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Captains of Industry: Brandon Griswold – Graphic Designer, Printmaker, & Author of Manly Marks

Manly Marks Book Cover

I came across Mr. Brandon Griswold and his Manly Marks book quite by accident. While searching for images for another article, I noticed one for a Manly Marks book. “What is this!?”, I immediately proclaimed to myself. The title and simple cover alone was worth a solid look. As it turns out, this isn’t your typical book, which makes it much cooler and substantially more manly. The books are hand-bound and letterpressed, using the old school technique of printing and book making. The funds for this venture were obtained through a very successful Kickstarter campaign, the video which you can see below. I reached out to Mr. Griswold in the interest of doing this article, to which he graciously agreed. As it turns out, creating Manly Marks is not his full-time job, he is a successful graphic designer as well. Holding down an 8-to-5 while also pursuing what you love on the side is something I am very familiar with and can appreciate.

- Captains of Industry articles focus on men with manly and interesting trades. They may or may not be wealthy, but they have had success, often going against the grain and choosing a unique path in life, and offer much to be learned. Read more here. -

Tell us about the kind of design work you do and how you got started.

I got started in design in high school when I first learned how to use programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. After making some very poorly designed pieces I earned a BFA in Graphic Design and started my career primarily designing packaging. I’ve transitioned a couple of times, but still currently focus on packaging and print design.

What drew you to the art of letterpress printing?

When I was in college I took a printmaking course that first exposed me to letterpress. I wasn’t as big a fan of the other printmaking methods, but relief printing and letterpress stuck out to me. I loved the craft behind each print, the challenge of locking up the blocks in the press just right, and getting to engage with my design in a physical sense rather than being in front of a computer. The tactile quality of letterpress continues to draw me back, and carving a block by hand is one of my favorite things to do. It wasn’t until an internship at a shop in Nashville called Hatch Show Print that my passion for letterpress took root. I was able to spend 6 weeks learning the ins and outs from some incredibly talented people. I probably would have stuck around there beyond the internship had the opportunity been available, but instead owe the start of my design career to my time at Hatch Show Print.

Manly Marks Book Confidence

One of Griswold’s Hand Cut Illustrations

What is involved in printing in such a manner?

There’s a lot of problem solving and working within very strict parameters when letterpress printing. In order for things to print they have to be a very specific height, and locked into place in a specific manner. There’s a lot of planning that generally goes into it – otherwise it’s a lot of trial and error on press which is never ideal.

What inspired you to create the Manly Marks book?

The idea is something I had been chewing on for a while without realizing it. I’ve been printing for a few years and have avoided wedding invitations and projects like that mostly because they don’t excite me. There’s a great market for them and a lot of printers that make amazing designs, but it just wasn’t something I wanted to get into. I had been searching for a way to make a project that I would get excited about, something that seemed a bit more fun for me. So the idea of a masculine based project started to form through the encouragement of a friend. It also came from a long string of challenges I often give myself to improve my craft and take my skills to the next level.

Manly Marks Poster

Manly Marks poster featuring the illustrations in the book.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical work day involves me getting to the office around 9-9:30. I often don’t know what I’m coming into as a client may have changed the project/timeline/parameters/etc overnight or new things pop up and become a priority.

From where do you draw your inspiration?

I draw a lot of inspiration from the work of my friends. I have a good group of friends that are incredibly talented and they do a ton of experimentation and exploratory work. What they come up with always inspires me to keep working and try to keep up.

Manly Marks Man-Card

Brandon designed and letterpressed these keen Man-Cards for the Manly Marks project.

What life lessons do you have for other men?

Well, I’m not sure how much I have to offer in this category, but one I’ve learned recently is don’t be afraid to open up.

What does your trade mean to you as a man?

My trade has leanings to a fair bit of craftsmanship, and I try to keep work around that allow me to work with my hands. It means that I have a way to contribute and to lead.

More Info

Get a copy of the Manly Marks book or other items from the Manly Marks store.

See Mr. Griswold’s Kickstarter campaign here.

Follow Brandon’s graphic design work and personal pursuits here.

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