Mark Blamire – Blanka / Print Process

Published:  January 9, 2013
Mark Blamire – Blanka / Print Process

Mark ‘Blam’ Blamire is a UK designer, curator, and collector who founded the online gallery Blanka and its sister store Print Process. He speaks here about a life-long love of design and print.

My key objective isn’t always how sexy the printing techniques are; instead I’m more influenced by how good the design is. I love design first and foremost, but in essence it always boils down to the love of seeing something you have designed, printed well. You play around with it on screen for weeks or months and it comes back looking vibrant and the way you intended. It’s like seeing it properly executed for the first time.

Each job is totally different and you have to select the right technique or process to fit the situation of the job in question. One of the reasons behind us working under the name Blanka comes from the idea of creating a blank canvas every time we begin a new job. It’s almost like we wipe the slate clean each time we start a new project with a new artist. I went through a stage of loving foil blocking, but there are some studios that have sucked all the life out of this technique by using it on every job and overkilling it. I would rather see a well-executed piece of design in simple colours than a bad design being sexed up by foil blocking or other print techniques to try to enhance the job. If the design is badly done, then throwing extra print finishes at the job won’t save it.

Build - Print Process -

Build - Print Process -

One of our best-selling prints on Blanka was just black ink on white paper. Designed by Aiden Grenelle, it was a graphic the print and the process diagram of all the punches landed in the George Foreman versus Muhammad Ali famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ boxing match of 1974. It was a beautifully executed piece of design and it didn’t need any printing bells or whistles of printing to enhance the design. It was just elegantly simple and well-printed using minimal printing techniques.

As a student, I was taught early on to understand the printing craft. The printers we work with have vast knowledge and experience, and it’s only from showing them the design and working closely with them that we’re able to deliver a better job to the client. Working with good printers, throwing problems at them, and listening to how the best results can be achieved is the only way to do it. I designed a film poster job recently and I had to use the client’s own printer – which is unusual for me. The printers were very welcoming and did a great job on the finished piece, but I was amazed to hear the rep who was overseeing the job tell me that it was extremely rare to have designers coming down to see the job in progress and ensure it was set up properly. It’s shocking to me to think that you would spend so long designing something and then play Russian roulette on the printing.

I think the first time I really took note of the true power of printing and what was possible was when I was at college in Newcastle. The works that shouted out were from designers such as Vaughan Oliver, whose record sleeves for 4AD used four-colour printing over metallic. There was also 8VO’s work on Octavo, where the pages of the books were embossed in register with the images of car number plates underneath. I also loved 8VO’s poster design work, using stripped back simple colour systems and special inks.

Darren Wall - Made in the Dark -

The industry has obviously moved on a lot with the introduction of digital print technology. I think digital printing was something of a dirty word when it first came about. It was inferior to putting a job on press and printing it properly. Initially, it was only one step up from a colour copy and it was always an unpleasant experience, as a designer, to find out your design wasn’t even going to be printed properly as the client wanted to go for the cheaper option. That said, if the client only needed to create 100 units and it was for a simple job, then there wasn’t really an argument to push the budget up. As the years have passed, the technology has got better and in some instances can look even better than ‘the real thing’. I think my Eureka moment with digital printing was going to a Parra exhibition at the Kemistry Gallery and looking at the prints for sale and thinking that they were screen-prints rather than what they were – high-end giclée art prints. This was over five years ago and the idea of owning your own high quality, large-format printer for making high-end art prints has become a reality. I have seen some of Damien Hirst’s dot prints and he appears to use the same technology to make some of these prints. I think there are some interesting new techniques that have come about recently too, such as laser cutting. It’s an amazing technique to watch when things are being made in front of your eyes. I love the recent technology of 3D printing – the idea that product designers can now print an actual 3D working prototype of their product, which literally appears in front of their eyes. It’s a mind-blowing technology. I think if you could make a 3D object and then print graphics and colours directly onto the surfaces at the same time, that would be pretty spectacular.

In the end though, the technology can become faster or sharper or cheaper, but all the old techniques still exist and are good enough to achieve the desires of most graphic designers. I frequently use very traditional and established printing techniques that have been around for decades. All of these methods are almost the same today as they have been since the birth of print.

Thumbnail image: David Bennett – Light Grey Dot –

One Response

  1. One print medium that has stood the test of time for me is letterpress – it’s beautiful and just seems eponymous of high-quality design.

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