Designer taking credit for Letterpress printing.

Just needed to get this off my chest and maybe get some clear headed feedback from my peers on Briar.

I had a designer/client come in and order wedding sets over the last 4 months under the guise that they are just a new designer and were so happy to find me here in Miami with a Letterpress shop. Over the past 3 weeks, it has been brought to my attention that she has bought a table press from someone on briar and even though she has not used it yet, has been promoting that she is a letterpress printer and uploading all of the prints I produced from my Heidelbergs as her work.

Now she is still trying to order jobs from me but I have been giving her ridiculous turn around times to hopefully drive her away without conflict. But, unfortunately this behavior she has shown is really getting to me and I feel it is my duty to call her out and explain that not giving credit where credit is due is basically a plagiarism of sorts. (I mean this is not 4-color or digital printing where no one cares who takes credit for printing. This is handmade and I have 8 years experience always careful of the quality and reputation of my trade.)

Sorry for the long rant, but any thoughts?

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Call her up and explain the problem, she likely doesn’t even realize she is doing something wrong. Then drop her as a client.


I understand your situation. sadly the reality is that when you do trade work it is just that and no longer yours. I don’t deal with the public that often and my clients often take credit for the work, but it is their client and they made the sale to the end user. if you deal with the public meaning end users then you don’t have to do trade work unless you want/need it. Business ethics are such that for me to show something I did as trade work for an offset printer I need their permission.
If you think they are dishonest cut them loose.
Other BP members chime in.

Take some solace in the old aphorism “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and with the knowledge that she won’t get all that far in her business practices.


I deal normally direct to client….

My main concern is she is presenting herself as a letterpress printer…..not just a designer.

Simply send an email saying it has been brought to your attention that she is showing your work in a way that may be confusing to her clients. And that if she wants to avoid disappointed clients, it would be better if she showed work that truly reflects the output of her press.

There are a couple of ways of handling it, one is diplomatic and the other is quick.

If you want to be diplomatic, perhaps offer some advice. Say, if any of the jobs you printed for her would fit on the tabletop press, suggest she reprint the job and give her some insights into the process. If you are running Heidelbergs and she a Kelsey, chances are that she isn’t really competing for the same work. It wouldn’t be too crazy an idea to get a relationship where those clients who request longer runs or larger formats than what is practical on her press could be referred to you, directly or indirectly.

The other option would be to send an email asking that she stop using your work to promote her business. If she complies, great, either continue to work with her as a client or don’t depending on how she responds. If she doesn’t take the photos down, obviously don’t… and don’t worry too much, chances are she won’t get much money out of that Kelsey once she is unable to deliver on her promises. I don’t know many clients who pay up for bad printing.


Hello Lucyprint, I do recognize the situation. Over the last few months, I’ve seen some people here in the Netherlands doing the same thing. They market themselves as letterpress printers, but are basically designers with a small press in their studio and they put everything out with people with Heidelbergs or treadle platen presses. They know how to market themselves very well, but don’t know how to print well. Continue developing your own business, tell them to stop presenting your letterpress work as their own, give it some time and see what happens… Will they survive?

Thank you so much everyone. Your insight is deeply appreciated.

It might possibly help your state of mind if you consider the way in which publishing companies take most of the credit with the public for well-produced books, whereas it is actually the printing companies that ensure that the books are well-produced.

Admittedly the circumstances you outline are not quite the same and I too would be irked by a client touting my work as theirs. I’d quote prices and timescales that discourage further orders without the hassle of a ‘showdown’.

I’d have a showdown;
thunderdome. You all know the rules; there are no rules.

two printers enter…. one printer leaves.

Seriously, you should have a conversation with this person and explain your position calmly. Do not let it escalate through email. Do not tell anyone who they are. Deal with it quietly, and verbally. Save embarrassment or any harsh words for after this person is made aware of their error and chooses to repeat it.

