Adrian Shaughnessy is a graphic designer and writer based in London. He is a senior tutor in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art and a founding partner in Unit Editions a publishing company producing books on design and visual culture. Scratching the Surface, a collection of his journalism, has recently been published.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Credit Check

In the age of collaboration how do we cater to the fundamental desire for recognition?

Adrian Shaughnessy
Typographic Tipping Point

Have we reached peak typeface?

Adrian Shaughnessy
The Design Conference

An outmoded format or an essential feature of the design calendar?

Adrian Shaughnessy
An interview with Kyuha Shim

Creating generative systems for typography

Adrian Shaughnessy
Graphic Language

A discussion on graphic design teaching, learning, and thinking

Adrian Shaughnessy
An Interview with James Goggin

On study, school, and being a "free listener"

Adrian Shaughnessy
An Interview with Neville Brody

Moving toward a structured mayhem

Adrian Shaughnessy
GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years

Kicking off a week celebrating the exhibition GraphicsRCA: Fifty Years

Adrian Shaughnessy
Rejection and the designer

Is it necessary to make better work?

Adrian Shaughnessy
Twitter has its dark side, but it’s also a source of delight.

In defense of an imperfect medium.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Identity Politics

Adrian Shaughnessy
Literary Alchemy and Graphic Design

Should graphic designers take a lead from Joycean lyricism?

Adrian Shaughnessy
On Bias, Tolerance — and Taste

The unconscious mind responds with Darwinian brutality to anyone not “like us”.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Open Source Politics/Open Source Design

A review of the identity for the radical new Danish political party, Alternativet.

Adrian Shaughnessy
When Less Really Does Mean Less

Since the banking crises of 2008, designers fromWestern nations are learning painfully to adapt to the new reality: less is the new normal.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Kyoorius Designyatra Festival 2011

Adrian Shaughnessy writes about his experience of the Kyoorius Designyatra Festival 2011 in Goa, India.

Adrian Shaughnessy
The Politics of Desire and Looting

The part designers have played in the London riots.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Philosophy, Graphic Design and Virtue of Clarity

What can designers learn from exposure to philosophy?

Adrian Shaughnessy
Down in the Trenches with Kenneth FitzGerald

Adrian Shaughnessy reviews of Kenneth FitzGerald’s new book Volume: Writing on Graphic Design, Music, Art and Culture.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Minotaurs in Suburban England

English designer Vaughan Oliver met Adrian Shaughnessy to show him preliminary work on a deluxe Pixies box set called Minotaur.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Publishing in the Age of the Internet

Design/Research, published by Unit Editions, are collectable "papers" which, focus on design and visual communication, from the past, by placing it in a future context.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Safety and Comfort: A Walk with Paul Davis

Davis has asked me to write the introduction to his latest book. I told him I didn't want to write about the usual stuff. He agreed and suggested we go for a walk instead.

Adrian Shaughnessy

A world colonized by brands is the theme of a new film, Logorama, by French designers and filmmakers H5.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes

I’ve just finished writing a book about graphic design. There are entries on kerning, the wisdom of using only lowercase letters, and the merits of Univers. But mostly it’s a book about the soft stuff — the stuff that we deal with every day and tend to take for granted.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Obsessive Branding Disorder I

Obsessive Branding Disorder by Lucas Conley is a book that graphic designers can place on their shelves. Conley describes in vivid detail the extent to which branding has permeated modern culture...

Adrian Shaughnessy
A Layperson's Guide to Graphic Design

Graphic design has been likened to a wine glass. When we drink wine we barely notice the glass it’s served in. It’s the same with graphic design: people absorb the messages that graphic designers use their skill, training and ingenuity to make, yet rarely stop to think how the message is constructed or how it affects the viewer.

Adrian Shaughnessy
We Found It at the Movies: Part I

Rick Poynor: Looking back, it’s surprising how long we’d known each other before it emerged that we shared an obsession for film. 
Adrian Shaughnessy: Your obsession with film came as a surprise. Before lending you the Herzog box set I had you tagged as a visual arts man, not a cineaste.

Adrian Shaughnessy
We Found It at the Movies: Part II

The second installment of Rick Poynor and Adrian Shaughnessy’s conversation about film. Can genre movies express a personal vision? Are films blurring into other media? And what’s the state of film culture today?

Adrian Shaughnessy
The Design Observer Playlist

I’ve never worked in a design studio where music wasn’t played pretty much constantly. Nor can I recall visiting a studio where music wasn’t being played, or where designers weren’t wired up to headphones and bobbing rhythmically to unheard sounds. What is it with graphic designers and music?

Adrian Shaughnessy
Look and Feel / Nip and Tuck

If clients are happy to refer to the output of graphic designers as look and feel, where's the harm?

Adrian Shaughnessy
Graphic Editorship

Fuel's realization that they possessed the transferable skills and instincts to publish thought-provoking books with editorial depth, has allowed them to create a publishing venture that offers a fresh take on visual culture.

Adrian Shaughnessy
The Designer's Virus

Perhaps he was right and I was wrong? Perhaps it is dumb of me to believe that the only design worth bothering about is design born out of a mixture of personal enquiry and intelligent intuition? I realized I was suffering from the designer's disease: empathy.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Tony Wilson: The Postmodern Mythmaker

Tony Wilson, founder of Factory records, died August 10. Wilson had many claims to fame: he was a successful television presenter; a music industry impresario of flawed and maverick genius; and he was one of the shrewdest patrons of graphic design there has ever been.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Barnbrook Bible: A Graphic Autobiography

Jonathan Barnbrook's new book, Barnbrook Bible, ranks amongst the most ambitious personal projects undertaken by any graphic designer...

Adrian Shaughnessy
The 2012 Olympic Logo Ate My Hamster

Designers often bemoan the lack of coverage given to graphic design in mainstream media. Yet when design catches the attention of journalists and commentators it usually results in a vicious mugging rather than hearty praise.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Are JPEGs the New Album Covers?

An audio file with a thumbnail JPEG of the album cover will never have the resonance — not to mention the commercial value — of a well-made piece of packaging. But if the corporate providers of downloadable music have their way, this is the future of recorded music. Who ever had a love affair with a JPEG?

Adrian Shaughnessy
"I Sold My Soul And I Love It"

The current issue of Creative Review is "guest edited" by hip British advertising agency Mother. The theme, suggested by Mother, is I Sold My Soul And I Love It — a vastly contradictory statement, but one that invites debate over what it means to work in visual communication."

Adrian Shaughnessy
Pet Shop Boys — A Flawless Vision

During the past two decades, the Pet Shop Boys have developed a "brand image" that is nearly flawless. Other bands have moments of brilliance — the occasional great album cover or music video — but PSB pull it off repeatedly.

Adrian Shaughnessy

The English design group Spin has produced a publication called 50 Reading Lists, which allows the reader the double pleasure of admiring the handsome presentation of 50 lists, as well as the chance to study the reading habits of 50 graphic designers.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Graphic Design vs. Illustration

Graphic design's ability to deliver explicit messages makes it a major (if little recognised) force in the modern world: it is embedded in the commercial infrastructure. Illustration, on the other hand, with its woolly ambiguity and its allusive ability to convey feeling and emotion, makes it too dangerous to be allowed to enter the corporate bloodstream. Our visual lives are the poorer for this.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Living Without The Internet

The "community" that I find on the internet is the communality of shared enthusiasms for marginalised subjects.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Werner Herzog and the Deeper Truth

For hardcore cineastes — and bug-eyed amateur movie buffs like me — DVD audio tracks are an invention of Guttenburgian proportions. Few technological advances in the realm of art and culture can equal the joy afforded by an articulate and perceptive commentary specially prepared to accompanying a movie.

Adrian Shaughnessy
We're All Stellar Designers, Now

When it comes to ads aimed at designers, advertisers are targeting an audience that will look at their ads with hypercritical and informed eyes. They'll sniff out the half-baked, the clichéd, and the patronising. Or will they?

Adrian Shaughnessy
Google and the Tyranny of Good Design

The Google logo — that scrap of oddball typography — is perhaps the most famous piece of graphic design in the world today. In its own small way, it's a little beacon of insurrection, in a world where graphic designers have become the agents of conformity.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Robert Brownjohn and The Big Idea

Adrian Shaughnessy
Charles Dickens and The BBC

Who would have guessed that a
BBC costume drama would provide us with Exhibit-A in the defense's case — that a mass audience can be engaged without pandering to base instincts?

Adrian Shaughnessy
"Can you make the type bigger?"

Adrian Shaughnessy
Self-Initiated House Music

It is perhaps stretching definitions to say that Julian House has become a musician, but with the help of sampling technology and an array of digital audio tools, he makes striking and compelling audio assemblages, which have strong stylistic parallels with his collage-based graphic design.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Decoding Coldplay's X&Y

At a time when invisible data streams of binary information fed straight to our desktops are doing away with the need for album covers, it's odd to find a record sleeve as the subject of media comment and speculation. Odder still that the album cover in question — Coldplay's X&Y — should contain binary data as its central motif. Prophetic or what? The X&Y cover is agreeably eye-catching. You wouldn't call it a classic, but it has an unexpected severity that lifts it above the anodyne and cosmeticised design currently favoured by multi-platinum selling artists. It has dark echoes of Peter Saville's ephocal Factory covers.

Adrian Shaughnessy
The Designer as Buffoon

The "Designer as Buffoon" phenomenon can be seen in two big-budget, prime-time advertising campaigns currently showing on British television. Both Ford and Ikea are promoting their respective products by offering us pumped-up caricatures of designers and inviting us to guffaw at them.


Allen Ginsberg
Orson Welles
Fritz Lang
Karel Martens
Muriel Cooper
Josef Beuys
James Joyce
Creative Opportunities
  • Twitter Facebook Google+
    Tumblr Pinterest RSS

    Design Observer
    social media à la carte
  • Newsletter signup