CR Club: Letterpress at the RCA

We had a great turn out for our first CR Club event at the Royal College of Art last night, which featured a talk by letterpress legend Alan Kitching and a tour of the GraphicsRCA show from curator Adrian Shaughnessy. Thank you to everyone who made it along...

In the RCA's Senior Common Room, Kitching spoke about his time at the college and his establishment of the typography and letterpress workshop. He arrived in 1988 at the suggestion of Derek Birdsall, his colleague at the Omnific design studio and the then head of graphic design at the RCA, and taught his final classes in 2006.


During that time Kitching not only introduced the letterpress process to generations of students (it remains a very popular course), but was also integral in saving the very print studios in which he and his colleagues worked.

Securing the equipment for the college also had an effect beyond the walls of the RCA: other UK colleges realised that there was much to be gained from keeping this old machinery going. "It must be used, or we'll lose it," was the feeling in the early 1990s, he said.

Opening his talk with video footage of the RCA's print studios in 1995, Kitching also divulged that the famous moustache has been with him a long time (see top of post). And he didn't disappoint with the work he showed: over fifty images of projects ranging from personal experiments, editions, maps, book covers and posters, to commissions for The Guardian, The National Theatre and Dazed & Confused magazine.

Whether he is working in bright bold colours or a more minimal black and white palette, within each project the 'word' is key to way he works, he said. In taking on a job and interpreting a phrase or piece of text, Kitching remarked that he feels he becomes a bit like an actor.


Following Kitching's talk, we were lucky enough to have the GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years exhibition open to explore. Adrian Shaughnessy, one of the show's curators, gave a tour of some of the highlights from the collection, which covers student work from 1963 to the present day and includes notable pieces from some well known designers such as Jonathan Barnbrook and John Pasche, whose work shares one wall, shown above.

It was also satisfying to see the influence of both Kitching's printing and his teaching on the work on show in the gallery.

We've had some great feedback on the evening, so thanks again to all the CR subscribers who attended. Our thanks go to Alan and Adrian and also to Professor Teal Triggs and Stephanie Rice at the RCA.

If you'd like to know more about our new CR Club subcribers-only events, offers and discounts, visit our page at and keep an eye out for updates on the CR blog. Alan Kitching's portfolio at Debut Art is here; details on his Typography Workshop are at GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years is at the Royal College of ARt in London until December 22. See