It wouldn’t hurt to set out terms for future endeavors. Honestly, in this economic climate, you can probably keep the work and deal with it in a way that leaves you with an extra job. Was this person difficult to deal with, otherwise? I’d want to keep the customer and correct them; sometimes customers need information/help/to be lead in the right direction, too, especially if they are really quite novice to how things should be done.

And if she doesn’t get it/continues to exploit, well.

Thunderdome it is.

I saw a post on kijiji a while back, It was a local person offering exceptional letterpress printing. The wording in the ad led me to believe she was new to the game but the work was fantastic, beautiful wedding invitations with intricate die cuts.

I reached out to her and said, “the letterpress community is a small one, you might want to be careful if you are using other people’s work - could get you in a lot of trouble. Feel free to ask should have any questions”

Sure enough it was not her work, she was using it as an example of what letterpress printing was. She still used the work but noted in her ad that she did not print it. Kind of bothered me as I had an ad in the same place with my work which I thought was really good but not at the level of the “examples” she was using.

Maybe have someone you know send her a pm along the same lines?

Maybe post an ad with the exact same work in the same place and apologize to the readers for people seeing it twice, and that you are working on having forgeries removed.

Or just let her try and reproduce your work on a table top press.. that would be justice enough.

For the future, consider adding a note to your contract about photos or samples of your work “Not permitted for use in promotion of competing printing services, online or offline”.


I have a Brand mark, I put on all my designed printed items. Very small icon. I agree with telling her not to lie or use your work as hers. But, hey if she brings you work, take it. I do others work all the time, or my shop would be closed.


That’s just ridiculous. Maybe you should just let her learn her lesson by pissing off her clients with subpar letterpress work when they expect your level of work!

Does anyone show their printwork on a diecut product and give credit to the diemaker and diecutter? A folding carton is just ink on card stock until the foil stamping, embossing and diecutting and assembly is complete. Try looking at it from a different angle.

It’s things like this that led me to simply not deal with designers unless I know them personally….. and even then it’s always with a bit of caution. It sounds to me like the designer wanted to to use your work to build a customer base, and then intended to switch over to her own letterpress work once she was established. That seems unethical to me.

In this particular case, I’d just drop that individual as a customer. “I’m sorry, but I am too busy with my other customers to take any work from you right now.” They can figure it out for themselves.

THEN if they plead and beg, I’d offer terms and conditions under which I’d produce any more work for them which would include full disclosure to the end-user who actually did the letterpress work.

Just imagine if the roles were reversed. I bet there would be a LOUD response.

As a trade letterpress printer, back in the 70’s I had a nice letterpress shop, C4 Intertype, Ludlow and Windmill.

We printed for about 100 customers, office supplies, other printers, and printer dealers, that didn’t want to do our type of work.

We set the type, made the engravings of the logos and printed the cards.

All the printers we did work for, referred to the work as their work to their customers.

As long as I got paid I didn’t care.

If you do work for designers and other printers, they are always going to us your work to get more work for them.

In a way, I love it, as I knew my work was so good, people used it to get more work.

If you do not want this to happen, don’t do trade work.

As a trade letterpress printer, back in the 70’s I had a nice letterpress shop, C4 Intertype, Ludlow and Windmill.

We printed for about 100 customers, office supplies, other printers, and printer dealers, that didn’t want to do our type of work.

We set the type, made the engravings of the logos and printed the cards.

All the printers we did work for, referred to the work as their work to their customers.

As long as I got paid I didn’t care.

If you do work for designers and other printers, they are always going to us your work to get more work for them.

In a way, I love it, as I knew my work was so good, people used it to get more work.

If you do not want this to happen, don’t do trade work.

Aaron you get it.
I get plenty of satisfaction when I see my work out there. Whether it be die cut shapes for charities or foil and embossing on corporate stationery. The great thing is lots of work from each client and no advertising to speak of. I prefer to spend my time doing quality work not doing cold calls and competing with my own customers.


I wish I had a middle man. For the past three weeks, I been working with a man reworking his 6 menus.

It’s eating up all my time with meetings. He is making an easy menu job into a big mess. Boxes likes clouds around this top items in a dark (but not to dark) color and a light but not to light background.

