History of the Press

Musician, artist & designer Bruce Licher founded Independent Project Press after learning the art of letterpress printing at the Women's Graphic Center in downtown Los Angeles at the beginning of 1982.  His initial projects centered around creating album covers, postcards and promotional stamps for his band Savage Republic.  It didn't take long before he was producing work for other L.A. underground music groups, along with a growing number of clients in the Los Angeles design community.  In addition to packaging and releasing music on his own record label (Independent Project Records), his other music-related projects have included work for clients ranging from R.E.M. to Harold Budd to Stereolab.  Independent Project Press also produces elegant and creative business stationery, invitations, wine labels, promotional stamp sheets and booklets, and numerous other pieces of letterpress-printed ephemera for clients large and small.  Licher was nominated twice for a Grammy Award for his album packaging, and has been credited with starting the trend in letterpress-printed CD and record packaging using industrial-style chipboard.  His graphic design and letterpress work has been featured in two major design exhibitions at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City, and has also been exhibited in California, Arizona, and Paris, France.   After 17 years living and working in Sedona, Arizona, Licher and his artist wife Karen have relocated Independent Project Press to the Eastern Sierra town of Bishop, California.

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“What Bruce Licher creates at Independent Project Press rides the line between “art” and “product.” The relatively small batches of album sleeves, postcards, stamps and other memorabilia that he produces are meticulously crafted, and are fed into the presses by hand, piece by piece. His combinations - austere photographic images, disparate mixes of Dada-esque typeface, postage-stamp visions swathed in gold, silver and blood red - are instantly distinctive. Created inside Licher’s design ethos, something as potentially mundane as a business card emerges as a haunting work that seems antiquated yet vibrant and contemporary.”

- Peter Gilstrap, Phoenix New Times


“Independent Project Press was born out of Bruce Licher’s vision of combining music and packaging in a cohesive, artful and economical whole...  Using the almost extinct method of letterpress printing and such materials as chipboard and metallic ink, Licher conjures up the sense of the desert vernacular.  Each piece is like a relic from a place far from the hustle and bustle of city life and from a time long before computers.

-- Matt Woolman, excerpt from “Sonic Landscapes” chapter in his book
Sonic Graphics, Seeing Sound

 

“Bruce Licher’s career exemplifies the entrepreneurial, do-it-yourself ethos that many designers and artists embrace today... Exploiting the potential rawness and imperfection of letterpress printing, Licher uses inks that don’t completely cover his surfaces, and he allows relief characters to bite into the page...  The graphic identity for Independent Project Press revels in the material qualities of letterpress printing.  Licher has made a fetish out of the routine ephemera of paper correspondence, creating not only business cards, letterheads, and envelopes, but also his own simulated postal stamps and bank checks.  To create these pieces, Licher assembles minute typographic elements and prints them in multiple layers of ink.  He designs a new piece when supplies run out, insuring that his brand image remains in flux-- appropriately “independent” -- rather than freezing into a rigid identity.”

-- Ellen Lupton, excerpt from Design Culture Now exhibition catalog for the First
National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, 2000



Vernacular styles cannot be taught in the traditional sense.  They are born out of a direct need or out of a particular way of working that is often indigenous to a certain trade.  Bruce Licher’s work is a case in point.  His gritty letterpress style evolved from the need to package his records.  He bought a second-hand letterpress, taught himself to print, and in the process, created a highly personal approach to graphic design.”

-- Rudy Vanderlans, introduction to Emigre magazine #16, 1990