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This is a web-based version of my ISTD Specifications Book that details the development of the project and decisions made.


  • Jessica Mae Adkins


    Project Specifications

  • Funny: Presentation


    StrategyFormat/Paper SizeGrids Letterpress Overlays Typography: Letterpress

    Wood vs. Lead type Final typeface choices Process steps for letterpress Leading Kerning Glyphs & Dashes Quotation Marks Typography: Digital

    Headline Body text and footnotes Paper

    Posters Overlays Binding & Finishing

    Binding Cover Title Belly Band

    Presentation Images

  • Strategy


    My concept for this project is to explore the use of taboo in stand-up comedy. I was inspired to take a closer look at the subject because I went to see Jimmy Carr live recently. I found the show hilarious, along with most of the audience (judging by the laughter). However, a couple of days later I read one of his jokes in the paper. It was a joke about paedophiles, which I am a little ashamed to say I definitely laughed at during the show. The joke, now printed in black and white, was suddenly offensive and shocking to me.

    I found it interesting how I had experienced two completely conflicting reactions to the same thing. How removing the words from the context of the show and printing them on a page had completely changed the meaning for me. This gave me the idea of taking a selection of the most taboo quotes I could find from the routines of various comedians across the history of stand-up and putting them into print.

    Even as a fairly cynical person, I was still shocked by some of the jokes told as I watched more and more stand-up and find myself wondering, Are there any taboos left in stand-up comedy?. Apart from this though, the project had lead me to various fascinating areas of research around the topic of the use if taboo in comedy. Such as the science behind laughter and the benefits of laughter as a release; the history of the breaking of taboos; the lives and careers of many comedians; the repercussions of pushing those boundaries in society, in the media and personally; the ethical and moral questions and comedians opinions on the subject. I have compiled this and more online at Though I have researched the subject thoroughly, I have known from the

    start of this project that it is not my intention to communicate my opinions on the subject to the reader. I wanted to make a book that prompts the reader to question the breaking of taboos in the arena of stand-up comedy or maybe evokes the kind of reaction I experienced when seeing the jokes in black and white.

    I decided to make a large book, printed with a selection of jokes all transcribed from various stand-up comedians on a range of taboo subjects. The pages are perforated along the inner margin, allowing them to be removed from the book and displayed as a set of posters. I chose to explore letterpress as a medium for printing the posters.

    Putting the jokes into print takes them out of the context of the show, removing the safety-net of comedy, and allowing us to view them through a different lens. However, I felt it important that the pages could be removed from the book and viewed independently and totally out of context, allowing yet another perspective on the subject.

  • Grids: Letterpress

    Grids: Letterpress

    Size: A3 (70p1.89 x 99p2.55)Bleed: 0mm

    Measurments: Due to the majority of the project being printed in letterpress, I have used Line/Pica throughout my measurments.

    Margins: Top 6ln Bottom 9ln Outer 6ln Inner 12ln for binding and perforation. (6ln when posters have been torn out)

    After understanding a bit more about letterpress, I realised that there was no point to develop a complex grid for the posters as it is essential to be flexible Letterpress is not an exact science and, especially as I have used a number of different typrfaces, I instead chose to anchor the quotes to the top left corner margin and use this as my guide.

  • Grids: overlays

    Grids: Overlays

    For the overlays a more complex grid was required to ensure the censor blocks and devices all aligned correctly in their size and spacing. I scanned in the posters and placed in indesign. I then created a document grid based on the lowest common measurent I used in letterpress, 3pt with subdivisions of 8x8. This gave me a fairly accurate grid that worked across all 12 posters.

  • Typography: Letterpress

    Typography: Letterpress

    I wanted to create the posters in a range of different complimentary typrfaces that alternate throughout the book, contrasting from one poster to the next. I wanted to use the project to really explore and celebrate the different font families available to us in letterpress. Though we are fortunate to have a wide selection in the workshop, I discovered the unique restrictions of this medium during the project. As I was working in a large format with fairly short quotes, I was looking at larger sizes of type ranging from 46pt to 10 line. In these larger sizes, there is often a shortage, or even complete lack, of characters. This can hinder or even prevent the use of a typeface for a specific quote. It soon became like a game, finding the right typeface in the right size to compliment the other typefaces... I started with my shortest quote, choosing 10ln Clarendon.

