Down a Hackney side street tucked around the corner from Mecca Bingo lies a smart but innocuous cafe. Inside, the chorus of percolating coffee and frothing milk is underpinned by a more repetitive sound, the faint clunking of machinery at work. For here, embedded behind the cappuccinos-in-progress, is the home of Hato Press and sister company Studio Hato, a symbiotic Risograph printers and design studio that specialises in identity projects, workshops and print publications for cultural organisations, as well as offering their Riso expertise to a host of other customers. Filled to the ceiling with inks, papers and the hum of the press, from here they’ve brought into existence everything from books for mainstream art galleries, such as the children’s art packs to accompany Sou Fujimoto’s Serpentine Pavilion, through to subversive client jobs, like Broken Fingaz’ ghoulish erotic zine Sex Picnic. If you’ve picked up something Riso printed in the last year, it’s likely that Hato had something to do with it.
But although the press is integral to the way that Hato operates, the practice is far from consumed by a nostalgic loyalty to print. In the past year, Studio Hato and Hato Press have been joined by Hato Labo, a digital-led arm of the business that aims to increase the studio’s capacity for interactive educational projects and experimental installations. Rather than being driven by a desire to make beautiful printed objects (although that is of course a part of what Hato do), it’s clear that the importance of the press instead lies in its power to put the means of production into the hands of the designers. As well as generating enough income through printing other people’s projects to support the burgeoning design studio, it has allowed them to publish the work of friends, collaborators and people they admire, as well as experiment with unorthodox binding and folding techniques and, something that is very important to Hato’s ethos, teach those skills to others.