And the menu items prices are smaller and just floating on the line.

It four 8.5x14 pages.

And a Wine, Take Out, Catering and other flyers he thinks of. But, I can never get it finished, because we have meetings.

The major problem, and I know every printers has faced this, this is a new business for him.

So, he doesn’t know what he wants, his friends email ideas.

So, if I had someone that loved my work and wanted to go out and sells it and pay me to do the work, GREAT!

Like someone else talk for hours to customers.

Thank you everyone. I appreciate the feedback and have spoken to the designer directly. I was given some great advice from Haven Press and was able to bring up my concerns with the client, hear out her thoughts and come to a resolution that works for both of us.

Good to hear that, go carefully though…

Quote for profit, print for profit, bank the profits.
The question could be, “What makes a letterpress printer?”
There have always been agents from the beginning of time. I worked for several 40 years ago. I never competed for their work, they are there to be used. [Despite their protestations]. Its much like those websites that set themselves up as experts in the buying of a product and service, they claim to give their client the advantage, but its really profit for the agent. Many real, serious printers in Australia wont give them a chance. William of Rockley, NSW

still know one or two printing brokers
do not have a shop
they just know good printing
( one is a retired printer )
they sell the job farm out the work
add a bit on top for profit

its part of the business has been for years

don’t worry about her table top
she may steal a bit of simple work

till she learns the craft
for quality work she will need to
use to you or some other skilled printer

worked for years in a offset shop
easy 10% of the work
was for freelance job brokers

if its a job shop
long as the job gets payed for
its not up to you what happens to the job
all that matters is that the check clears

Please note that I am writing this as a former graphic design and graphic arts technology teacher and practitioner. I am not a fine letterpress printer, but rather, a letterpress artisan who uses letterpress in my creative process. I am also a printing historian.

I am upset at some of the comments here. It is a violation of all sorts of ethics to present the end product of printing, even it is your design, as your work as a printer, most especially if you are trying to set up your own shop. It is not acceptable and this designer should know this. If they do not, they did not receive appropriate education and they need to be told.

I was a graphic design/graphic arts college educator for a good deal of my career, and none of my students were allowed to do this and hopefully none of them adopted the practice when they went into the real world. they were educated that they were a part of a team in the production process, and that meant everyone received credit for their part.

This is an excellent reference, and I think you should tell your designer about it during your discussions.

“Professional Practices in Graphic Design,” by The American Institute on Graphic Arts, 1998. (I am old and this is my last updated copy!)

Rules for working with suppliers
p.98 Never falsely represent yourself or your needs.

AIGA Standards of Professional Practice
p.254 PUBLICITY 5.1 Any self-promotion, advertising, or publicity must not contain deliberate misstatements of competence, expertise, or professional capabilities.

I recommend that you meet with this person across a cup of tea, but also have a written letter in hand. The designer you have been working for is most definitely violating at least these concepts from AIGA and should be told, in writing, that this has taken place. If this person is a new designer and had bad schooling, which might be the case, this might be a teachable moment for you. If this designer is not receptive to your feelings on the matter, you do not need this client in your business.

I would immediately put the pieces you printed on your website, with credit to the designer included, but be sure that you represent your work as your work.

Even in offset printing projects, my students were always taught to credit the designer, the photographer, the typesetter (back in the day), as well as the printing company and the bindery, depending on the job, if they were presenting the work in their portfolios. I reminded them regularly that they were not the ones doing all the work, that they needed those other folks to get their design born, and forgetting to give credit where credit was due was not only unethical it was bad business. Nobody likes a liar.

Whenever work is presented for a competition, such as the “Addy Awards” used to be, all of this information was required.

The printer who trained me 40 years ago would have never dreamed of hiring another firm to run a job for her and pass it off as her own. She always let the client know if the work was being done by a subcontractor or in house.Things are much different today than even 25 years ago with job printing. As technology has changed and evolved, Letterpress has become something more in the communications world than just a “job.”

