A Close Look at Apple's Letterpress Cards


Apple embraced its inner Martha Stewart by adding a letterpress option for ordering photo cards from its iPhoto '11 software. The cards are printed in bulk by letterpress with one of a handful of standard designs, and then surprinted on a high-end electrographic system (cough, fancy laser printing) with text and photos.

I took photos of a set of samples that Apple sent me of the cards, and some close-ups of the one I liked best to show the debossing (printing pushed into the thick paper). The letterpress work is first rate, but the textured paper doesn't hold laser printing well. The type is spaced oddly between characters–in the parlance, poorly kerned–and looks rather blocky. The cards also have rather trite designs, necessary for mass sales, I suppose. The best is a non-denominational tree (one could argue it's pagan, even) in three colors.

It's an odd notion that to get the feeling of authenticity, you're purchasing a mass-produced artisanal item. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that. Letterpress was a commercial art in the past, and now is rather twee and nostalgic, while also requiring the use of metal, oil, ink, and power.