Issue #19 May 2006

Nashville institution influences Summit design

If you've been in the technology industry for any amount of time, you've probably been to a tradeshow or conference. And when you left the convention floor, you more than likely made off with a bagful of stuff. Organizations give away everything from stickers to screwdrivers, and all kinds of book and tech vendors are there with their wares. What engineer's suitcase isn't stuffed with company t-shirts and O'Reilly books on the trip home?

Coming up with a memorable takeaway is a fun job, and no event's preparation is more exciting than getting ready for the Red Hat Summit.

Getting cool stuff for our first annual Summit was easy. The Big Easy, in fact. Held in New Orleans, the Summit had giveaways and souvenirs for sale that reflected the culture and history of its host city: Louisiana hot sauce bottles renamed "Open Sauce," Mardi Gras beads, beignets, hurricane glasses, and more.

When it was decided that this year's Summit was going to be in Nashville, Tennessee, a couple of ideas immediately sprang to mind--nothing says Nashville like the Grand Ole Opry. And nothing says Grand Ole Opry like a Hatch Show Print poster.

You've probably heard of the Grand Ole Opry, but what about Hatch Show? You might not have heard the name, but you've certainly seen their work.

Hatch Show Print is a small storefront letterpress print shop in downtown Nashville. For over 125 years they've been printing amazing posters for artists like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Go to the Country Music Hall of Fame and you'll see their work lining the walls. Just last month, The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC hosted a Hatch Show retrospective in conjunction with their Country: A Celebration of American Music series. And in February, HOW magazine featured Hatch, calling their creations the "forefront of poster design."

The company was founded in 1879 by Herbert and Charles Hatch. Over the years, Hatch Show has maintained its reputation by sticking to tradition and refusing to chase trends or follow technology. In the 70s and 80s when other designers and printers began moving to computers and electronic, fully automated presses, Hatch kept laying out their posters by hand, using typeblocks and photoplates that had been handcarved and molded decades earlier. Walk in off the street today (anyone is welcome) and you'll see just one computer, a rotary phone, and 14 hand-operated printing presses (the newest one aquired in 1967). Drawers and shelves reach to the rafters, holding over 10,000 blocks and plates.

When Red Hat called Hatch Show and introduced ourselves, they were excited to collaborate. We decided that the Summit poster should be a bit like a revival poster (Hatch Show's very first poster design was for minister Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Uncle Tom's Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe) and a bit like a rock-n-roll poster (one of Hatch Show's first Elvis Presley posters recently sold on eBay for $17,000.).

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After a couple of rounds of edits and drafts, we ended up with was a pretty cool mash up--21st century technology company meets 19th century poster tradition.

We decided on a limited edition 400-print run. All of the posters are numbered and will be sold at the Summit. For the month leading up to the Summit, they will also be available online in the Red Hat Cool Stuff Store.

Who knows? In twenty years, maybe one of these, autographed by Matthew Szulik or Havoc Pennington, might be worth as much as Elvis' poster.

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About the author

Michael Pittman is a Brand + Design Project Manager at Red Hat. You may have met him at last year's Summit. He was the hip dude manning the Cool Stuff store.