With letterpress printing shops today, either commercial or fine art, it is definitely a “fine craft” in terms of work being produced as opposed to an instant printer. We in the printing history world have worked hard on public relations to make sure that this impression of “fine craft” is carried through in the wider media. This designer is trying to set up her own shop on the back of another fine craftsperson, and this is not right.

I am very concerned from what is written here that there are lots of designers passing off fine letterpress printing as their own. I recommend that all of you who have had this experience, stop it now. Put the work you produce on your websites or in your marketing materials, crediting the designer, but including the printing done by you. Include the paper you have used to print the item, the ink type and colour, etc.

Take credit for your work and don’t let anyone else get away with presenting your work as theirs. It is not ethical and we can not allow it to proliferate. I feel, we must take a stand.
Thank you for listening.


I forgot to mention one very important thing.

My teacher in undergrad was Father Edward Michael Catich, the world renowned calligrapher and stone carver. He was also an amazing graphic designer and printer. He taught me how to refine the first design ethics I learned from Pat Tolson at Allen Printing in his classes and I applied them in my entire career. They served me well and I hope they have also served my students.

Thank you so much Nancy. I wish I had this post in hand when I met with the designer yesterday. I could’ve printed this out and just handed it over. :)

Sound advice (and not just because I agree with it)

Nancy T makes several excellent points. I’ve been there myself and experienced having our work, (my wife and myself), creative one off piece work even, appropriated by a nonprofit as theirs, with a stamped logo they added later. We were definitely marketing as fine art up front, so these things do happen sometimes. I also agree with the comment earlier regarding shop work being reinvented and sold as something else. Custom value added work is one thing, printing one step in a multi-step job is one thing, taking your work as delivered and representing it as the work of that person, that is not okay. Let us know how it turns out.

Yo Nancy!!!!!!

Funny you should just mention Father Catich. I spent Friday afternoon giving a talk at St. Ambrose University about the work I have been doing for the past 37 years. Later there was a gallery opening of my stuff at The Bakery Gallery in Davenport. I even took a little proof press with me for the gallery opening and everyone got to print a keepsake on-site for the occassion. Something I thought of at the last minute and it blew them away.

I remember the Catich Gallery at St. Ambrose from probably 20 years or more ago (it was Father Catich’s former studio space) but now it has been subdivided into a smallish gallery (not showing any of Catich’s magnificent work) and some sort of a classroom. Pretty sad. I do have all of his books and some of his ephemera.

I still marvel at how his name came up just before my trip back there.

Rick von Holdt
The Foolproof Press

Signature your work on back of the piece somewhere. Let the customer know you are doing this because it is your brand
( like levis, true religion etc ). Doesn’t need to be fancy or raised. Even if it requires an additional pass, it goes a long long way. As well, do no work for brokers unless your name is on it. That will set them straight and show them who is boss. I started doing this many years ago. It was against the norm… but thats why it works !
Love your brand by the way !

You have an intellectual right to the photography of your prints, if you took the photos yourself. First, I would explain that; and then tell her that legal action will be faced if she does not. Do you have a lawyer on retainer? Every designer, shop and business SHOULD. Look up on youtube and take a listen to Mike Monteiro: “Pay Me” - though he adds a couple extra colorful words, the second being “You” (I’ll let you fill in the first.)

The designer is not only stealing your service and representing it as her own, but by taking and using your photos (If she is, it’s unclear on that part), stealing your property.

While Nancy T makes good points about a self regulating community such as AIGA and their corresponding standards, in the real world (And I will be blunt) these standards are out the window and meaningless.

You also have a right to reserve rights on what you print and maintain the available publicity applicable to these pieces. Businesses, regardless of use - need releases to use images of objects that are made by others and those releases cost money.

Being that this person is a designer, you should have a clearly stipulated contract that defines the end uses of the product you produce, as she surely does with her client who she designed the piece for. You’re in the same field, you HAVE to think the same way! Unfortunately if you don’t clearly define how she can use a representation of your work, there isn’t much you can do now. But please take the food for thought and digest it for the future. Artists/Designers and Printers MUST protect themselves from imitation and theft.