The walrus and the publisher

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By Caitlin Donohue

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I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all putting out T-shirt retrospectives together

Having come of age in the era of instant messaging and invisible braces, it can be hard to imagine that the world was ever different than it is today. There are things from a few years ago, even, that don’t make a whole lot of sense to me- like portable CD players? How did that work out for you?

That’s why I need retrospective books like Upper Playground’s Ten Years of T-Shirt Graphics (Gingko), a coffee table tome that could moonlight as a prop for a wieghty door. It’s a (heavy yet) gentle reminder to us young’ns about how cool gets to be that way- and that what you think is happening often has a solid decade of work behind it.

At its core, Ten Years is a catalog- nearly every design that UP has slapped on a shirt is present. But although the illustrations are impressive, the book’s small amount of copy explicitly tells the interesting story of the rise of the San Francisco brand, who is often credited with changing the commercial viability of hip hop design.