Tony Brook, Spin

Tony Brook grew up in Halifax in the north of England where most of his male relatives were miners (on his father’s side) and steelworkers and firemen (on his mother’s). He showed early promise in art, and left home in 1980 to study illustration at Somerset College of Arts and Technology in Taunton, switching to graphic design in his third year.

After a year of unemployment he joined the design agency Shoot That Tiger! in 1984, followed by stints at Icon (later Sonicon) in 1989 and Crimson in 1991, before setting up Spin with his wife Patricia Finegan in 1992.

Since that time Spin has expanded and contracted in size, influence and prosperity throughout a turbulent time for graphic design. Initially dependent upon the declining music industry, Spin moved on to big-client branding in the mid-00s, acquiring a reputation for an austere, neo-Modernist approach to identity design for a variety of blue-chip clients. These have included auctioneers Christie’s, galleries (Whitechapel, Haunch of Venison, The Photographers’ Gallery, Proa in Argentina) and TV stations such as Channel 4, Five and More4.

Spin has always produced self-initiated projects as promotional items, from expensive interactive and motion-based initiatives to its newsprint reading lists, and Brook has also been a prolific collector of books and posters with a wide range of enthusiasms. He was the guiding spirit behind the Design Museum’s 2011 exhibition ‘Wim Crouwel: A graphic odyssey’ (curated by Brook and Margaret Cubbage), which went on to the Stedelijk museum, Amsterdam later the same year.

In 2009, Brook teamed up with art director-writer Adrian Shaughnessy to found Unit Editions. This autumn sees the publication of Unit’s thirteenth book, FHK Henrion: the Complete Designer.

Brook has also become increasingly active in AGI, the Alliance Graphique Internationale, which he was invited to join in 2006. He is a tireless organiser and proselytiser of AGI Open, the ‘world cup of graphic design’ at London’s Barbican in September 2013. He was president of the UK chapter, 2008-13.

In contrast to Brook’s multitasking responsibilities and eclectic tastes, the work for which his studio is best known is a spare, reductive approach to identity design. Spin’s systems frame content – art, TV programmes, artefacts – in a way that combines practicality with a refined typographic sensibility. The conversation below took place in Spin’s studio and the Eye offices in the summer of 2013.