to mind — a chance to remind people of what I love so much about letterpress. Graphic design can be so cold these days – apps, bells, whistles, junk mail, direct mail, spam, etc. Letterpress still feels warm to me.


What was your process — did you do it in 15 minutes like the logo for Lynda.com?
Ha! First off, let me clear something up: I don’t make logos in 15 minutes. I make the first couple variations/versions/options in the 15 minutes while sticking to a planned-out timeline or, sometimes, until it’s right. It’s been so exciting to see our little Lynda live-action-silver-screen-movie-picture near the one million views mark. That’s surreal and fun as hell, but it was only meant to show a snapshot into how I work, and how I think — how you think up something and then refine, refine, refine, and go back to the drawing board. Over and over until you have a pile of things to vectorize/sort through/show the client.

But of course, my mind wanders…to answer your question: I instantly knew what I wanted to talk about in my piece. Something that talked about how each time I hold a letterpress piece I always feel the thing, the ridges and bumps. It feels oddly special and…toiled over? It feels meaningful. Permanent.

What do you like most about “Printing You Can Feel?”
I’m happy with its spirit! There’s something oddly refreshing about a hard-sell sort of message when, frankly, so many designer-y things out there are so precious, ironic and coy. And then here comes something so straightforward and unapologetic in its simple, slack-jawed message — and with a call to action!

It says something, and then challenges the viewer to feel the little “sample zones.” I wanted it to have a “scratch-and-sniff” quality where you really feel the thing, and then think about how cool letterpress is. Seriously, how special is letterpress in an iPhone world? You can’t feel an app, you know.


Why do you think it’s important to rally around and support organizations like Hamilton Wood Type?
Here’s my takeaway from my visit to Hamilton Wood Type Museum last summer: Thank goodness someone has the foresight, guts and wherewithal to try and rescue such a beautiful chapter in printing history. You walk in and get punched in the face with all this tactile beauty. And the whole time you know that it’s gone and sort of dying everywhere else. Hamilton is the beacon now, the last place on earth that will make it accessible to everyone.

What I love about all that old stuff is it can still exist in someone’s garage…but I don’t have access to it that way. Hamilton changed this. Thank you, Jim, Stephanie, Mari and Bill. Incredible people! It’s an uphill battle and I just really appreciate what they’ve built and rescued. Do us all a favor and donate some loot to them. Then, make a visit! That’s an order, America!

“Printing You Can Feel” is available for $5, and all proceeds go to the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum, thanks to Neenah and the Beauty of Letterpress. You can order here. See previous Beauty of Letterpress prints here.


  1. Cody 5 years ago

    I love this project! I admire Aaron Draplin’s graphic design work and I would like to have one of these Printing you can feel pieces, especially if the proceeds still benefit the Hamilton Museum. But I can’t find a date on this article and the links aren’t working for me. Please help. Thanks. Cody

    • Aaron Berman 5 years ago

      Hi Cody – Unfortunately this piece was released back in January 2015 as part of Neenah’s “Beauty of Letterpress” initiative, so it’s long out of print to the best of our knowledge. Sorry we can’t be of more help on this.

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