14th July 2017

Why our design and UX team learnt screen printing together

Andrew Larking
Creative Director
The team trying screen printing

The benefit of taking a bunch of digital and UX designers out to learn screen printing might not be immediately obvious. We did it because in our world of pixel perfection, grid systems, and an obsession with alignment, digital designers are often afraid to produce something that isn’t visually perfect.

You can see the results of this everywhere. Everything is beginning to look the same because we’re all drawing from the same inspiration, and using the same tools and processes. Tool and processes engineered to inhibit mistakes.

Perfection has become a commodity, but it’s a "perfection" driven by the capabilities of the tools and not by the designer. Anyone with the know-how can use software to snap elements to a grid with a single click.

But the power, the excitement, the fun of trying something just to see what will happen is outside the remit of these tools. So we have to find new ways to inspire the team and help them remember what it was like to be new at something, to make mistakes, and rediscover their creativity.

Screen printing close up

We decided to take the whole design team to a screen printing workshop (hosted by The Print Block) so that (and we didn’t tell them this at the time) they could experience for themselves how making mistakes and forgetting the rules can lead to the most vibrant results.

It was amazing to watch the team try something they were new at and felt nervous about at first, and to see them flourish at it quickly and begin to enjoy it. To begin with everyone was focussed on the rules – ‘charge the screen’, ‘use your marker positions’, ‘dry the screen after washing it’ and so on – and getting it ‘right’.

But after a while we loosened up and just started trying stuff. This is when the day came to life. For the magic final hour of the workshop, we threw the rule book out and just went for it, and everyone's best work of the day came from that last hour.

The hour where we all forgot what we were supposed to do, and just tried stuff to see what would happen.

Nick screen printing

Through trying something that we’re inexpert at, we can learn to see the tools we use in new ways. We start to ask ‘what if’, and we start to play. Playing with design and creative processes will always give you something new – a new process or new concept. And it will be yours and it will be vibrant.

Next time we’ll be trying letterpress. We’ll let you know how we get on.

Now read this: Five ways digital designers can save themselves headaches