    The extreme lack of characters availble meant printing the poster almost word by word. In addition, the uneven wearing of the wood type meant individually packing characters until the print was even. In total this first run of posters took 4 days. After printing a second poste in lead type, the vast differences in printing texture and look, lead me to the decision againt using wood type. I decided instead to choose longer quotes from my research to enable me to work only in lead.

  • Typeface Choices

    Though I had to be flexible, I decided early on that I wanted to use 8 typefaces 4 pairs and 4 originals to make up the set. I arranged these in the book so that each typeface contrasted and complimented the previous. No

    wanting to use anything too similar and working mostly between 60 and 72 pt, limited my options, but my final choices were as follows:





    Gill Sans Bold Condensed


    Univers Bold Expanded


  • Letterpress process

    Both the leading and the word spacing for the posters had to largely be determined by eye. I began by making templates of the posters in the nearest matching PC font. This way I could guage the approximate leading. However, even having done this, I still set a few lines of type in the chosen font and often found the need to proof a few times, increasing/decreasing the leading. Below is a table of the final leading choices for each poster:

    Step 1Set longest line in composing stick.Determine leading length.

    Step 2Set min of 3 lines of type in tray and proof on galley press to determine leading, word spaking and potential areas for kerning.

    Step 3Start setting poster in printing press as many lines as possible. Include opening quotation marks where possible (upside-down commas) outside 12ln border.

    Step 4Proof first print. Adjust registration if necessary. Determine correct amount of ink and packing.

    Step 5When all the above are correct, continue to print, setting poster line by line, measuring and adding furniture to move text down the page.

  • Leading and word spacing

    Both the leading and the word spacing for the posters had to largely be done by eye. I began by making templates of the posters in the nearest matching PC font. This way I could guage the approximate leading. However, even having done this, I still set a few lines of type in the chosen typeface and often found the need to proof a few times, increasing/decreasing the leading. Below is a table of the final leading choices for each poster:

    Lenny Bruce

    Caslon 42pt

    2ln additional leading

    12pt word spacing

    Louis C.K.

    Helvetica 60pt

    1ln additional leading

    4x2ln word spacing

    Frankie Boyle

    Headline 72pt

    6ln additional leading

    6x2ln word spacing

    Hugh Dennis

    Caslon 72pt

    18pt additional leading

    24pt word spacing

    Tim Minchin

    Garamond 72pt

    2ln additional leading

    4x2ln word spacing

    Bernard Manning

    Garamond 60pt

    2ln additional leading

    18pt word spacing

    Jimmy Carr

    Bembo 48pt

    18pt additional leading

    18pt word spacing

    Richard Pryor

    Univers Bold Expanded 48pt

    3ln additional leading

    30pt word spacing

    Joan Rivers

    Helvetica 72pt

    4ln additional leading

    6x2ln word spacing

    Sarah Silverman

    Gill Sans Bold Cond. 60pt

    48pt additional leading

    30pt word spacing

    Doug Stanthorpe

    Optima 48pt

    2ln additional leading

    4x2ln word spacing

    George Carlin

    Headline 72pt

    6ln additional leading

    6x2 word spacing

  • Kerning

    In some cases, kerning was required. This mainly occurred with the larger fonts with the odd word, but in some cases, as with HEADLINE, the entire poster required kerning as the characters sit right againt each other.

  • Quotation marks, glyphs & dashes

    Some fo the serif typefaces such as Caslon have glyphs as shown to the left.

    Use of the em-dash breaks the sentence

    Hyphen used to connect compounded word

    In almost all cases, I was forced to use upside-down commas as opening and closing quotation marks. Especially as I chose to use overhanging quotes as I felt having the text aligned flush to th