My OTA Experience

Have you ever been involved in something so amazing that it is hard to put your thoughts and feelings into words because you are worried that some small, but ridiculously important detail will be overlooked? That was OTA for me and Spark.


OTA is a collaborative of creative catalysts and community changemakers that connects the social and creative capital of South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. You can learn more by visiting the OTA website. OTA founder and curator, Hugh Weber, was kind enough to bring Spark on board as a production partner for this year's event, which means we were able to be a part of the fun printed collateral created for the event.

On March 15 the people of OTA converged on the Augustana College campus to take in a killer line-up of speakers. I'm not sure if I should refer to this group of fantastic individuals as speakers because they really were something far more exceptional. They didn't come to rattle off a few statistics or blandly sell a product or idea. They came to engage, entertain and inspire, all the while exceeding our expectations. Throughout the course of the day I was taken to lands near and far, provoked to think about abstract ideas and concrete solutions, challenged to live my life with more everything-that-is-awesome and less of the ordinary and expected.

Some of my favorite quotes from the day:

"Exceptional people can tell you why they are." -Ricardo Crespo of 20th Century Fox

"Do good work for good people." -Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co.

"You can't A/B test your way to a vision." -Karina van Schaardenburg of Foursquare

And pretty much everything that was said by Dave Brown of Holiday Matinee and MKG

Be sure to check out:

Pencils of Promise: What Adam Braun has accomplished since 2008 will astound you. The world needs more people like him who are willing to do what it takes to make a difference in the lives of children around the world.

Ferocious Quarterly: How could I not love what Nate Utesch has done to beautifully capture the talents of current artists? The power of print is alive and well in this publication.

Pre-Session Mailing

The first pieces we designed and printed were for a pre-session mailing to the speakers that they received two weeks before the event. The two pieces were wrapped in kraft paper, and tied with baker's twine and a note welcoming them to the OTA family.

Inside we had a card that asked the speakers to tell OTAns what they had  in store for them. The cards said "Hey OTAns, preapre to be ______________ on  March 15, 2013." Here are some examples of what was received. Fun,  right?


The other piece in the mailing was an art print we designed of the OTA region  including a vintage map in tone-on-tone transparent white, custom  opaque red and black inks. We outlined the states with the speakers'  names and used the intersections language from the OTA manifesto to tie  it all together. Both pieces were printed on 29 pt. chipboard on the same press sheet on our Heidelberg KS Cylinder. 

Stay tuned for my next post about the OTA manifesto and class of 2013 prints and the other pieces!


Stay tuned for my next post about the OTA manifesto and class of 2013 prints and the other pieces!


Windmill vs. Cylinder

As I was running a job on our KS cylinder this week I was again reminded of the differences between a platen job press and a cylinder. The latter aren't called "buchdruck" (book printing) presses in Germany for nothing – they are truly better suited for long runs of one big job than a bunch of smaller ones. Things such as roller installation and adjustment, oiling, etc. take significantly longer with the cylinder. The minimum amount of ink required for the fountain is three to four times that of the windmill.

More than these, the key difference to me is momentum. The cylinder is a juggernaut; you can't stop and start it instantly like the windmill. The windmill is perfect for short runs because you can stop it dead with a sheet in the grippers, tweak the register, and run just one more sheet for another proof. You can run a few hundred sheets while wasting only a couple of sheets. The cylinder needs to get up to speed, and then you must run at least two sheets as the first will have excess ink from multiple roller passes. Then you can either print two more sheets using the stop lever at the delivery, or you can get by without printing any more sheets by using the quick stop lever. This will run two sheets through without printing, which must be returned to the feeder.

That said, for the right kind of job the cylinder is unstoppable. Nothing can lay down a heavy solid as well, and of course they came in L, XL and XXL compared to platens. Ours is the "baby" cylinder (KS for Kleine Schnellpress) with a 15"x20.5" sheet size. If you have the room and can find one that hasn't been butchered into a diecutter, Heidelberg made them up to a sheet size of 25"x35". The register is easily tweaked without tools, and some other adjustments are very easy and precise as well. The cylinder will also handle most any printing, diecutting or scoring job you throw at it. For the vast majority of jobs you get the feeling the machine isn't even breaking a sweat, where you can tell with a platen press that it's starting to work hard past a certain point.

To me what makes the windmill endearing (as much as a machine can be) is that it's human-scaled. When you stand in front of it, it's all right there and there's a lever for each of your hands. It's tall and narrow and you can get all the way around it quickly. Despite its strength it almost feels delicate. The cylinder press is a car-sized brute. It's quite intimidating and you always are aware that there's a lot of metal moving around that could thoroughly ruin your day. The windmill has that too of course, but friendlier somehow.

So, as long as you know what you're getting into, each machine is genius in its own right. Also, as you have just read, the mind has lots of time to wander on those long jobs...

Landscape Garden Center Holiday Promotion

Landscape Garden Center Tree Garland
Design: Eva Hofer for Fresh Produce
Paper: Neenah Classic Columns in Spring Green, 80# cover
Ink: Silver and Dark Green
Run: 8000
Finishing: Custom tree garland die with a perf along connection of last two trees. We folded all of the trees carefully by hand and delivered to the mailhouse for envelope stuffing and distribution to many lucky recipients.
Timing: Crazy! We printed this job on our Cylinder press over two very long days, and then we had our friends at Moberly’s do the diecutting on this piece due to the overall size. Once they were back from Moberly’s, it took a bunch of us several hours to fold all of them and box them up. It was hard enough trying to decide how to box them.