Type Design: 3D Print Letterpress (Part 1)

In my New Media Studio classes I have been exploring the combination of digital and traditional art forms. The idea? 3D print a hand drawn type design for use in a traditional letterpress. So the medium goes from traditional (drawn) to digtial (vector and 3D extrusion) to physical (3D print) and back to traditional (Inked and printed.)

1) Draw a typeface design
2) Trace the letterforms in illustrator
3) Extrude the letterforms in Maya
4) Export and 3D print the letters.
5) Compose, ink and run the letters through a traditional press.

To begin, I researched traditional letterpress lettering and payed a visit to Asheville Bookworks to get a feel for the components of a letterpress letter.  I gathered up graphs and diagrams from online resources and studied type specimen (fig. 1 -3.)  I began experimenting with letterforms, drawing my inspiration from the vintage type sets.


fig. 1

fig. 2 & 3

fig. 2 & 3

fig. 4 & 5

fig. 4 & 5

Once I had selected a favorite from my sketches,  I began scanning and drawing the letters in illustrator. Testing with phrases and names, I developed a unified alphabet, preserving as much of the hand-drawn character as possible, with the use of Wacom Cintiq (fig. 6-9)


fig. 6


fig. 7 & 8


fig. 9 (Final Character Set)

Once I had a final set, I decided on now many vowels and consonants I would need in order to create the desired words and phrases for my poster prints. I also made some fun catch word such as “and” and “the” and also two ampersands. Since the letterforms contained too many paths to be uploaded into Maya all at once, I broke up the letters into 4 printable sheets, and imported them separately  into 3D Space.  (fig. 10 – 12)


fig. 10-12 (3D Extruded Letters)

NMS Innovators 3

This is a series of slideshows with examples from some of my favorite New Media innovators done as research in my New Media Studio M.A. program. In each of these there is: 1) A New Media Artist 2) A Group or Agency and 3) A New Technology.

Exercise 3


NMS Innovators 1 & 2

This is a series of slideshows with examples from some of my favorite New Media innovators done as research in my New Media Studio M.A. program. In each of these there is: 1) A New Media Artist 2) A Group or Agency and 3) A New Technology.

Exercise 1 & 2

The first is Jim Tierney – known primarily for his beautiful book cover illustration. The Pennsylvanian native now works for Penguin books and his illustrations have a flat, iconic, limited-color palate look that echo 1960s advertising.

PSYOP, a visual effects firm out of Los Angles best known for their Coca-Cola “Fantasy Factory” commercial spot. Their focus on brand story and use of playful characters in fanciful concepts are truly inspired examples of advertising.

“Paper” is an app by 53 that operates on a cloud-based system built for multiple devices, but with a focus on tablet note-taking and sketching capability. Interacting with their hardware “Pencil,” the system allows the user to group content into different “books” which, in a recent collaboration with molskeine, can be printed as fold-out paper books.

Lauren Hom, founder of “Hom Sweet Hom” is a hand-letterer and illustrator in Brooklin, NYC. Her commercial and personal work echo a distinct typographic style with playful letterforms and cheerful colors. She interacts with the local food industry (and indulges her love of snacking) through her blog “will letter for lunch” on which she offers to do chalk menus in trade for food.

ILoveDust is an agency based out of Portsmouth, United Kingdom. They are known for their edgy, loud, urban style. In their own words, they are “Collaborating with a diverse range of brands, from these shores and afar, and delivering world class illustration and graphic design…”


Reading List: Earthship Project

After a many hours of leafing through references, I have constructed a list of books to use for my research on sustainable structures.


  • Natural Home Heating: The Complete Guide to Renewable Energy Options

    By Greg Paul

  • The New Independent Home: People and Houses that Harvest the Sun

    By Michael Potts

  • Comfort in Any Climate

    By Michael E. Reynolds

  • Living Off the Grid: A Simple Guide to Creating and Maintaining a Self-Reliant Supply of Energy, Water, Shelter, and More

    By David Black


  • Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living

    By Rachel Kaplan, K. Ruby Blume

  • Radical Homepakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture

    By Shannon Hays

Materials & Textures

  • The Natural Plaster Book: Earth, Lime, and Gypsum Plasters for Natural Homes

    By Cedar Rose Guelberth, Dan Chiras

  • Plasters, Paints and Preservation

    By Carol Crews

  • Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques

    By Kaki Hunter, Donald Kiffmeyer

  • The Art of Natural Building: Design, Construction, Resources

    Edited by Catherine Wanek, Michael Smith, Joseph F. Kennedy


  • Earthship: How to Build Your Own

    Michael E. Reynolds

  • Earthship: Evolution beyond economics

    Michael E. Reynolds

  • Hacking the Earthship: In Search of an Earth-Shelter that WORKS for EveryBody

    By Rachel Prestion Prinz

  • Earthship Volumes 1-3

    Michael E. Reynolds

  • The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosphical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage

    By Ianto Evans

  • The Art of Natural Building: Design, Construction, Resources

    By Joseph F. Kennedy, Michael Smith, Catherine Wanek

  • Handmade houses: A century of Earth-friendly home design

    By Richared Olesn

Water Systems

Curvaceous or Circular (Un)reasonability.

Beginning the research phase of my zero-footprint house design means idea-finding. There is a broad range of materials used in the construction of an “Earthship” (which is what the Tazo, New Mexico people call them,) and sustainability is not my only concern. As  graphic designer I am a believer in the principle of aesthetics selling a concept. Good ideas often go unnoticed without good design. It seems that many of the Earthships built so far look like a more rudimentary styling of Bag-End from Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” The appeal of this rounded, cave-like look may be limiting their audience. Being a lover of art nouveau, I understand the appeal of natural curves. Yet, from a modern standpoint I question some of the practicality of curvilinear everything.

Why can’t sustainable mean also modern, clean, bold homes with a handmade touch? Take Richard Olson for example. His book “Handmade Houses” documents the wide array of what craftsmanship can mean.

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
― William Morris