Spin: 360º is a portrait of one of London’s leading design studios. It’s a lovingly designed and beautifully produced 520pp monograph that looks in detail at every aspect of Spin’s work in identity, print, moving image, retail, digital and environmental graphics, as well as the studio’s self-directed activities in publishing, curating and collecting.
On the release of this latest Unit Editions title we caught up with Tony Brook, unique in his position as subject of much of this title (along with SPIN co-founder Patricia Finegan) and creative force behind its design and production.
A book like this is clearly a mammoth undertaking – can you just explain a bit about how you came to the decision to make this book now?
We started to discuss a possible Spin book for our 20th birthday (2012) but then the call came from the Alliance Graphique Internationale and organising AGI London came along and, unsurprisingly, it was put on the back burner. Adrian and I had been talking about the possibility of making contemporary monographs for a good while, books on practising designers seem to be something conventional publishers aren’t interested in. We both like the idea of creating a fuller 3-Dimensional portrait that allows for greater insights than the work alone. There are so many other stories and perspectives that inform the work that are really interesting and well worth expanding on. When we started think about potential candidates again (after the AGI Congress was put to bed) we realised that we would need a guinea pig to work with and, after much discussion, we agreed that a Spin monograph was a good choice. It would offer us the opportunity to explore this idea fully and try out some things.
Did it all go roughly according to plan?
The course of true love never runs completely smoothly! We pretty much designed it twice, the first attempt was smaller and more compact, but one of my great bugbears with other designers books is not being able to see the work at a reasonable size. I realised that I had made a similar mistake! Not a good moment.
Honesty is something that has been mentioned in regards to this project – your willingness to be transparent – So honestly, knowing what you know now, would you do it all again? would you approach it differently? any lingering frustrations?
The devil on my left shoulder is shouting in my ear ‘are you crazy’ as I write this but I would. I can’t deny it has been a lot of pain, but I can’t help feeling if it isn’t hurting we are doing something wrong. We ended up shooting 99% of the work specifically for the book, why did we do that? because we felt we had to. The writing took forever, the interviews were a huge task. Would we do anything differently? Not really, it’s been a buzz doing it, sounds perverse but although there’s a huge sense of relief I miss it! The biggest frustration was dealing with the vast amount of work that the studio has created over the course of 20 odd years was quite a job. The mis-labelling of files has to be seen to be believed (and I’m as guilty as anyone), for example. the Haunch of Venison files were also named HOV, HofV, HV, Haunch or simply 01.JPG, 02.TIFF etc. multiply that by the million. My left eye starts to twitch nervously when I think about it. The main frustration was finding low res files but not being able to find hi-res versions. This drove me to distraction.
Like most big jobs I imagine this was a team effort – how many people touched the job, and who did what?
Everyone in the studio worked on the book at one stage or another, it was a real team effort that pushed all of us to the limit! We are still talking which is good. Claudia Klat and I were the main creative driving force behind the book, but Linne Jenkin and Rachel Dalton sweated blood over it and really added so much to the book. Callin Mackintosh and Jack Grafton helped out when they could but were mainly occupied with paying work! Sam Stevenson looked after the production of the book, and the printing is exceptional, Adrian and Isabel Andrews did sterling work on the editorial side of things and Anna Souter helped hugely keeping everyone informed on social media, an increasingly important aspect of what we do, and with proof reading.
I loved what you said about your intention to make more as a snapshot of a living breathing studio than a tombstone – and inevitably SPIN will continue to produce great work in the coming years – so can you imagine ever wanting to do a volume 2?
I’d really like to think so, perhaps in another 5 or 10 years…
You feature 80 projects from your 20 years, so that hit-rate of 4 book-worthy pieces per year is enviable – what was the criteria for deciding what should make the cut?
This was very, very tough. A lot of good work didn’t make it for no reason other than the book was full!
You said SPIN 360 is template for what a contemporary monograph could be, with yourselves as the first subject. Obviously you’ve created some stunning monographs to date, so do you think this revised ‘template’ is successful and will be used for future UE monographs?
The thinking behind SPIN 360 is already feeding it way into the forthcoming books, my hope is that the people who buy the book will enjoy this approach.
Our hope is we breathe new life into the contemporary monograph as a format.
The first 1000 copies of Spin: 360° come with a limited edition pack of six silk-screened A5 cards (Colorplan Ebony 350gsm) in a matching envelope, and a set of six button badges all designed by Spin. Some technical specs… Hardback with dust jacket. Cover foil blocked (front, spine and back). Printed CMYK + two Pantone colours (2028U and 2334U). Stock: 120gsm Munken Lynx. 203mm x 258mm. 520 pages. Price: £85 (RRP).