about the project

This project was initiated by Tricia Treacy and Ashley John Pigford as a collaborative exploration of the interplay between venerable/archaic and experimental/modern technology in the effort to produce a hybrid form of typographic design where the production process is ingrained in the product. Ashley’s experience in physical computing, interaction design and letterpress, Tricia’s experience in digital media, graphic design and letterpress, and the duo’s enjoyment of collaborative, creative processes are fundamental to this highly experimental endeavor.

If you would like more information about the project, please email contact-at-vswtp-dot-org.

This project is made possible with support from:

The wonderful people at Legion Paper
donated 700 sheets of paper for the project.
The College Book Arts Association awarded Tricia with a 2011 project grant.
The Center for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware awarded Ashley with a research grant to support the project.


*and also from our interns + volunteers: Anthony Horne, Hannah Lokken, Staci Kaplin, and Zach Bluett.

We produced twenty sets, (five letters each), of Vista Sans Wood Type, (in 2 different sizes and in various hardwoods), that was distributed to twenty letterpress artists/designers/printmakers around the world. We asked each artist to make an edition of their prints so that each artist will receive a set of all prints. We were amazed that so many great artists agreed to participate.

We started with a contemporary Emigré typeface, Vista Sans, designed by Xavier Dupré, because it was created as a blend of, to quote the designer, “the rhythm of blackletters; big contrast, emphasis on the vertical, graphic and strong looking” and “humanist shapes”. This mix of graphic/mechanical form and a styling rooted in the human hand is paired with a similar production process: the mechanization of a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) router and the anomalous (human) nature of wood type and letterpress printing. We emphasize the grain of the wood in the printed letterforms, choosing to mostly use side-grain or low-quality plywood instead of traditional milled/planed end-grain wood, to infuse the material with the meaning.

The 3-axis CNC router was constructed by Pigford, based on plans from instructables, out of medium-density fiberboard, (MDF). The router’s data are processed with Adobe Illustrator, Vectric Cut2D and Artsoft’s Mach 3, which sends step and direction serial data to a Hobby CNC controller PCB to operate the stepper motors. The wood is sourced from many places from scrap bins to custom milled type-high blocks.We knew that, as with traditional pantographic punch cutters, the router bit was unable to accurately cut the letterforms because a round bit can not cut 90º angles. We decided that instead of cutting out the corners by hand after routing, this would be a characteristic of the wood type.This also happened when we tried various density woods and grain directions for the type; we made the decision that in most cases the grain was important to the printed letterforms. Artifacts of the production process like this have become intrinsic to the printed form of the wood type; they are intentional aspects of our artistic endeavor, which is far from a commercial, (or historical revivalist), production.


Video Documentation of the CNC cutting a piece of wood type:


  • November 29th, 2011
  • Posted in