By Joseph Gornail (The following originally appeared in and is reprinted with the permission of Downtown Express, a weekly newspaper serving Lower Manhattan. The writer is the owner of Fine Print NYC, a printing and design firm—Ed.) 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 Streets 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 Streets 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. He often said how lucky he felt to be working with his childhood friends and would look forward to hanging out with them every Friday at Nino's or The Three Roses. 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. I want to re-establish and promote a community that promoted friendship between competitors, shared resources and would often collaborate on projects. I have partnered with two printing companies that share the same passion for the craft as I do and have refused to leave Downtown. 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.
By Bob on Apr 24, 2010
Great article...I worked as a pressman for a financial printing co.for 20 years. We were at 435 Hudson St. The company is no longer in business. It's a shame that most of the printers are gone from that area. I miss the West Village.It was my home away from home. I can relate to your article. Printing is my life.I am currently employed by a book printer in PA. They have been in business since 1911. Thanks!
By rob chamness on May 04, 2010
wow! i'm sitting here on the road checking emails, the sentiment is really appreciated. I am 3rd generation ink maker my kids are all in the business. love to talk to you I am in philly do some business in ny
By Naima on May 13, 2010
Hi, I'm a teacher at City-as-School High School in Lower Manhattan. I have a student who is interning at Nova Offset Printers and he is writing a research paper on the printing industry and lower manhattan. Can you recommend any sources for information and/or would you be willing to be interviewed? Best wishes, Naima Freitas City-As-School
By Carole Maclean on May 13, 2010
Joseph, I came across your post and really appreciated it. My business has been decimated by the perfect storm of (1) the economy, (2) the digital age, and (3) competition. That only serves to motivate me to continue to learn my craft, do the very best I know how to make my clients happy, and to promote offset printing as an incredibly necessary and valuable tool for marketing of all sorts. You and I will remain viable - it is a matter of time before the poor results obtained through digital media only will lead principles to return, at least in part, to the printed product to connect with their target market. Hang in there!!
By Mik Pam on Jun 03, 2010
Nice article Patrick. We are an offset print shop in Los Angeles although we carry digital for the large format stuff I cannot agree more with Carole it is a perfect storm or "Murphy's Law" in action. These online printing companies are dirt cheap, that we lose clients to them regularly only to have them come back due to quality issues. We tell the customers you get what you pay for. We are in the process of rebuilding our antiquated site check out how old it is before we change it :). www.fadaniels.com. My 2 cents is that "old school" printers stay true to their craft and don't be afraid to show your true selves as "Mastercraftsmen".
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