The change has become so complex that it can only be perceived incompletely and then only fleetingly in the quicksilver shimmering pulse of electrons across the consciousness of the hive mind.
Louis Rossetto, former Publisher of Wired magazine, and Erik Spiekermann have a successful Kickstarter project — a novel and “a revolution in book printing” titled Change Is Good. According to their Kickstarter site, “Every generation has its creation myth. This is the creation myth of the Digital Generation. A novel about the Digital Revolution, written by Louis Rossetto, co-founder of Wired.” It also promises “A masterpiece of the printer’s art —published by design legend Erik Spiekermann and printed on his own classic Heidelberg letterpress… The proof of concept for a revolution in letterpress printing: Post Digital Printing.” And the thing that really caught my eye (thanks to Eve) is the claim of Post Digital Printing that marries the advances of modern typography & design with the quality & artisanship of letterpress. I liked that they were marrying this artisanal approach to the “edgy” Wired mythology. Erik is even making a customized ink from scratch.
“What,” you ask? Louis Rossetto, father of Wired, on the MONDO website? Sure. I’ve had my criticisms of Wired over the years, but Louis and his partner Jane Metcalfe (who has her own new project, Neo.Life) have remained friends and they’ve always got some cool stuff going on. Hell, even their chocolates are good.
Why a novel?
LR: With fiction, you can often tell more truth than non-fiction.
When you say change is good, some change isn’t good… or hasn’t been good in the past. What change are you talking about and why is it good?
LR: “Change is good” is what we used to say all the time in the face of the resistance all of us used to get from the status quo. We joked that the only story the New York Times would write about the Digital Revolution was “Internet, Threat or Menace.” It was also a way to keep the disruption moving. If you overthought it, you might falter, or you might miss it. It was a big wave. Had to stay on top. Or if you don’t like that metaphor, there was always Stewart’s: You were either part of the steamroller, or you were part of the road.” But whether change is really good — that’s a question the book tries to address.
I’m intrigued by the classical craftsperson-like choice to use specialized ink and letterpress. Please ell us more about what you guys are doing with that. Is this a mix of the archaic and the novel?
LR: Erik, I’m sure would have his own — and better — answers.
As for me, my father was a mechanical engineer, worked at Merghenthaler Linotype making hot metal machines — the first breakthrough in letterpress back in the late nineteenth century. Even though he ended his career building computers into his heavy machinery, he was really an atoms guy. How I grew up. Then I became a writer, editor, media guy, web adventurer — my life became increasingly ephemeral, from atoms to bits (pace Nicholas). And then after Wired, I helped start a chocolate company, and suddenly I was confronted with the hard world of atoms again. Chocolate may be based on formulas and scientific abstractions, but when you’re making it, it’s nothing but big machinery, bags of beans, supply chains based on fucking steamships that straddle the globe, and ultimately farmers who are planting, harvesting, and fermenting beans. All to make a slab of atoms that you can only really experience by putting on your tongue.
In other words, I was again immersed in sensuality. And ultimately, that’s what print and paper are about. Screens might have resolution higher than paper at this point, but the experience of using them is not the same. Screens emit, paper reflects — catches the light, which changes as you hold it, changes color depending on the time of day, the source of light. Paper engages more senses — touch, it’s smooth or rough or slick, it’s thin or thick. It smells — the inks, the paper, the glue all have their own subtle yet distinctive odors. Print has a visible past and future, not just a present like the screen; with paper, you can see and feel what you’ve read, what’s to come. I guess you can also hear paper. It rustles or rips. Probably the only thing you don’t do is taste it.
One of the reasons I loved Wired, the magazine, was we tried to push what we could do with print. The press we printed on, we were lucky, was a brand spanking new, state-of-the-art Heidelberg six color press. We were literally the first clients to print on it. Offset is normally four color, CMYK. Six colors means you have two more ink towers you can play with. That’s partially why Wired looked the way it did — we put fluorescents or metallics or double hits of blacks on those extra two towers, and the mag would have colors literally no other magazine was using. We were also on the leading edge of digital production. We used a $100K Kodak proofer at the printer that could not only show us what our pages would look like, but actually replicate the dot gain we would get from the screens we were using on press. So we really knew what a page would look like as we were designing it. We were among the first to go direct-to-plate.
Letterpress has made an artisan revival, because it delivers on the premise of print and paper… the letters being pressed ever so slightly into the paper, creating a well which catches the light, making the page subliminally alive as you move it.