Glyph Q&A with Artist Ryan Molloy, May 2019
By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
Ryan Molloy, former head of EMU’s Art Dept. and current EMU Professor of Graphic Design exhibited 3 color risographs, “Knowing Loving,” “Countless Things,” “Sometimes the End.” The 3 prints where primarily vintage looking neon pinks and blues and interesting colors that perhaps can only be achieved from a risograph. They were stacked cubes that built both words and ideas. The colors Molloy described as chromatic or the layering of two colors.
AO: Share with me a little more about the risograph you used in your work?
RM: A risograph, or riso, is a digital duplicator that prints ink (one or two colors at a time depending on the model) instead of toner. It is similar to mimeograph in that a stencil is created around an ink filled drum which then transfers the image onto the paper. I tell students it’s like a photocopier meets screen printing. They were largely used for office printing as a cheaper alternative to photocopiers but as photocopiers and printers became cheaper their use diminished. Risograph printing hit resurgence several years ago when artists and designers started using them for small run press shops. If you want to learn more about riso printing here are a few little video about them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHU9AAc3YeQ, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIfV8dXZOjc.
AO: The cube design, the text and its relationship?
RM: Admittedly the design wasn’t originally intended to be printed using the riso. the type design originates as an experiment to find new ways for typesetting on a letterpress. This particular typeface was designed in a manner that it could tessellate and be typeset in both a traditional manner i.e. horizontal (left to right) and also the more experimental dimensional cube shapes. I attached some images of the typeface as it was originally intended for a letterpress so that you can see what I am talking about. This particular typeface is the product of an ongoing investigation of mine exploring how digital technologies such as CNC milling and laser etching can bring new approaches to the design of letterforms for letterpress printing.
The typeface was intended to be chromatic, i.e. two colors printed on top of each other so that they would produce a third color. This second layer of color (not seen in the images) is still in development and prototyping for the press. I often use the riso to test out things like this and it just happened to be that Trevor asked me to participate as I was developing the typeface so I figured I would make something using the updated chromatic version of the typeface. The nature of the riso being that it prints ink vs. toner also mimics other printing processes like letterpress where one color is printed at a time.
As for the relationship of the cube and the text? I did set a rule for myself that words had to have letters in multiples of 3 (3, 6, 9, 12, etc.) making them fill a complete block, therefore the format dictated the language and phrasing to a degree. The phrases are really just my own musings, truisms, etc.
AO: Is it a plan for something, is it mathematical?
RM: Is it mathematical, only in that the hexagon and the triangles and parallelograms it creates lend themselves to creating interesting tessellating patterns. Is it a plan, no. It was always intended for the 2-d flattened space of a page. I think more than anything the purpose of the typeface is to really challenge how we typeset language and see if there are new ways to think about the way type works on a page.
AO: Give me some background information?
RM: Since being interim department head I’ve returned to faculty as a professor in the School of Art & Design teaching graphic design. Having worked in graphic design, stage design, and architecture I would say I am an interdisciplinary designer, though currently I am mostly working within graphic design and more specifically type design. Here is a recent bio:
“Ryan Molloy is a designer and educator currently teaching graphic design at Eastern Michigan University. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from Texas Tech University and an MFA in Design from University of Texas at Austin. His creative work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and has received several awards including an Art Directors Club Young Guns award. In 2012 Ryan Molloy and Leslie Atzmon received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works grant for the Open Book Workshop, held at the Jean Noble Parsons Center, and the book The Open Book Project. Ryan Molloy and Leslie Atzmon also received a Sappi Ideas that Matter grant in 2017 for the redesign of Ypsilanti’s Riverside Arts Center visual identity and environmental graphics.”