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2 Comments Studio Culture


Studio Culture: The secret life of the graphic design studio
Author: Adrian Shaughnessy, Tony Brook
Publisher: Unit Editions


The way I see it, you can climb the ladder only so far. And for most, becoming the principal or chief creative officer of a company – design, advertising or otherwise – is as ideal as it gets. But for some of us, our eyes are filled to the brim with stars. Creation is what we strive for, and the top of our ladder easily becomes owning and operating our own small business. In the case of this article, a design studio.

Unit Editions, founded by Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook, is the newest publishing effort in today’s design community. With their debut release, Studio Culture: The secret life of the graphic design studio, it becomes clear when they describe their mission as, producing books “for graphic designers, by graphic designers.” Web 2.0 brought us the ‘ffffound generation,’ and with it came an overwhelming amount of books whose sole purpose was to bring the over swamped blogosphere to your bookshelf; images and labels, followed by an index, housed in a hard cover and a dust jacket. With the release of Studio Culture, Shaughnessy and Brook give us something to read, and further, something to consider.

As a recent design school graduate, my thought patterns are dedicated to a few specific things: my fiancé, my bank account, and my future. My fiancé sort of qualifies as my future, so I suppose that leaves two key objectives. In school I was taught to be ambitious, and although ambition can often times play the part of the burden, I am always questioning how I can improve myself; what next steps are needed, in order to reach the career that I truly ache for?

Usually the next question is, what is that career?

Studio Culture talks to twenty eight studios/artists about what it takes to run their own business. The interviews are so informative, so rich and refreshing that you begin to feel like you are part of the conversation. Although most of the interviews were conducted via email, that sense of conversation really shows through, I think, because of the genuine pride that each and every one of these individual studios take in their work.




Questions range from inquiry of working music preference, to wether or not financial risk-taking runs counter to a graphic designer’s instinct. The answers are often varied, but the look into the lives of these designers around the world leaves a common impression. They are all working their dream jobs! As Mason Wells, of Bibliothéque puts it, “…starting up seemed to be the next step — the natural thing to do to gain independence and to have the luxury of doing the work we wanted to do.”

Of all the insightful questions throughout each of the interviews, one question I felt went unanswered was, how? When do you make the move to independece? At what point financially can you afford to take on personal health insurance? If you are juggling freelance clients, how many do you need before you can establish a studio of your own? If you are earning a comfortable living in your full-time position, do you leave the company because the work is lacking life, or because you hate your boss? Perhaps these are questions I need to ask myself; answers I should figure out on my own.

Shaughnessy and Brooks provide a glance into an alternate lifestyle; a head start, if your end goal is to open a studio of your own. Studio Culture: The secret life of the graphic design studio, is the new pearl of design reference material, and if you too are a restless young designer, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy.

Visit Unit Editions.

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