Colby Poster Printing Co. 1946 – 2012

By now I’ve called the good people at Colby three times trying to order up another printing of our SEY YES posters, and three times, the same message: President Glenn Hinman on the line, “Unfortunately we have closed our doors as of December 31st, 2012…. And I wanna personally thank you for being wonderful customers, and especially, being wonderful people. Have a good future.”

TRAVESTY! And a surprise, too. From where I stand, it seems like Colby is a well-acknowledged, and therefore well-insulated, survivor from the pre-digital age. Glenn’s grandfather Herbert Lee Colby opened the Colby Poster Printing Co. in 1946, offering Litho, Letterpress, and Screen Printing on posters for Gene Autry, Elvis, Ray Charles, Martin Luther King, and scores of politicians, soccer fans, and us. We used our posters to black out the windows at the shop when we were doing our initial construction work and people would stop by wondering what sort of YES-oriented campaign we were running. This pleased us so we kept the posters around.

I first learned of Colby on account of the series of fantastic posters made for Reference Library, including my favorite, “If You Can’t See You, I Can’t See You!” Once I identified the look of them, I started seeing them all over the place. Like, chain-link fences all over the place. Inside, in frames, in 2008, Peter Coffin made those beautiful text-free 3-color fades. So nice. Then last year the Hammer had that big Made in L.A. show and Colby made the posters and pretty much lent their whole graphic style, and that led to a Colby show in London in the fall. But it seems they peaked in the 1970s, when they had 24 employees, and last year they were down to just nine, including Glenn’s brothers Larry and Lee. And now it’s all over.

If anyone knows different, please let me know! And in any case, have a good future.

Reference Library

Reference Library at the ICA

Reference Library

Peter Coffin

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