Vintage Varsity: Target + Hamilton Wood Type

Curator: Quite Strong
date: August 8, 2011
Categories: Advertising, Corporate Communications Design, Typography
Tags: Letterpress
Photo: Renee Jones Schneider for StarTribune.com
Target's new line of “Vintage Varsity” apparel was designed from a trip that the Target design team took to the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Typeface, for those that haven’t seen it, is an independent documentary about the secret national treasure of wood type at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Hamilton produced posters and printed materials for a large part of the country for over 100 years, and still boasts a collection of 1.5 million pieces of wood type. We were embarrassed that we hadn't known about it before. Shortly after Typeface brought Hamilton to our attention, Quite Strong planned a trip up to see our cheese-head neighbors along with a bunch of our design friends.

Typeface also showed us that Hamilton was having a lot of trouble bringing in the funds to keep it open as a museum and to keep the wood type alive, organized and in use. Jim Moran, museum director, explained to us that it is a “working museum” because the wood type needs to be put to use in order to not deteriorate. So he runs letterpress workshops and archives the collection.

We did a letterpress workshop, learned about the museum, and checked out some of the other work that’s been printed there recently. It was such a blast, and we were all thirsty for finding weirder wood blocks, mixing strange colors, and finding new surfaces to print on. Toward the end of our visit, Jim and I printed the shirt that I was wearing with a big wooden ampersand in bright yellow ink. To this day, it’s one of my favorite shirts.

Luckily, now I’m not the only one that gets to support Hamilton by wearing wood type clothing. Target’s new line of “Vintage Varsity” apparel was designed from a trip that the Target design team took to Hamilton. Preserving the wood type for today’s youth, every piece of apparel comes with a hang tag that talks about Hamilton. And though the shirts weren’t printed on a letterpress, the designers at Target did some interesting layering and color effects to simulate the look of the letterpress. They were also careful to leave all the imperfections of the type and advertising cut-outs in tact.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider for StarTribune.com
A T-shirt from the Hamilton + Target collection.

© Target via youtube.com
“Cool Never Fades” — Hamilton Wood Type Museum

Photo: Elaine Chernov
“Toward the end of our visit, Jim and I printed the shirt that I was wearing with a big wooden ampersand in bright yellow ink. To this day, it's one of my favorite shirts.” — Elaine Chernov

What’s most interesting about the team-up is that Hamilton has come full circle. Once on top of the world of mass-market printing, then fading into obscurity for many years to most recently having some small niche-appeal to printing and design professionals, Hamilton’s craft has now gone mainstream once again.

— Elaine Chernov
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