Working under the mysterious studio moniker babyinktwice, Dafi Kühne is a Swiss graphic designer and letterpress printer whose knowledge of analog printing couldn’t be more detailed were he born in a pre-digital era. Working across posters, stationery, and brochures (yes, people still make brochures) for a range of clients in the worlds of music, art, architecture, theater, and film, Kühne’s portfolio veers from very traditional lettering to beguiling takes on Swiss minimalism. No matter the form, the multifarious final products are all united by the rigorous hand-designed processes used to make them. Here he shares the stories behind five recent works and how he went about creating them.
Hello I love you
“This is a cultural program poster I made for Veka-Glarus. This poster had been hand-composed with wood and lead type. It was printed in 19 hours in four print runs at a stretch. It almost killed me. I wanted to make a layout that has been rotated by 180° and would fill out the sheet as well as possible, but still keeping a good rhythm of filled and blank space.
“Since I only worked with handset physical type, I had to tweak that layout quite a bit so all the forms would be printable. I also needed to cut all the big letters on my pantograph since I didn’t have enough of the font, and I also needed to trim them down to typeset them closer. Normally I wouldn’t do this with old wood type, but with new cut type this isn’t a problem. The printing was quite a marathon, since I was on a super short timeline.”
“This poster is a reinterpretation of a 1949 wood type catalog that said, ‘Add punch to your printing with Hamilton wood type!’ Hamilton Wood Type MFG was the biggest wood type manufacturer in the world. I gave that poster a hard punch from the right and from the left with huge 120 pica wood type H’s. The posters have been printed in seven color runs on a showcard press and a Vandercook 320G, all from real physical wood type and metal type. The biggest H’s didn’t fit the proof press I was using, so I had to go on a showcard press for these two runs. There’s a making-of video you can watch.
“This is a program poster for a concert venue. The design and printing was made using entirely analog processes, using hand-set wood and metal type. The concept was to have a repetition of the content in different sizes to give the impression of flipping, rotating, and scaling—it’s rhythmic, like music, or like an endless spiral.
“The proportions of the format were dictated by the existing physical type and the pressbed I was using. This might sound very technical and print-nerdy, but the important point is that a lot of my design decisions came from technical limitations. If I did that whole design digitally I could have made hundreds of different versions and sizes. But since I designed and produced that poster completely analog, the final image was very much limited by the tools and processes.”
No Cost Housing Conference
“I made this invitation poster for an architecture conference called No Cost Housing Conference. The crossed out dollar symbol on that poster was roughly hand cut from cheap plywood to reproduce the idea of using cheap materials to make housing. The smaller type on this poster has been hand cast on a Ludlow type slug caster. Again, there’s a production video for this one which you can see.”
Nie Mehr Schlafen
“This poster was created in an edition of 450 for a cultural concert program for a local venue. ‘Nie mehr schlafen’ means ‘never sleep again,’ but it could also be translated as ‘never sleep more.’ I wanted the poster to look light, dreamy, hovering like clouds. It was printed with two inverted split fountains from solid plastic blocks, then hand cut linoleum and Ludlow slugs. There’s a production video showing the process of making it.”