Conveying Touch: design and making of issue six
Every issue of Ligature Journal has a theme, and for issue six that theme is ‘Touch’. We wanted to do more than write about touch, we wanted to literally convey the physicality of touch—to design and make an issue that was a joy to touch. To achieve this, we had four elements to work with; words, images, paper and printing. Firstly, the words. We gathered a range of ideas and opinions exploring different aspects of the relationship between touch and design from a broad variety of designers and thinkers. Sorted.
We like to include pages in every issue that provide a moment of calm between the stories. A meditative space for contemplation and digestion, if you will. In this issue, we commissioned a photographic series for these visual rest breaks—images of very tactile things, intriguing and provocative textures that we hoped would evoke sensations of touch in our readers. Certainly, the images had me wishing I could reach into the page and run my fingers over what was there. Now, any printed magazine is already more tactile than any digital experience can ever be. However, the quality of contemporary offset printing results in a very smooth page surface—about as tactile as unprinted paper. True, many interestingly textured papers exist out there, but ultimately paper texture is really just one expression of touch, and we wanted so much more!
We did vary the paper texture, using three carefully chosen paper stocks. We chose a nice bulky and reasonably rough stock for the cover. And we selected two stocks for the internal pages—a satin smooth coated paper and the other a suede-like uncoated paper.
Finally, to produce the issue we used three different printing methods. Commercial offset lithography was used for the internal pages, necessary to provide sharpness of image and text (as well as for reasons of cost). For the cover, however, we combined inkjet and letterpress. We used a standard desktop inkjet printer for the inside covers. To our delight, the water-based ink changed the texture of the paper ever so slightly by causing the fibres of the paper to loosen a fraction, creating a subtle variation in surface texture. Then it was downstairs to our letterpress to blind emboss the covers. The type was impressed strongly into the paper—distorting the inside covers too. We used no ink so the result could be as much a tactile as visual experience. And there you have it, an issue that explores touch in content, design and production.