Hatch Show Print

Summer 2019 Internship

Last summer I had the privilege of working as one of four interns at the legendary Hatch Show Print in Nashville Tennessee. Hatch is the oldest actively producing letterpress poster shop in America at 140 years, in business since 1879, known for its distinctive style and massive collection of type and carved imagery. Thrown in with the eight full time designer/printers, my responsibilities included conceptualizing posters, setting wood and metal type, communicating with clients, and hand-printing hundreds of posters.

Just a few of the thousands of posters printed at Hatch Show Print over the years

The Process

The letterpress process is as old-school as it gets. A computer is only used during a brief step communicating with the client. A typical project would look something like this:

Everything printed with the letterpress process is a physical piece of wood, metal, or some other material. Type is set backwards so it will print right-reading
  1. Sketch possible designs based on the content and parameters set by the client (number of colors/layers, possible themes etc.)
  2. Begin pulling type and imagery from the shelves and setting the first color
  3. Fill in the empty space with furniture (wooden pieces shorter than the height of the type that hold everything in place)
  4. Repeat for each color (each color requires a separate pass through the press)
  5. Take a proof print of each color using black ink, photograph, and digitally layer the composition
  6. Send the proof to the client and revise based on feedback
  7. Once approved, mix each color needed for the poster
  8. Load the first layer on the press and print the first color on the specified quantity of posters (usually between 150 and 300)
  9. Repeat for each color
  10. Trim and package final posters
Here, I am printing the second of two colors of my first solo project. Dark grey ink is spread across the rollers that spin to provide a thin even film across the type and imagery

During my time at Hatch, I completed one team project, four solo projects, and a personal project. The physical limitations of letterpress forced me to improve my problem solving skills and allowed me to build a mindset of how design can exist physically off the computer. I learned how to design within a set style that the client expected while still providing a unique and attractive solution to their design problem. I learned to work better as a team and how to maintain several projects at once in a high energy environment.

Back to Home