More thoughts on tDR

Writer and designer Adrian Shaughnessy and Mark Blamire of print website reflect on the studio’s demise


Adrian Shaughnessy: A few years ago I sat on a discussion panel with Ian and the late Tony Wilson. It occurred to me then that there were similarities between the two. Both were showmen; both had created pop culture institutions (Factory and tDR); and both had a nose for sniffing out talent.

But as Tony Wilson discovered, maintaining a pop culture institution in the face of savage commercial pressure is not easy. There was a time when if clients wanted über-cool pop graphics, tDR was the place to go. But now there are thousands of people who do what tDR did. Ironically, many of these people were inspired to become designers by Ian and tDR in the first place.

What tDR did best – freewheeling visual expression, free of strategy and brand guideline books – can’t be done in a studio filled with account handlers and business managers. This has been proved by the fact that the talent that Ian found and nurtured, people like Michael C Place and Matt Pyke, have made a better job of carrying on the tDR tradition than he has.

Mark Blamire: tDR has been a massive influence on me over the last 20 years. I grew up with their work at college. Uninhibited and liberating, it was hard to ignore. They seemed to break every rule in the book and I loved their dynamic and free-spirited approach to making design a more vibrant place. Once I started earning a disposable income, my record collection expanded to include most of their record sleeve output: it was the first time in my life that I had bought music for the pack­aging. I had been seduced by the record cover and their particular brand of graphic design. The Warp Classic compilation and the Satoshi Tomiie album packaging are still two of my all-time favourite record sleeves. This work will always have a place in my heart.

It is sad in many ways to see tDR go through this blip but to be honest I don’t see this as the end. Having met Ian Anderson for the first time in 2007, he gave me the impres­sion of being far too determined and strong-willed to give up without a battle. Pop may have eaten itself and taken a few designers as casualties along the way but tDR will no doubt graphically rise again, maybe slightly bruised but all the smarter for it. I keep thinking of Ian as the T800 cyborg from the Terminator movie: he may be killed off at the end of the film but the plot is far too strong for him not to re-emerge in another classic sequel. Ian will travel back in time and rewrite history and this will all have been a bad dream.


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