In this second of our year end reviews we’re looking again at publishing, this time focussing on books. Who better to speak to on the subject than the duo responsible for FFF-favourite Unit Editions – Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook. With Manuals 2 [Unit 18] still flying off the virtual shelves we hear their individual reflections, highlights & predictions…
Tell us what it is you do, and why you do it..
AS/ I’m a graphic designer, writer and senior tutor in Visual Communication at RCA, and as one of the co-founders of Unit Editions, I’m also a publisher –but even after five years of Unit, it still sounds odd to write that. Me a publisher? Well, yes, actually. As for why I do what I do? Paranoia, fear and self-doubt.
TB/ I’m a designer at Spin and a (relatively recent) publisher with Unit Editions, I also collect graphic design and have curated a couple of exhibitions. I didn’t have any real choice about the design aspect, it is a vocation; I’m lucky enough to love what I do. The other three facets have happily fallen out of the first.
Can you both give us a couple of personal highlights from the year?
AS/ I’m not very good at looking back. I can barely remember what I did last week, far less think about what was happening in January. In my view, you only look back when you don’t have much to look forward to. There’s never been a time in my life when I haven’t had an immediate future stacked with deadlines, objectives and targets. When I’m in the old folks home with my hearing aid and pacemaker, I might start to look back. Having said that, I’d say that the success of our two Manuals books has been a highlight. Two weeks in Japan was also pretty good. Curating a show of 50 years of graphic design at the RCA was fun. But other than that it has been relentless work, work, and more work.
TB/ It’s been quite a year. I got to visit New Zealand through an invitation to talk at Semi-Permanent. It was a fabulous experience: I got to hang out with the legend that is Dean Poole from Alt group. Work-wise, seeing Manuals 2 in print has been incredibly satisfying, and launching the Spin website was a real highlight. Meeting up with Lance Wyman and Paula Scher was the cherry on top.
You collaborate on Unit Editions, how did that all come about?
AS/ I’d reached a point where I was fed up working with mainstream publishers and was beginning to think about starting my own imprint. I went to the pub with Tony and he said he was also contemplating starting a publishing venture. He had already done some self-publishing so he was ahead of me. But it made lots of sense that we combine our skills and use the knowledge and experience we’d both accumulated as studio owners over many years to start Unit.
TB/ As Adrian mentioned we had a fortuitous meeting where, after the shortest time, we realised that our ambitions were very similar and that our mutual interest and skill sets meant that we could make something work. There was a giant Unit Editions-shaped whole for books that balanced out (hopefully) beautiful design with rich visual and written content.