Designer and publisher Tony Brook founded multi-disciplinary design studio Spin in 1992. The studio primarily focuses on the creation of contemporary identity design and over the years has built up an impressive client list including BBC, Google, Ministry of Sound, Crafts Council and Samsung among others.
Spin published its first monograph Spin: 360º in 2015 and earlier this year released an experimental follow-up, called Spin: Adventures in Typography. The books were published through Unit Editions, an independent publishing venture set up by Tony and Adrian Shaughnessy, which produces books for designers, design students and visual culture enthusiasts. The imprint has also published books on Ben Bos, Wim Crowel, Lance Wyman and Herb Lubalin, and most recently major monographs on Studio Uebele and Paula Scher.
With such a passion for printed matter and an envious collection of books with original cover designs, we asked Tony to share his top five books he’s accumulated over the years. From an elegantly designed collection of Philip Larkin poems to a manifesto of graphic design, there’s some real treasures in Tony’s bookshelf.
John Osborne: The Entertainer, first edition, published by Faber, 1958.
I like reading the texts of plays, so let’s get that out of the way up front. This particular play was a follow up to the Kitchen Sink drama, Look Back in Anger. The Entertainer sees the legendary Laurence Olivier playing the iconic role of Archie Rice. It’s a strangely touching and funny piece, still effective today.
I love the post-war austerity feel of the whole thing. Sadly the designer isn’t credited but the photographer is, some bloke called Tony Armstrong Jones, wonder what happened to him.
Philip Larkin: The Whitsun Weddings, first edition, published by Faber, 1964.
“What are days for?” asks Larkin and so I am hooked. Still no credit for the designer but a beautiful, elegant thing it is. And a great collection of honest, true poems.
Günter Grass: Cat and Mouse, first UK edition, Secker and Warburg, 1963.
Part of the so-called “Danzig Trilogy” of The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse and Dog Years, this series of books and their covers are a constant challenge and inspiration to me. I couldn’t call them light or easy but persevere with them, they are well worth the effort. Start with The Tin Drum and thank me later (when the nightmares have stopped). Covers designed by Günter Grass.
Dieter Rot: Books and Graphics (part 1), first edition, published by Hansjorg Mayer, 1973.
As far as I can tell this book was published to support an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery and is part of the seminal series also published by Hansjorg Mayer on The Collected Works of Dieter Roth (he seems to spell his name two ways), this publisher to my mind created some of the most wonderful and covetable books in existence.
Edited by Stuart Bailey: In Alphabetical Order File under: Graphic Design, Schools or Werkplaats Typografie, first UK Edition, published by NAi, 2002.
A fascinating publication that’s a book on graphic design, an experimental school and a manifesto. Thought provoking, challenging and demanding. Well worth a look and a read. Cover photograph by John Morgan.
About the Author
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.