This Issue 5 logo was handset and printed at Signal-Return, Detroit

Photo Essay
Lynne Avadenka, Artistic Director, Signal-Return
A community printshop in Detroit

Our Detroit issue title, volume, and issue numbers were hand set and printed by Signal-Return Detroit.

Here’s the question that was asked in Detroit in 2010: how do you get fast moving, technologically savvy, very modern people to slow down?

Transmission on press
Transmission Issue 5 design on the press

And the answer was: teach them an outdated, technologically abandoned skill; teach them how to hand set and print from metal and wood types.

And, by the way, make sure that the instruction takes place in an old building that’s been built-out and renovated to maintain its history and integrity, a building located in a vital and vibrant Detroit neighborhood that attracts all kinds of people from all parts of the community.

That first simple question and answer inspired the establishment of Signal-Return, a letterpress print shop that opened its doors to the Detroit public in 2011. But the goals were always greater: to advance and preserve the art and craft of hand printing, to establish a meeting place for artists and arts supporters, to collaborate with other arts organizations in the city, to work with educational institutions to deepen the graphic arts experience.

Signal Return 1
Signal-Return Letterpress Studio, Detroit

And as we work to strengthen our four principles to Teach, Connect, Serve, and Produce, here’s who we are now: a small and dedicated staff of four that organizes programming, works to extend our community reach, plans workshops and special events, runs and maintains the print studio, manages the retail store, teaches workshops and private lessons, and accepts special printing jobs. We all know how to set type, take out the garbage, maintain the presses, sweep the floor, operate the guillotine paper cutter, ring up sales, print on all the presses in our shop, lock up, and set the alarm.

Our organizational model is a hybrid; the studio operates as a non-profit while the retail store does not. Sales from the retail store support the non-profit studio, as do fees from memberships, workshops, demonstrations, and open studio printing. All the above efforts are combined with the support we gratefully receive from The Kresge Foundation, The Erb Family Foundation, and The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

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Presses (foreground) and Type Cabinets (background)

Upcoming in our 2015 programming: a collaborative exhibition based on hand-lettered signs and how we communicate with and through text; a series of non-traditional poetry readings organized by Motor Signal, an offshoot of the organization Literary Detroit; a series of workshops open to the community that range from hand-set type to hand-bound books; and an aim to strengthen our relationships with local university graphic design departments.

For the four of us at Signal-Return, Megan Trudeau, Joel Grothaus, Lee Marchalonis, and Lynne Avadenka, the goal in 2015 is to print more: more posters, more prints, more broadsides—to design, create, and print more multiple works informed by our individual aesthetics and inspired by the city in which we work and live.

To learn more about Signal-Return, visit their website: