Builds Blog

Getting to know (#012)…Adrian Shaughnessy.

Twelfth in the series of interviews with people we know, have worked with, or are inspiring.
I like to think of Adrian as the John Peel of the design world, knowledgable and hugely respected by his peers.
Adrian is one of the most generous men in design. I first met Adrian when (the now defunct) Grafik magazine asked us to be profiled in their magazine. Adrian was to write the article (2004), he got in touch and set up an interview at his home. I was very nervous as I'd read a lot about Adrian, all very good but nonetheless I was nervous. The interview went well, we were really pleased with the final piece. The opening line still makes me laugh to this day "He's a big guy. If you put him in a dinner jacket he could be a nightclub bouncer..."
A few years passed and our paths crossed again, Adrian was working with a small team of people called 'This Is Real Art'. They had a small roster of creatives from various fields who they worked with on various commercial projects and I was asked to be one of them. We worked together on quite a few projects together, including what has to be one of the shortest pitch presentations in the history of pitches (ask him about it if you ever meet him!).
Adrian now divides his time between Unit Editions, the RCA and his myriad of speaking engagements, he's a busy man. He most recently wrote the beautiful forward to our 11 year show, and it's no secret we love him here at Build. He has helped us over a lot over the years. When things haven't been going that great, his advice has been invaluable, and for that we will always be grateful. Whatever Adrian does, he does it with passion, we will always support him, as he has supported us.


*How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul

*Unit Editions - Studio Culture

*Unit Editions - Lubalin

*Mute - Audio Documents

Getting to know (#012) — Adrian Shaughnessy
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Build: Please tell us a little about who you are and what you do.
Adrian Shaughnessy: Well, I'm a person who worries a lot. I'm driven by fear of failure. I wake up worried and go to sleep worried. Everything I do is driven by a nagging doubt that I'm a rotten failure. Otherwise, I'm a normal person who designs, writes, lectures, teaches, publishes and listens to lots of music and watches too many films.
B: How did you get to this point in time?
AS: Through worry, fear and self-doubt.
B: Where are you based?
AS: In my head most of the time. But also in my studio at home, at the Unit Editions office, and at the RCA. Each gives me something different that I really value. Home is privacy; Unit is working in a tiny group of like-minded people; and RCA is a big tumultuous scrum of different ideas, a huge spectrum of different people and attitudes, and intellectual gymnastics.
B: Does where you live/work inform you as a person?
AS: Yes. For years I went to a studio every day. I loved studio life - the camaraderie, the clients, the highs and the lows. But after a while I fell out of love with the communality of studio life. One of the things that I value most in life is privacy. And you don't get that when you run a studio. So now, I have a better balance of privacy and communality.
B: What is your favourite piece of your own work and why is it your favourite?
AS: For me, it's always the next job. I've never done anything that I think can't be done be better.
B: Three words that sum up you and your attitude to what you do?
AS: Looking, looking, looking.
B: Describe your style?
AS: Haphazard.
B: What kind of music do you listen to?
AS: I like to think I have really broad taste. I like everything from extreme avant garde electronics to Elvis. From movie soundtracks to Appalachian fiddle music; from John Coltrane to Peggy Lee; from Shackleton to Brian Wilson. I have hundreds of CDs and vinyl LPS. I have more MP3 files that I could ever listen to if I lived to be 150. I love music.
B: What is your most played track in iTunes?
AS: At the moment it's a Laurel Halo track from her new album Quarantine. But some Morricone tracks are pretty close behind.
B: What is your favourite piece of art?
AS: Anything by Josef Beuys.
B: Where were you last happiest?
AS: When I was three.
B: What makes you smile?
AS: Thinking about being three again.
B: Your house is on fire, your family is safe, what do you save?
AS: This is really depressing, but I would save my computers. How did we get to the point where these funny 'adding machines' are the most important things in our lives? There is a theory around this - it's called The Singularity. It is the moment when the machines take over. In my view, it's here. We are now living in The Singularity. Weird. But wait, I'd also save my bike! I cant imagine living without my bike. Don't care about my car - but I'd save my bike. Oh, and I have some signed Josef Beuys prints - I'd save them too. And some books. On second thoughts, sod the computers. Let them burn.

Thanks Adrian!

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Unit Editions / RCA / Elvis / Appalachian fiddle music / John Coltrane / Peggy Lee / Shackleton / Brian Wilson / Laurel Halo / Morricone / Josef Beuys.

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Comments (7)

  1. I think this sums up alot of us.

    “I’m dri­ven by fear of fail­ure. I wake up wor­ried and go to sleep wor­ried. Every­thing I do is dri­ven by a nag­ging doubt that I’m a rot­ten failure.”

    Great read. Thanks.

  2. A great inter­view with a great man! Shaughnessy’s words and work has always inspired me.

  3. Reas­sur­ing to know oth­ers are on the same page.

    “sod the com­put­ers. Let them burn.” Absolutely!

  4. Andrian, Wim, Michael, Ian, Bruno, Armin, Emil, NB, Jus­eff, Mas­simo, i owe you. With­out your books, your words, your work and with­out music, life would be a dis­as­ter. Cheers

  5. From Ontario, Canada; I often look to Com­puter Arts mag­a­zine for inspi­ra­tion, and found you guys at Build. I greatly appre­ci­ate & love all your work, wow! Cheers.

  6. Thanks Mike, very much appreciated!

  7. ‘The’ inter­view with Andrian. His Designs are always mag­nif­i­cent words and work has always inspired me.

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