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In the Studio with —

“We know our neighbours, it feels friendly and human, not too trendy or try hard, it’s a place to work.” We meet Tony Brook and the team at London studio Spin…

Over the last 20 years Spin have firmly established themselves as one of London’s best design studios. Delivering consistently high work across a huge range of clients that span the arts, communication, broadcast, design, electronics and entertainment sectors as well as application, their portfolio includes identities, books, marketing campaigns, motion graphics, packaging and websites. We visit their London studio as well as their more recent second home to see where the magic happens and meet some of the team…

Spin

Founded: 1992
Address: Studio 2, 33 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AA
Staff: 9
Hours: 40 hours a week
Website: spin.co.uk

The Studio

We started life in 1992 and has, for the most part, enjoyed working for a diverse range of clients in a number of disciplines. We have been relatively early adopters on the digital front, which has had its advantages in our primary source of business, the creation of bespoke identities. All contemporary identities have some form of digital expression, for us the seamless linking of the analogue and digital is a strength. Print isn’t going anywhere. 

The Team

Currently stands at nine. Six full-time designers (two work on Unit books full time) and three support staff consisting of a Managing Director, Studio Manager and an accountant/book keeper. We have one intern, we run a programme primarily for Unit Editions but sometimes for Spin.

What is important about the working environment?

That it is dry, warm, comfortable and has a positive atmosphere.

What was it about this space that made it right?

All of the above. It is a small complex of work and live/work spaces which gives it a nice feel. It’s relatively quiet, is a decent size and crucially was available to buy.

What’s the best thing about the studio?

The light and sense of space. It’s a nice place to be. We know our neighbours, it feels friendly and human, not too trendy or try hard. A place to work.

How would you talk about the studio culture?

Inclusive. It is open in all senses, there aren’t many hidden conversations. I sit in the middle of the designers, they hear everything that goes on, which is a good thing. We tend not to encourage working too late unless it is necessary. Quality of life is important. Music is played all day everyday, it has always been important to us, as it is in most studios. We often have lunch together, and have a big fry up on Thursdays (Thursday/Fryday).

What do you look for when recruiting and adding the team?

Talent obviously. That they are going to add something, but most importantly that they are good, hard-working people. Talented jerks don’t cut.

Are there any self initiated studio projects projects?

Unit Editions would come under that banner, the publishing company that myself, my partner Trish and Adrian Shaughnessy set up. It takes a massive amount of effort and commitment on all our parts but is hugely satisfying.

Photography by Jake Green

Tony Brook, Founding Partner and Creative Director

Studied illustration and then graphic Design at Somerset College of Arts and Technology (graduated 1980)

I tend to start work at around 6.00 - 7.00 in the morning. Going through e-mails and planning my day. The drive to work takes about half an hour on a good day. My working day tends to be quite broken up between Spin projects and Unit Editions, there is no average day for me, and I like it that way. I involve myself with all the projects in the studio to greater or lesser degree. On Mondays we have a general planning meeting followed by extensive chats with our partner in crime Adrian Shaughnessy about Unit Editions. I have always had an aversion to working late if not required, perhaps because I tend to be thinking about work all the time.

Callin Mackintosh, Designer

Studied Graphic Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (graduated 2011)

I start my day with an 8 mile cycle from Clapton, East London which takes around 30-40 minutes. First thing thing I do as soon as I get in the door is make sure the espresso machine is switched on for my first hit of coffee then usually grab some breakfast from the kitchen. Then if someone hasn’t beat me to it i’ll put on some music for the studio. If its a Monday we then have our weekly planning meeting to talk about all the jobs we have in and deadlines etc. which then usually lets me know exactly what I’m doing next. Lunch is at 1pm for an hour, we have some set lunch days where we eat together and some where we just do as we please. Usually i’ll squeeze in a game of pool and when the weathers good I tend to try get out the studio for a bit to the park nearby. 4pm we have tea, coffee and cake. We finish up around 6pm unless there is a big deadline to meet. Then I have the return 8 mile cycle home to Hackney. On Friday we tend to finish up half an hour early and all play a big game of Killer (a pool game that everyone can play at the same time).

