A Graphic Designer Talks To Eye Magazine about His Design Esthetic

Tony Brooks remembers the seminal moment when he first became aware of art and design.

“My dad was a miner,” Brooks said in an interview with John L. Walters in Eye. “And his brother was a miner, too, and he drew birds on scraper-board. There were all these pictures of birds on the walls, just sheer black and white and really contrasty, and I asked my dad, ‘Who did these?’ and he said ‘Your Uncle Brian’. I couldn’t believe that I knew someone who could create something like that. And that started me drawing. Right from the start, it was black and white and harsh.”

Early on, even his teacher recognized he had talent to nurture, sending him out to the playground to draw while the rest of the class practices their maths.

“It made a huge impact on me,” Brooks said. “He told me that if you’re drawing hills that are surrounded with things, if you put the hills toward the top of the picture, it’s going to feel more monumental, and if you put them at the bottom, then you’ve got the sky. So just the notion of where you could put the line to make an impact was really exciting.”

He parlayed that youthful fascination with art and design into a stunning career as a graphic designer. He’s also the co-founder of Unit Editions, an indie publishing shop producing books “for an international audience of designers, design students and followers of visual culture,” according to their website.

These books are gorgeous; stunningly designed — no surprise — and with a wide range of topics. They’ve recently published their 13th book.

According to Brooks, he wasn’t always so confident of his design esthetic, but the various projects he’s taken on has helped him refine his technique. His reputation has grown through work with big-name clients like Nike, Diesel and Levi’s, to the point where their agency exploded as the corporate money — and all that goes with it — rolled in. 

That gave Brooks and his team some freedom to get more experimental, creating projects simply for the joy of creating them and pushing their collective envelopes. 

“My aim is to have an interesting dialogue with the person who’s going to be viewing the work,” he said. “I’d hate anybody to think what I’ve done was boring, or didn’t communicate in some way.”

If you’re looking for an interesting read inside the mind of a talented designer, check out the full article. And maybe take a spin through the Unit shop to find the perfect gift. It’s well worth a look.