12.11.13 / Rejoicing in Cheap Fluorescent Printshop Printing
Los Angeles’ Colby Poster Printing Company was one of the last great hold-outs of the fluorescent, oak tag, wood and metal type poster printing companies in the U.S. of A. The legendary Hatch Show Print is still, thankfully, around and a few other Kinkoesque ink jet shops continue to churn them out. But Colby had been producing the real thing since 1948 on their Heidelberg Letterset press until closing shop on December 31, 2012. To commemorate its demise, various and sundry artists and designers joined together for an exhibition and catalog that commemorates Colby’s color saturated existence.
Dan Nadel’s Picturebox publishing company is responsible for In the Good Name of the Company: Artworks and Ephemera Produced By or In Tandem with the Colby Poster Printing Company organized by Christopher Michlig, Brian Roettinger and Jan Tumlir. This book documents the print shop’s history and one of its final projects: a series of posters by artists including Ruscha, Kathryn Andrews, Scott Benzel, Peter Coffin, Daniel Eatock, Eve Fowler, Jacob Kassay, Allen Ruppersberg, Andy Spade and Craig Stecyk. It is among the most viscerally satisfying volumes of art and design I’ve seen all year.
Posters from Colby are mundane by high falutin’ design standards yet beautiful in their simplicity. Posters by the falutin’ artists are word-driven communication with LA. Typographically, there is a consistent look but that’s the nature of the game (the same wood types and color palette drive the dominant in your face style). What it says about the history of American job printing and layout is secondary to the joy derived from the lack of pretense. Get this book to guiltily enjoy or to watch your best designer friend enjoy it.
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is the co-founder and the co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts. He writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review and the Graphic Content blog for T-Style. He is the author, coauthor, and/or editor of more than 120 books on design and popular culture, including the recent book Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig (Chronicle).