Doug Wilson on the linotype machine, storytelling, and 1886
Doug Wilson is a designer. He’s also a filmmaker. And a letterpress lover.
Wilson is the producer/director of a documentary “Linotype: The Film,” that explores the “eighth wonder of the world” and how it revolutionized the printing industry. Wilson says the linotype was like the “Twitter of 1886” — understanding its impact crucial to our understanding today’s news cycle.
Favorite gadget? Favorite non-gadget object?
My favorite gadget has to be my iPhone. It is so darn useful. My favorite non-gadget is a Vandercook Letterpress Proof Press.
Where do you get your news?
I listen to NPR and BBC. I also use Flipboard on my iPad and iPhone.
What do you think of the experience on most news sites? Are there some you love? Some you hate?
Why letterpress? What draws you to that printing process?
The tactile touch and feel of ink under my fingernails and the impression of type on paper. At the end of the day when I have worked on the computer, it is hard to see any real, physical progress. Letterpress gives me the feeling of production and progress.
Judging by the website, the tweets, and the press coverage, it looks like “Linotype: The Film” has been really well-received. Why is it important to tell the story of this machine?
Because the Linotype had a massive impact on the world of journalism and news and no one has ever taken the time to honor and explain the importance of the Linotype. The Linotype was the Twitter of 1886 because it sped up the production of news and communication. We would not be as advanced as we are in the 24 hour news world today if it wasn’t for the Linotype.
Going from print designer/letterpress printer to video producer/director is quite the transition. How has that gone and what have you learned from the whole process?
I have learned SO much. I was very naive when I started and thought that it would be difficult, but I never could have guessed how much it would actually take. I have loved every minute of it, but it has required more blood, sweat and tears than I ever thought I had.
A lot of your work has a strong element of storytelling and history. Each individual piece of type used in a letterpressed broadside has a story of how it was used before. Each slide in your collection of discarded slides has a story behind it. What did creating and producing “Linotype” teach you about storytelling and narrative?
I learned that people connect with people – plain and simple. This sounds obvious, but I have found that people that have zero connection with the Linotype still have loved the film and responded very warmly to the wonderful characters that we have in the film.
You can only look at one website for the rest of your life. What would it be?
Oh geeze. I guess NPR.org so I can keep up with the world events. But really, if this happened, I might just quit the Internet altogether.
How do you explain what you do to your parents?
Actually making a film has been easier to explain to my parents than when I was a graphic designer for an advertising agency. When I worked there, I think they just thought I made magazines.
When are you happiest?
On a road trip seeing new parts of the world.