My story is about preserving the craft of printing in Manhattan, especially Downtown where the industry was most successful and has an unparalleled historical significance. I’m a native Downtown kid, born and raised on Thompson and Grand Sts. with family that has printing roots tracing back to Printing-House Square.
My grandfather worked as a binder for many years. He always loved and appreciated a well-printed product, whether it was personal stationery or a cereal box. He would always break down the process that was involved to create the effect of raised paper, raised ink, shiny letters, etc.
I remember many Sunday afternoons walking down to Park Row with my grandfather to go and see the statue of Benjamin Franklin, which was dedicated to all of the New York City printers. He was extremely proud that a man of such success and achievement was a lifelong printer.
He passed his passion for printing on to me and I have been obsessed ever since. I started my own company in 2004 and had immediate success with a Nike project being the first thing we produced under the name Fine Print.
Landing Nike as the first project was a sign to me and since then I have dedicated my life to educating myself with everything related to printing. I even created a Web site, fineprintschool.com, that is all about learning the craft of printing and graphic design.
Regardless of how much technological progress we have in the industry, nothing can or will replace the feeling of holding a printed piece with the effect of letterpress, embossing, foil stamping or seeing a CMYK printed project with a design that uses color in a way that is purely art.
When I was growing up, Hudson and Varick Sts. became the new “Printing-House Square” and many creative agencies soon followed. Printing was such an integral part of the neighborhood; Chelsea Vocational, the local public high school started teaching and training the next generation of printers.
My uncle was a student and went on to have a great career as a pressman, working for over 20 years in 250 Hudson. I remember he would always bring home fancy paper for us to color and draw on.
Nowadays things are a bit different — 90% of all printing companies have been pushed out of neighborhoods and commercial buildings they occupied for many decades, either because landlords did not offer lease renewals or they raised the rent too high.
We embrace digital technology, but work tirelessly to preserve traditional offset and specialty printing. If you think about it, pretty much everything we use in our daily lives has some type of printing process applied.
And while the printing industry is definitely in a transitional state that will continue to change, the true print craftsman will always have a place in the creative process.
The above article was also printed in Printing News and Downtown Express
Written by Joseph@FinePrintNYC