Unit Editions and self-publishing

This week’s Thought of the Week is about self-publishing and an independent publishing company called United Editions (link to their website). The company was formed in 2010 by a couple of designers who had come to the point where they wanted to do publishing by themselves rather than doing it through someone else. We were given a video to watch on which two of the founding members Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy, talk about United Editions, what made them turn to self-publishing and what it means to them. The video is quite long but it was definitely worth watching and taking notes. Tony and Adrian make some really good and interesting points through out the video (link to the video).

Adrian Shaughnessy (left) and Tony Brook (right).

Graphic design skills

One of the interesting themes in the video was what Adrian said about the value of design skills in the modern world. The skills that designers have can be applied to so many things and those skills are needed everywhere. He even told a really fitting story about his friend who was asked if he wanted to go to Rwanda. He thought “Yes, sure! What do you want me to do? Dig wells? Build schools?” But no, it was video editing that they wanted him to teach to the kids there.

Also graphic design skills allow us to do other things. Like Adrian strongly believes, “designers shouldn’t be limited by clients”, there is so much we can do. And what’s important to keep in mind, there aren’t enough jobs for all designers and new graduates every year. So, some of us will have to use their skills for  something else. One option can be self-publishing.

Benefits of self-publishing

For Adrian one of the reasons to start their own independent publishing company was to use graphic design skills in a different way, like said above. Tony however came to it another way. He was the creative director at Spin design firm but felt like those adaptable design skills that Adrian talks about are mostly used in favor of other people – the clients and the commissioners. Spin did a job for which they got paid less than what the teams wages were. So Tony thought “if you are gonna lose money, you might as well do it on something you love rather than for the benefit of someone else. Also he liked the idea of being in control of what you do and being in control of your own destiny. The process of imagining what they want their own company be like and “inventing yourself” was something Tony thought was great about starting Unit Editions. Adrian and Tony thought about what they want their publications be like and what is important to them and together they started a company that would fulfill those things.

Publishing and internet

The 3rd theme in the video was publishing in the age of internet. Someone had asked them why they want to start a publishing company when nowadays everything (magazines, books, news..) can be online. Their response was similar to what we have discussed in Studio Impression. When you have a physical book in your hand, the engagement with it is deeper. Also the the physical book is valuable as an object too, not only because of the information it holds. But because of this book need to be more than books for people to buy them in the age of internet. It needs to be “an object of desire” and it must have a reason behind it.

Even though it may sound like in today’s world publishing is competing with internet, it can also be used for the benefit of publishing. For example, in the beginning Tony and Adrian told a couple design blogs about Unit Editions and they got excited about it and spread the world in social media. It started a wide debate with the design world and Unit Editions got publicity. Also on Flickr there has been a lot of discussion about their work based on their posts. It works almost as market research for them. They based on the discussions on social media they find out what kind of publications they should do or shouldn’t do. Adrian said in the video that “the modern way of disseminating information is to have discussion” which summarizes the role of social media pretty well!

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