Now you see Gracie…


now you don't

Top Hat Typography was founded in 1987 by Ken Avilez. Ken began studying and working in the printing field while still at Capucchino High School in San Bruno. At the time, Capucchino had one of the few vocational work-study programs specializing in printing and graphics in the Bay Area, with a complete prepress and print shop on site. After high school Ken continued to work as a freelance typesetter and graphic artist while attending college. Ken began working in the days of phototypesetting, mechanical artwork, paste-up, inking, camera work, film stripping, etc.,but things were changing rapidly. He started Top Hat Typography with a few principal clients like PCLO (now Broadway By the Bay) and built the business slowly. He specialized in typesetting with imagesetter paper and film output.

Ken was and is an avid cyclist and would spend weekends going on long bike rides. He also didn’t own or drive a car, but rode his bike everywhere. It was his dream to do a bike trip across the US and back, but it was impossible while owning and operatiing Top Hat.



So he sold it to a local graphic artist, Normandie Ross-Rocans, in 2002 and was on his way. He rode his bike across the country and back starting in late summer of 2002 and returned in 2003.

normandie Normandie, the current owner, has been a graphic designer, artist and typesetter for over 30 years. Though she planned to become an architect, and has a degree in Environmental Design and Architecture from UC Berkeley, she was led in a different direction. While on a break from school, she worked for one of the largest printing firms in the country: Stecher-Traung-Schmidt Corp. It was there she became a designer specializing in seed packet vignettes and food/wine photographic design. She also did graphic design, typesetting, copywriting, program planning, art directing, and much more. Over the many years of working for STS Corp., Western Temporary Services, and many printing companies, primarily as a freelancer, she has stayed in the graphics and printing field and evolved with all the changes and advances in hardware and software that make this field so interesting and exciting.

Because of Normandie's different talents and experience, and the industry's move to digital plates and printing, Top Hat has gradually moved away from being primarily a prepress/service bureau to a more full-service graphics firm. We do artwork and design for every type of printed project, from the simplest to most complex. We have also moved into website design, email blasts, interactive documents and Flash banner ads. We can facilitate printing projects and coordinate them with online and multimedia activities.


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© 2011 Normandie Ross-Rocans