Risography was invented in the 1980s in Japan as a cheaper alternative to xerography for small businesses. The machine is similar in appearance to a photocopier, but as a form of stencil duplication, it is akin as a printing method to screenprint. An image, designed to print one color at a time, is cut into a master stencil, which acts as a screen and is wrapped around the ink drum. The paper is run through the machine and pressed directly against the stencil-wrapped drum. The master sheet is replaced along with the ink drum for each additional color. More affordable and less messy than screenprint, risography has become a popular alternative for many young designers in the early twenty-first century. Felix Pfäffli has used the process to print his ongoing series of posters advertising the events at Südpol, a cultural center in Switzerland. In Monotales, Pfäffli used two colors, green and black, to create a print that gives the illusion of depth. Far from generating a sleek surface, the risograph prints convey a raw, flat effect. Risograph printing is widely used in independent book publishing.
Caitlin Condell is the Assistant Curator in the Department of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
The exhibition How Posters Work is currently on view at Cooper Hewitt through November 15, 2015. You can learn more at the exhibition homepage and find the book How Posters Work at SHOP Cooper Hewitt. #HowPostersWork