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Alan Kitching: Famous Letterpress Typographic Designer


Alan Kitching (b. 1940)

Born in Darlington, County Durham, Alan Kitching left school at a young age to pursue his hopes of being a poster artist, starting his career by working as an apprentice typesetter. Kitching is now one of the most highly acclaimed typographers in the UK as well as being the owner of an inordinate amount of printing blocks.

His curiosity for typography has never wavered and over the years he’s created hundreds upon thousands of prints both for his own personal collection as well as commissions for clients such as The Guardian Newspaper, for whom he created a mural in their Head Office a few years ago. The piece was an expressive display, documenting the seven brand values of the Newspaper in Kitching’s distinctive style.


Throughout his career, Kitching has always remained close to education, co-establishing ‘The Experimental Printing Workshop’ at Watford College early in his career alongside Anthony Froshaug. Later in his career he taught letterpress at the illustrious Royal College of Art. He also still runs typography workshops and often speaks at design events, inspiring the next generation of type enthusiasts. During a recent series by It’s Nice That on the topic of ‘The Beauty of Making’ Alan spoke about the approach behind his work explaining;

“My thesis is, how do you make something new out of something old, I’ve been trying to do that for the past 20 years.”

Kitching is perhaps most known for his series of Typographic Maps—prints based around maps of London, speckled with circles which identify printing locations. The maps span from 1476-1995 and are beautiful representations of the printing history in London.



As a team outing at Shillington London, we recently attended London’s annual graphic design fair, ‘Pick Me Up‘ where an entire level was dedicated to Kitching’s prints in an exhibition titled, ‘A life in Letterpress’—a counterpart to Kitching’s book released earlier this year.

The variety of marks, shades and compositions created a hugely impactful environment. The walls heaved with typography—prints full of emotion, Kitching’s ‘repeat’ technique produces such a bold image you can almost smell the thick ink as it texturises the paper.


The retrospective also included an installation of Kitching’s press, reminiscent of the reconstructed Francis Bacon studio space at Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin (albeit a lot less dilapidated). There was something ominous yet strangely homely about the space, as if we’d momentarily stepped inside the mind of Kitching himself. The Guardian recently published an article showing Alan Kitching in his actual home in Kennington, London—a wonderfully sentimental piece, definitely worth a read for those wishing to learn more about Kitching.

Want to learn more? Watch video of Kitching in action.

Keep an eye out for our next #tbt! And in the meantime why not take a look at some of our previous features? We have lots to choose from such as Dutch Book Designer Irma Boom, Master of Iconography Otl Aicher and Creator of the Nike Logo, Carolyn Davidson

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