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Good Taste: Letterpress Posters Whet Appetites!

Written by in Collections, Color & Texture

Hot, Fresh, Wholesome & Delicious! 

Handmade Tortillas, Fresh Baked Bread, Letterpress Posters?

Yes, Please!

When Mi Rancho opened its doors in 1939 in Oakland, Calif., it was the only Mexican grocery store in the area, providing handmade tortillas and other specialty items. This family-owned business has since grown into a supplier to restaurants all over the country, churning out nearly 4.5 million tortillas a day. The owner wanted something special to commemorate the anniversary, so he hired designer Steve Epstein to create a poster to share with his vendors.

Epstein, who has been a designer since the late ’70s, starting as a print designer, then moving into broadcast design and animation working for ABC in Hollywood, then a CBS affiliate in San Francisco. For the past 14 years, he’s focused on photography and print design.

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His illustration captures a moment in time, when fresh corn tortillas were lovingly rolled by hand. Working closely with Judith Berliner at Full Circle Press, Epstein originally envisioned the job to run as letterpress, but Berliner advised him to go a different route. “She directed me to a really good offset lithographer (Master Color) for the color portion, and then she stepped in and added the blind debossing.” The poster was printed on Crane’s Lettra® Cover in Ecru White.

Epstein notes, “The design was driven by my love of the work of Michael Schwab and David Lance Goines.”

Well, work begets work, and so is the case here. Tom Franier, CEO of Semifreddi’s, saw the Mi Rancho poster and asked Epstein if he could do something similar, which is ironic, because Epstein had approached him ten years earlier to do this exact project. “I believe he had to physically see and touch the Mi Rancho poster to get it,” Epstein says.

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Semifreddi’s is a Bay Area bakery specializing in handmade, sourdough breads. In a typical week, they make around 190,000 loaves of bread at their world headquarters in Alameda, Calif. Although Semifreddi’s doesn’t have the long history that Mi Rancho has, Franier saw the value in creating an iconic poster to display at the bakery and retail outlets where the bread is sold.

As Epstein points out, “At a unit price of approximately $20 each (500 printed), most potential clients balk at the investment. Fortunately, both clients saw the value.”

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Like the Mi Rancho poster, Epstein’s depiction of a baker pulling a piping hot loaf of bread out of the oven, was printed on Crane’s Lettra® Cover in Ecru White, because “the weight, finish, and color transmit the intended, unique nature this project required,” the designer notes, adding, “It bridges the gap between a utilitarian and a fine art assignment, going beyond the visual concept to a level that includes the printing process and paper selection.”

Full Circle’s Berliner notes, “Steve’s design is art. He invites the viewer into a tactile, sensorial experience. In my long experience, designers like Steve know that the best way to judge a high quality poster is how often it gets stolen off the bulletin board or window. Don’t worry, we printed plenty.”