London-based design studio Airside celebrates its tenth year of business this year by self-publishing Airside by Airside, a 296-page hardback tome choc full of images of the projects that have not only paid the bills at Airside HQ but have shaped the company.
This is not your typical studio monograph. Dip into the text on any given page and it becomes clear that the intention is not just to show off the work created since the company’s inception in 1999, but also to use the book as a means to contextualise the work within the story of the company’s development…
“When we first talked about doing a book I was very keen that it had something of worth in the narrative,” explains Fred Deakin, who, along with Nat Hunter and Alex Maclean originally set up the company back in 1999. “I was very conscious that I wanted to do something where the narrative would be as interesting as the images. I’ve got loads of design books where I haven’t actually got round to reading the text but if you chose to read ours, I felt really strongly that it needed to be something that would give an insight into why the work was produced and the context and the culture in which the work was produced.”
The book’s hard cover favours pattern over any informational text (rather like a Lemon Jelly record sleeve) – a removable sticker carries the info. Inside, the first thing you notice is that the text on each page is both in English and in Japanese. “It’s partly because of Lemon Jelly,” explains Deakin, referring to the band which he runs alongside the design studio. “The Japanese public are so design literate that, when we first went out there, almost more of them had heard of Airside than had heard of Lemon Jelly, which was quite a revelation. We’ve done a lot of work now in Japan and while I wouldn’t say we’re big there, we’ve got an awareness – we’ve done lectures and we’ve had exhibitions in Japan and we’ve all got a real love for the culture. Our Japanese agent suggested the dual narrative and I really like it, it looks really nice. I think it gives the book more weight, more traction.”
This dual narrative that runs throughout the book tells the story of Airside in detail.
“I guess we were trying to do three things with the book,” says Deakin. “We were trying to show off the work that we’re very proud of, but we also wanted to show people how Airside happened because it’s been quite an unusual process. We were very lucky and we took very firm decisions about certain things that we weren’t going to fuck with so I wanted to show that, to make that explicit because that is part of the work really. The values and processes that created each piece of work are crucial, I think, to giving the book that deeper insight which is what I was hoping the people that bought the book might want. The third reason would be that if you are about to set up your own design company then it’s very much a kind of case study, a ‘how to’. If you want to set up a company like Airside then this is exactly what we did, here are our mistakes, here are our successes, this is what we’re proud of, this is what we’re not proud of. We consciously tried to put in the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. I think we expose ourselves really extensively over the course of the narrative – that’s the intention anyway.”