Visual Communication Design Faculty Feature: Frank Baseman

Base Press is the letterpress studio of Frank Baseman and Baseman Design Associates. The work of Base Press has received recognition from national and international design exhibitions and publications, including a Judge’s Choice Award in the 2019 AIGA Philadelphia Design Awards for the Rebus Quotes and Other Typographic Explorations project. Base Press work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions, below are a few of his most recent honors:

Baseman Invited to Participate in Tipoteca Italiana 25 Exhibition


June 2020: Professor Frank Baseman was completely honored and humbled to be among 25 designers and printers worldwide invited to design and print a “birthday gift” letterpress poster to celebrate and honor the twenty-fifth anniversary of the wonderful Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione Museum in Cornuda, Italy. As Baseman says, “Since all posters were to be the uniform size of 50 x 70 cms—which is bigger than my press can possibly print—I was provided with a “type kit,” consisting of digital scans of twenty typefaces from the Tipoteca archives. In this way, I was able to work with some of the type from the Tipoteca collection, and the finished poster was printed at the Tipoteca Stamperia.

The project came into the studio in early April 2020 when the whole world was engulfed with the Coronavirus global pandemic. And as isolated as we all were in creating our own individual responses to the call, the project helped to engage and foster the international community of designers and printers. So incredibly thrilled to be involved, the posters form the exhibition Tipoteca Italiana 25 and is on display at Tipoteca from June 2020 through the end of the year.


Baseman’s Work Included in New Impressions 2020 Exhibition

June 2020: Professor Frank Baseman was honored to have work included in the New Impressions 2020 exhibition produced by the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum of Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The letterpress print, “50 States,” produced during Summer 2019, was selected to be included in the exhibition. New Impressions is an international, juried exhibition to showcase exploration and creativity with letterpress printing techniques. From this age-old tradition, the exhibition strives to challenge and inspire artists to continue the love of printing. Work from 45 artists was included in the exhibition, from several countries including Brazil, Italy, Spain, UK and USA. 2020 is the sixth year of the New Impressions exhibition (and Baseman was honored to have been included three times!). The exhibition was on display at Hamilton from July through September, 2020.


Baseman Residency at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, Two Rivers, Wisconsin with Jefferson Faculty Completion Grant

Summer 2020: Professor Frank Baseman was the recipient of a Jefferson Faculty Completion Grant and with this assistance was able to serve a three week residency as Artist/Designer/Printer-in-Residence at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin during Summer 2020.

As Baseman states, “Yes, in the midst of the global pandemic I embarked on a 1,000 mile road trip (16 driving hours broken into two driving days each way) to the mecca of all meccas of wood type, letterpress, and general type nerd heaven. Mind you, I was very careful as I traveled; wearing my mask; using hand sanitizers; and generally keeping appropriate social distancing. Truth be told, I was excited to “go somewhere” after many months of lockdown. I also kind of like to drive, and my 2013 red Honda Fit did very well on the road, carrying all of my paper, ink and supplies (not to mention my bike; there was a fantastic bike trail right along Lake Michigan that was quite beautiful).

At Hamilton, they took our temperature every day; and since most days there were only a few of us working within a thousands and thousands of square foot space, it was easy to keep our social distance.

After getting acclimated and looking around, I began by pulling typefaces of interest and generally things that I was interested in, whether abstract shapes or typefaces that I had never seen—let alone used before in any of my work. As this was half the point—to work with materials—and equipment—that I had never worked with before, in particular certain typefaces.

The Museum set me up with a very nice working space, a dedicated space that they reserve for artists, designers, printers that have worked here before (in fact, I had worked and printed at Hamilton four summers prior; prior to officially starting my sabbatical; see pervious post). I had access to and used a Vandercook Universal-4 proof press; a very large proofing sign press; and plenty of space to spread out.

I worked completely in an analog fashion—it was actually somewhat of a relief to not touch a computer for three weeks—meaning I proofed the type I was interested in; cut it up and pasted together various layouts; and used the photocopy machine to work through the layouts to decide what I wanted to print.

I worked on several different printing techniques that I had never really done much with before, which is also part of the point in terms of experimenting and trying new things. Amongsome of the things I tried:

“Frankenstein” lockups: using mostly magnets to hold the wood type on the printing bed as opposed to completely locking up nice ant tight and secure on the press bed.

Setting type on an angle other than 90 degrees: this may sound very basic, but almost all other letterpress is contingent on the type and elements being at 90 degree angles so as to lock up tight on the press bed.

Using a linoleum shape as a background color; and mixing large amounts of different typefaces on a given piece. I hope to continue to adopt some of these techniques as appropriate on future work. I ended up executing several Type Specimen sheets of various typefaces and other various prints.

The Jefferson Faculty Completion grant was also meant to support an upcoming solo exhibition at Montgomery County Community College, which was initially scheduled for Fall 2020. The exhibition has been postponed, with no future date just yet. It is thought that most or all of the work executed at Hamilton would be a part of any future exhibitions.


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