After distributing the self-published titles of Upper Playground, the San Francisco—based street/youth culture design and apparel maker, for five years, Gingko Press has taken over the direction of its publishing program and will continue to handle its distribution. Founded 10 years ago by Matt Revelli, Upper Playground is known for cutting-edge street-influenced design produced by local San Francisco and international artists. The firm also operates nine retail stores in major cities.
Dave Lopes, v-p of Gingko, said Upper Playground has been publishing artists' monographs, “nicely made hardcovers for about $19.95, visual candy,” but that Revelli decided the publishing side needed more professional oversight. “The business side—inventory and management stuff—was catching up to them, so they brought us in,” Lopes explained. He hailed Revelli and Upper Playground for an ability to attract street and hip-hop—influenced artists and turn their sensibilities into marketable products.
The firm's T-shirts are particularly distinctive and are the subject of Upper Playground: Ten Years of T-Shirt Graphics, a mammoth collection of T-shirt designs that also chart the history of the company. The 600-page book is the lead UP/GP title for the fall and features over 2,000 images and work by more than 100 artists. “Upper Playground has managed to position their T-shirts as real mass market products rather than just eccentric vanity items,” Lopes said, noting “the sheer volume of designs—used on hoodies, T-shirts, sneakers and other stuff—over the years is staggering.” T-Shirt Graphics will pub in November with a 10,000-copy first printing. Most UP/GP titles have initial print runs of 3,000 to 5,000 copies.
In December, the house will publish Grotesk: Ten Years of Swiss Design Lost in Brooklyn by Grotesk, a Swiss graphic artist living in Brooklyn. Over the summer, Upper Playground/Gingko published There's Nothing Wrong with You (Hopefully), an artbook of eccentric character drawings by Michael Siebin, as well as Alianza, a monograph documenting the large-scale public murals of the art team of Mac & Retna.
Gingko was founded in 1985 in Hamburg, Germany, by an American, and its parent company remains there. The U.S. publisher/distributor recently moved from its offices in Corte Madera, Calif., to a new 10,000-square-foot office/warehouse in Berkeley. The company handles its own sales and distribution to about 500 core accounts—indie bookstores, boutiques and museum shops among them.