Strange but true letterpress story

Several years ago I was asked to pitch for a corporate identity for the local concert hall ‘The Brighton Dome’. The pitch was quite a large undertaking for me at the time and my background was in book design so I asked a London based designer friend with a corporate identity background to work on it with me. We spent a week working on the project, Martin in London, me in Brighton and on the day before the pitch Martin came down to Brighton (about 50-60 miles away) with his material. He also brought down a gift for me which he had picked up in a street market in South London the day before. It was a large letterpress woodcut with the word ‘DOME’ on it - on closer inspection it turned out to be the original Brighton Dome ‘logo’ used in the 1950’s… I was speechless…

image: IMG_3034.JPG


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Thanks so much for that wonderful story, John. I pick up interesting old cuts from time to time and I’ve often wondered what they were used for. It would be great if more people would scan printed images and upload them to something like Google Images. The tagging system has a long way to go, though (if there is a system).


Yes, good story, thanks, John. I actually saw a retro poster in one of the vintage shops in Brighton Laines recently with that (or very similar) logo on it. I think it was advertising the opening of the Dome.

Did you get the pitch? Did the happy piece of memorabilia swing it your way?


Paul, Barbara - yes, I think all these old blocks have a rich patina of history about them - hardware store or concert hall, they are all a tangible relic of some forgotten story.

This Dome block must have been used to advertise shows and concerts by countless famous entertainers and musicians over the the years.

I was looking at a couple of trays of type only yesterday and thinking that a simple combination of those particular letters could have in the past announced births, deaths, invasion, assassination, coronation, sporting victory etc etc.

Ben - I came to the conclusion long ago that pitching is a fairly thankless task, even when I’ve won them. I suspect that they are rarely won on the strength of the visual material presented, other factors like internal politics and presentation skills come into play, often to the detriment of the final decision. On this occasion the brief explicitly asked for ideas which could help establish the dome as a world class venue - now my understanding of corporate graphics and branding is that differenciation is a key factor in order to achieve something like that; so we came up with some very brighton-themed ideas which could be developed into something unique. I even took the block along to oil the discussion but no, it wasn’t to be and instead they went for the differenciated world-beating design they still have today… a circle with some poorly considered typography… (the hint of sour grapes in the air at this point is entirely imaginary of course….!)

It’s a small world sometimes. I recently bought two letters written by my great-great-grandfather in the 1870’s … on eBay.