Design studio Sawdust shares its most-loved books

18 January 2017

London-based studio Sawdust is the creative partnership between Rob Gonzalez and Jonathan Quainton. With a talent for bespoke typography, brand display typefaces and visual identities, they’ve been on It’s Nice That time and time again for its work for Nike, Wired, The New York Times, Honda, Audi and ESPN.

Sawdust’s passion for its projects derives from a “desire to create work that is both explorative and beautifully crafted”. Here Rob and Jonathan share the books that showed them what graphic design was in the beginning and the ones that have kept them on their creative path.

Attik: Noise Four: Future Lab, Culture Life, Reality Archive

This book brings back many fond memories not only because it was the first design book I ever owned, but it had a huge impact on me becoming the designer I am today. This massive, white book was a rather extravagant investment for me at the time, although it was probably the most sensible item that was purchased with my student loan! I particularly remember the moment that my heart dropped when I opened the package to find my brand new book was damaged on the spine, to this day I don’t understand why I didn’t return it for a replacement.

The book itself is a showcase of experimental projects produced over 12 months by the design group, Attik. Its extensive body of work is presented as a methodologically compiled analysis of the world as the group saw it. Attik’s philosophical system and approach to design was unique, innovative and intelligent. From here on my eyes were opened.

– Jonathan Quainton, co-founder of Sawdust

Al Cooper: World of Logotypes: Trademark Encyclopedia: 2

Printed in 1978, World of Logotypes feels not too dissimilar to some of the more recent logotype publications on the shelves today (ignoring the damage to the cover). This book however precedes all its digitally crafted counterparts and this is true “old school” pen and paper grid work from a forgotten age. Each page is packed full of logotype gems all presented in black and white, alphabetised and listed together with the corresponding companies. The logos range from the more familiar, timeless creations that have remained strong over the years to the more dated and absurdly strange, it never fails to bring a flash of inspiration into the studio.

– Jonathan Quainton, co-founder of Sawdust

Steven Heller and Mirko Ilić: Icons of Graphic Design

Having decided to embark on a career in graphic design and enrolling myself on a course, I was given this deceptively ordinary looking book as a birthday present from my dad. He had no idea what graphic design was and neither did I for that matter, but by sheer chance the first book he encountered that had “graphic design” in the title, revealed itself be nothing short of a gem.

What sets this book apart is its rich content, examining how design from years gone by has influenced new work. It showcases the 20th Century’s most influential designers and “illustrates how the best ideas perpetuate themselves over time, one great concept inspiring the next.” It documents a century of creativity and deploys a “before” and “after” side-by-side layout, showing direct correlations between the works – truly fascinating.

It never fails to inspire me thinking about how a piece of work created in the 1900s or earlier can influence a designer so profoundly, hundreds of years later.

– Rob Gonzalez, co-founder of Sawdust


Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy: Studio Culture

Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy: Studio Culture

This book became an instant modern-day classic for me. It felt like design-related books at the time were going through a lull, they had become stagnant, soulless and devoid of content. It felt to me when this was released it forced publishers to up their game and to try harder. It was a book that designers wanted to actually read, as opposed to the copious amounts of lookbooks that had become the staple diet. 

The premise behind the book is simple, yet it provides valuable and rich insights for both aspiring and experienced designers alike – what it is really like to run a design studio. It cuts through the usual glamourised mumbo-jumbo and reveals something truer, real people answering real questions about their practices. Simple, yet altogether brilliant. 

– Rob Gonzalez, co-founder of Sawdust


Adrian Shaughnessy: How to be a graphic designer, without losing your soul

Adrian Shaughnessy: How to be a graphic designer, without losing your soul

Back in 2006, we were two fresh-faced graphic designers attempting to carve out our own path within the design industry. Having very little experience, we were fortunate enough to discover this book written by Adrian Shaughnessy. It combines practical advice with philosophical guidance to help young practitioners like ourselves, embark on a journey within the design industry. Adrian addresses concerns across a wide range of topics and issues that most other designers refuse to reveal. This is a no-nonsense, honest book that has proved invaluable to us.

Rob Gonzalez and Jonathan Quainton, founders of Sawdust

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About the Author

Rebecca Fulleylove

Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.

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