TOUR DE LEAD GRAFFITI
by Nichols, Ray
One of 26 lettered copies.
The idea: The seed for Tour de Lead Graffiti was planted with Ray Nichols and Jill Cypher the day they stood in Liége, Belgium, watching the opening day Prologue of the 2004 Tour de France. The goal for Tour de Lead Graffiti was to translate memorable incidents in each stage of the 2011 Tour de France into wood and metal type to produce a coherent series of letterpress posters, as a creative design and typography challenge, using only wood & metal type, as well to parallel the physical endurance required of the cyclists in our own world of letterpress. The core staff of Lead Graffiti, including Ray Nichols, Jill Cypher, & Tray Nichols, were involved in each stage of production of the posters. Additionally, there were nineteen guest contributors who worked on various stages. The youngest was aged 10 and for one day we had two contributors from Indianapolis and Dallas in our Delaware studio. We had several typefaces made into wood type specifically for the project, most notably 12 line Clarendon Heavy Condensed in both a solid and outlined version, along with a variety of graphic shapes we thought might be useful to the stories. The posters are 14.75" x 22.5", printed on Somerset Textured White 300 gsm using only wood & metal type except for the signature block. The design & layout was produced spontaneously without the use of sketches, with each poster completed on the day of the Tour's stage.
The schedule: Work started at 6:00 each morning by scanning the previous day's poster, compositing the six scans into one digital image, saving in 7 differently-sized formats for various online applications (Lead Graffiti's website, blog, store, Facebook, etc.), writing the daily online description of the stage events and how they were used in wood & metal type for the poster design, and uploading of all of the appropriate files. At 6:30 each morning, we would tune into the Tour de France website to keep up with text-based newsfeeds of stage events from the start of the race, most notably who was in the early breakouts. The online work was typically finished by 8:15 am. We would watch the Tour de France live TV feed on Versus (NBC Sports) with opening commentary at 8:00 and the Tour live at 8:30. Guest contributors were asked to meet at our house at 8:30, where we would watch through the end of the stage around Noon, talking about things we saw and heard that would become seeds for the poster's content and typography. We would go to lunch to start visualizing the day's events. Around 1:00 we would head to the studio to see how we could make those connections real. The first order of business was to hang a poster from the previous day and everyone signing the preprinted signature block for the new day's poster, mimicking the Tour's daily sign in for those who were still in the race.
The printing: All of the posters were produced spontaneously, without any form of sketch, with the composition created on the bed of our 1969 Vandercook Universal III. We started the project believing we would print 3-run posters, including the preprinted signature block defining the day/stage/destination/distance. On Stage One we printed a 5-run poster which set the bar for future posters. The least number of runs was 5 and the most was 8. At the end of the final run of each poster we would note the time as the end of our day. For the 23 posters produced on consecutive days covering the 21 stages and 2 rest days of the Tour, we printed a total of 103 runs with a total time of 345 hours 8 minutes and 12 seconds, averaging just over 15 hours a day. As well as printing the edition of posters, we included 12 sheets which we overprinted with every run of every poster which are available as a separate purchase while they last and are not included in the standard clamshell. There were 29 poster sets set aside for portfolios lettered A-Z and three Artist Proofs. The remaining clean copies of each poster were set aside and available for sale as unnumbered individual posters. Additionally, postcards were cut from the makeready sheets. The title page, descriptive page and colophon, printing on the Lead Graffiti pastepaper used to wrap the clamshell that houses the portfolio, and the backs of the postcards cut from makeready sheets adds 12 more runs to the total for the Tour de Lead Graffiti project. Bill Roberts, a co-creative partner who often prints with Lead Graffiti and is the owner of Bottle of Smoke Press in Dover, Delaware, contributed to the design and production of the clamshells that house Tour de Lead Graffiti.
Plans are underway to produce a second-edition during the 2012 Tour de France held from July 1 - 22.