The duo behind Bad Student brought an old printmaking method back to life

Photos courtesy of Bad Student

Artists Pau Tiu and Dyam Gonzales are fascinated with printmaking and graphic design. “And when we talk about art,” they say, “Risograph always comes up.”

The digital printing system, designed for high-speed and high-volume printing and copying, has been around since the ‘80s, and many people have been using it to make vibrant zines and art prints. But as Pau and Dyam woefully put it, “We [were] frustrated [that] the nearest Risograph art presses are either in Singapore or Hong Kong.”

There were Riso machines in the country, they observed, but nobody had ever thought to use them for art. “We would always joke around and say, ‘Why don’t we just start one here?’” they say. “And we’d laugh because A, we [didn’t] have enough money to buy the machine, and B, we knew nothing about the technical stuff.”

When they graduated from college, where they had met, they had no idea what to do next. One day, however, they decided to go for it — so they started their own Risograph press and design studio called Bad Student. “We just figured, ‘Why not’? With limited knowledge about Risograph and the full support of our parents, we bought a machine and just figured it out from there.”

Pau and Dyam are self-taught when it comes to operating the machine. “And until now we’re still learning,” they share. “That’s why we called ourselves Bad Student.” In an email interview, they answered questions about the Riso process and why print still matters.

Zine stealers: Pau and Dyam are self-taught when it comes to Riso printing. 

Young STAR: Why did you choose Riso printing as your medium?
Bad Student: We wanted to provide an alternative for laser and offset printing. Riso is much cheaper than laser print and has a lower minimum order compared to offset. Because of this, Riso printing is more ideal for self-publishing artists and start-up businesses. It also has a unique print quality that you can’t achieve in other printing methods. It’s very suitable for art prints, zines, books, posters, packaging — basically any paper-based products. We wanted to create a platform that supports and encourages artists here in the Philippines who want to make a living out of their passion by offering an affordable way for them to produce their products.

Can you explain the Riso process and what makes it different?

It’s process is similar to silk screen printing but faster. Instead of the usual CMYK type of printing you see in laser and inkjet printers, Riso has a different drum for every color and carries a unique set of inks that are soy-based. The Riso machine makes a stencil on the master sheet and that wraps around the color drum, so when the paper is fed, the stenciled image is printed on it. This process creates overprinting and misalignment which are the quirks that makes Risograph special. Basically it’s a silk screen printer trapped in a Xerox machine’s body.

Riso  over run: Bad Student makes their own zines and prints using the Risograph process.

What is your approach to and definition of good design?
Good design should always serve a purpose. We always approach design as an extension of who we are. Our thoughts, our experiences, our feelings — design should always have a “human” feel to it and we think that’s what makes it good.

More than ever, we need to advocate to keep print alive. Why do you think having tangible art still matters?
We think that printed matter can provide a direct and intimate connection between the artists and their readers. It’s a unique experience when you hold something tactile and it gives you the impression that what you’re holding is a compilation of time, effort and passion of somebody else.

How do you see Bad Student evolving in the future?
We’re actually planning on opening a studio and shop next year so we could start offering Risograph workshops to the public . And hopefully curate a Riso exhibit as well!

For more information on Bad Student — and to ask them about Riso — check out @_badstudent on Instagram.

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