Claudia Klat, Design Director

Studied Visual Communication at University of the Arts Zurich (graduated 2009)

I cycle in from Homerton on my small BSA Shopper bike. It’s a slow and comfortable ride which takes about 40 minutes. I like to avoid stress outside of work. I arrive around 9 in the studio have a cup of coffee and a bowl of porridge before I switch on my computer. I read my mails, make sure I’m up to date with all the projects and get my priorities straight for the rest of the week. Usually I have some informal chats about the creative direction of the current projects with Tony and/or the design team followed by a focused working session – from time to time there is the occasional client meeting or presentation to go to. A few cups of coffee later it’s time for lunch! We all cook together which is a great time to catch up, have a game of pool or go for a walk. After 2 I’m back in front of the screen till 6 with a quick coffee break around 4. At the end of every week everybody shares their work. It’s very casual, we go around from desk to desk usually with a bottle of beer and check out visuals, presentations, a research, mockups or materials etc. Whatever the design team was working on during the week. After 6 it’s time to go home. I put on some music, hop on my bike and cycle home.

Tommy Spitters

Studied Graphic Design at the University of Brighton (graduated 2015)

I get the tube from Finsbury Park every morning. I cycled in once but I don’t know my way around London and managed to get fairly lost on the way to and from the studio. I’ve been fairly reluctant to give it a second try. I tend to get in around 20 past 9 which gives me enough time to make myself a quick cup of tea before I start the day. I never drank tea before I started working here but now it seems to be a staple part of my day. None of my days seem to start the same way, it all depends what I’m working on. I usually carry on where I’ve left off from the day before until I’m given a task from Tony. My days can vary quite a lot from designing, to re-touching, to setting up the photography studio and shooting the various things which regularly get sent into the studio. All the designers sit around one big table, which makes it easy to talk to each other about what we’re working on and ask each other for help or advice. At lunch we cook and eat together. I only started working for Unit Editions recently and the thing that stood out to me from when I started was how nice this collective cooking and eating was. What better way to break the ice and get to know people on my first day than over a jacket potato and a game of pool at lunch time. The day ends at 6 (rarely any later) and I get back on the tube to face the evening commuters

Patricia Finegan, Founding Partner and Managing Director

Studied Fashion Design Management at the London College of Fashion (graduated in 1988)

I always review my emails before I get to the studio. Our clients cross many timezones so often there are updates or messages to read and consider. Hopefully there is nothing urgent and my first stop can be the kettle and toaster. I work across all projects and in different capacities for both Spin and Unit so I need to be flexible and respond to changing circumstances quickly. Being organised is pretty important. At the end of each day I write a list of all the things I need to do and this is where I start, tackling my least favourite job first. If I can get that done then my day just gets better! My list rarely gets much shorter than a page because as soon as one task is complete it’s replaced by another. The trick is to write everything down, even the tiniest detail. I sit in the studio on a table with Sam, my partner on all things operational and opposite our accountant my partner in all things financial. We don’t have too many formal meetings with each other, instead maintaining an open dialogue so we can address things quickly. 

The most regular part of my day is making sure that all our projects are on track and both designers and client teams are clear about what is what is required and when. Most correspondence is conducted digitally but you can’t beat a personal conversation, particularly if the situation is complex or creative work is being presented. On top of that there are proposals to write, contracts to negotiate, food to buy, financials to review, as well as anything else that crops up. At the end of the day, I go back to my list and prepare for the following day.

Sam Stevenson

Studied Graphic Arts and Design at Leeds Metropolitan University (graduated 2011)

I cycle down to Kennington from Dalston, this is a new thing but it’s working out much better than the bus/tube journey. I like to get in first at 9.00 so that I can open up the studio and put the kettle on. I grab a coffee and some breakfast and go through my emails before the rest of the studio arrives. It’s good to get a sense of what’s happening that day before it really gets going. My days can be quite varied and usually contain a mixture of planning/scheduling meetings, speaking to suppliers, taking calls, greeting clients/guests, supporting Trish & the designers and trying to resolve any issues that may crop up in the studio. I work predominantly on the production of Unit titles so i’m often talking to the designers about the make up of new books and liaising with the printer’s. I’m usually speaking to bookshops, customers of Unit and the press too. Food, music and pool are big parts of the studio and they all contribute to a social, positive studio environment here. At 18:00 I’ll start to lock up the studio for the night, check the door is locked a few times and cycle home to Dalston.

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