Rise of the Risograph, Part Two
So, now that we know what a Risograph is, who's using it, and how?
Part two: The Riso in action
Last week, we delved into the history of the Risograph, a low-cost printing machine catching on with designers and artists. This week, we talk to those who are not only using it creatively but creating a whole design philosophy around the machine. Meet today's high priests of Risography.
Independent publisher Rollo Press was founded on an editorial philosophy informed by the Riso. Rollo functions on the belief that the designer should have complete control of a publication from conception to production and distribution. Graphic designers, Rollo believes, are usually constrained by commercial considerations, and aren’t granted the same freedoms as fine artists in terms of content. Consequently, high quality book and poster printing is also pricey, and usually has to be funded by a client. The Riso is a way around all of that.
Most of Rollo’s projects are conceptually linked to the Risograph as a machine. In an interview in Behind The Zines, founder Urs Lehni explained that it’s important to him that the machine is transportable by car, because it allows him to pack up his Riso and build temporary studios for collaborative work in another artist’s workspace.
Rollo also started a Bootleg Series using pirated Riso-printed versions of lost texts in an effort to engage with old material in a new context. They opted out of traditional sales for the new books, instead offering them for trade. Rollo began as a reaction to a flawed publishing system.
After a book from Rollo Press caught his eye, Christopher Roeleveld decided to start his own Risograph studio. He bought a broken machine, restored it to working order and set up shop as Working-Knowledge in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood. Roeleveld sees the studio as a learning experience. He felt learning about the larger ecosystem of publishing was essential to his own design work, and describes the idea as, "a reversal of the printer-designer relationship that I've become familiar with over the last decade."
Ditto Press in London has a slightly different mission than Rollo and Working-Knowledge. It operates as more of a traditional print shop, by producing one-off Riso work for other designers.
Ditto operates in a collaborative-spirit: it recently printed a book collecting Kraftwerk's original singles packaging with The Vinyl Factory and hosts a monthly student competition to find new printable work.
Risotto Studio isn’t just a cleverly named Risograph studio, it’s also proof that the Riso is a truly accessible platform. Founded by Gabriella DiTano, a recent graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, and based in Glasgow's Glue Factory, the studio is as much a Riso school as it is an editorial body. DiTano produces her own publishing work in the studio, as well as a variety of other ephemera with an eye for introducing fellow designers to the wonders of the Riso. The studio maintains an impressive nine Risographs, of "varying abilities and age," some of which DiTano explains, "are specifically geared to workshops, which has been a new tangent to the studio's services and one that I'm keen to grow."
Also in the UK, Duke Press is a Risograph studio with an eye towards the machine’s original purpose. It collaborated with the folks at New Found Original, who collect and sell vintage printed matter, and asked designers to create new works based on the original flyers and notices printed on the Risograph. The resulting book is a funny look at what could have been if the original mission of the Riso company was a success. It has also issued books of work by designer Hannah Waldron.
Next week: Institutionalized Riso