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076: All Things Letraset with Jonathan Valelly

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

I recently sat down with a very special individual to talk about nostalgic and noteworthy pursuits in the world of graphic design and of printing, specifically something called ‘Letraset’. I’ll let our guest tell us all about the who, what, where, when, why and how of Letraset, but first... allow me to introduce our guest. I met Jonathan Valelly at the beginning of 2021 in the typography course I was teaching in our continuing education certificate. He has intrigued and inspired me since our first encounter and I want to read his exact bio for you, because he’s a gifted writer (and I think it’s pretty magical):

Jonathan Valelly is a queer writer, zinester and organizer based in Toronto. He is the editor of Broken Pencil Magazine. Valelly has, of course, written for other magazines. Between you and me, though, he’s much better in person than on the page.

He is frequently seen fretting, schmoozing and scheming at self-publishing festivals in surprising places: a clocktower in the Lakes District, a huge park in Bogotá, a creaky squat in Amsterdam, and the exquisite library basements that dot the Canadian prairies, to name a few.

JV obsesses promiscuously, sometimes over old things, like Letraset and mimeographs; sometimes over new things, like fast trains; and often over important things, like knowing the neighbours and abolishing prisons. He is not hard to find, but good luck getting him to sit still.

In this conversation, Letraset becomes a jumping-off point for broaching deeper questions about the relationship between design and technology, including the opportunities for and importance of changing the digital lens through which most modern design is filtered through, as well as the ways in which technologies produce ways of thinking, rather than simply containing or constraining them.

Notable figures mentioned in the episode:

One of Jonathan Valelly's Letraset creations that reads 'broken pencil zine awards' with very tight kerning of alternating black and white lettering on purple paper.

One of Jonathan Valelly's Letraset creations that reads 'Gay 4 Pay Press' black lettering on top of ripped red tape.

Diana Varma holding up a knock-off Letraset dry rub transfer sheet she found at a dollar store, prompted by the conversation between she and Jonathan.

Actual footage of my Dollar Store detour... I found some knock-off Letraset!

About Our Guest:

Jonathan Valelly is caught in motion and is seen in profile smiling with a patterned background behind him.

Jonathan Valelly is a queer writer, editor, and organizer based in Toronto. He is the editor of Broken Pencil Magazine, and has written for Now, Xtra!, Vice, Quill and Quire, Noisey and Canadian Notes & Queries. He likes to do many things at once with many different people and projects. These include The 519, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Entreviñetas, the GMSH, and Making Room. His own projects include Fagdemic, Gay 4 Pay Press, the House of Constantine and Queers Crash the Beat.

Jonathan Valelly is 10 things, at least: writer, magazine editor, harm reductionista, zinester, community artist, vandal, vintage porn collector, festival boss, ballroom house father, prison abolitionist, and occasional mimeographer.

Music (public domain via Free Music Archive): Serge Quadradio - Coffee Land

Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle

Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash



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