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Unit Editions @ ten

By Adrian Shaughnessy

When we started Unit Editions ten years ago, lots of people told us not to waste our time. Print was dead, they said, and it certainly looked that way. Bookshops were closing, magazine and newspaper sales were evaporating, eBooks were on the rise, and pretty much everything that was once printed now seemed destined to move online. 

But something told us this wasn’t the complete picture. 

When Tony Brook and I decided to set up a publishing company, we were only sure of two things: firstly, we both loved books and, secondly, we knew that graphic designers, no matter how immersed in the digital world, also loved books. 

So, despite the warnings about the future of print, we pushed ahead and formed Unit Editions. 

Now, ten years later, we’re still here – we’ve published over 40 titles, we’ve won a few awards, and we have a healthy list of books currently in production for 2019 and beyond.

And although we can look back over the past decade with pride, it hasn’t been easy. There have been moments when it has looked as if the people who told us not to do it may have been right. 

Each book takes delicate negotiations with rights holders and each book takes hundreds of hours of research, photography, retouching, writing, editing, designing, print testing and production. And that’s before the mammoth tasks of distribution and promotion.

If we’ve learned anything in ten years it is that publishing is labour intensive and there are no shortcuts. 

Yet we wouldnt have it any other way. Mostly, Unit Editions is pure pleasure. There’s the delight in making something the best it can possibly be, no matter what the cost in hours and cash. There’s the pleasure in making something that you can hold in your hand. And there’s the pleasure in bringing a neglected subject or designer to a new audience – something we’ve achieved with our books on Herb Lubalin, Lance Wyman and Soviet-era design, amongst others. 

But there are few pleasures to cap the experience of working with enlightened designers.

Our books on Lance, Paula Scher, Vaughan Oliver, and our forthcoming title on Matt Pyke’s Universal Everything, are shining examples of high-achieving designers trusting us not only to select the material for their respective books, but also to design, write and edit them.

This trust is humbling but it is also a sign that perhaps, after ten years, we can at least say that we know how to make books. 

As we enter our second decade, surrounded by political and social turmoil rarely seen in the western world, there is one other group we need to acknowledge. You!

Without the people who buy our books, attend our events and help spread the word about Unit Editions, Tony and I might still be in the pub talking about what a publishing company in the 21st-century might look like. 

Thank you! And have a happy 2019.


My top ten films of 2018.

The Image Book
(dir: Jean-Luc Godard)

(Dir: Alfonso Cuaron)

You Were Never Really Here
(Dir: Lynne Ramsey)

The Wild Pear Tree
(Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Phantom Thread
(Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson)

(Dir: Spike Lee)

(Dir: Koreeda Hirokazu)

Other Side of the Wind
(Dir: Orson Welles)

The Ballad of Shirley Collins
(Dirs: Rob Curry and Tim Plester)

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami
(Dir: Sophie Fiennes)

My top ten records of 2018.

The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles
Art Ensemble of Chicago (ECM)

Age Of
Oneohtrix point Never (Warp)

Listening to Pictures
Jon Hassell (Ndeya)

Eli Keszler (Shelter Press)

Julia Holter (Domino)

Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
John Coltrane (‎Impulse!)

Arve Henriksen (Rune Grammofon)

An Angel Fell
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids

5 Klavierstücke 
Irmin Schmidt (Mute)

Kelly Moran (Warp)