A man of letters

March 1, 2009 


Brian Allen, owner of Officina Briani, Latin for "workshop of Brian." Craftsman and teacher, Allen makes announcements, posters, stationery and various presentation materials. He also teaches type history and the craft of letterpresss. TAKAAKI IWABU -


By Takaaki Iwabu, Staff Writer

  • Audio Slide Show: Brian Allen, letterpress printer
  • Brian Allen found a job at a mapmaking company in Boston after graduate school. There, he learned how to set type to create indexes and street names.

    "I suddenly became aware that not all the typefaces are the same," says Allen, 56.

    He noticed that different typefaces suggest different moods and began reading about typefaces and taking calligraphy classes.

    Thirteen years ago Allen left IBM, where he was making fonts for the computer system, to become a freelance letterpress printer.

    "I was seduced by a tactile quality of paper and printed materials," he says with a laugh.

    His business in Boulder, Colo., didn't take off, but he didn't abandon his passion for the craft. After other font production work, Allen restarted his business in 2007 in North Raleigh by opening Officina Briani, Latin for "Workshop of Brian."

    Now he prints everything from corporate identities to fine art to wedding invitations. At his studio, he teaches the oldest printing method, from Johannes Gutenburg era.

    "I am fascinated by the subtleties and understated elegance of the craft," he says.

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