In 1988, the V&A staged an exhibition of work by the celebrated British designer Neville Brody. At some point during its run, a 15-year-old Tom Hingston wandered around taking it all in.
Tom, like most kids his age, was obsessed with music, and seeing Brody’s bringing together of design and pop culture proved a revelation. Years later, ditching his plans to do A-levels and instead going to art college, Hingston ended up working in Brody’s studio. The initial musical passion that lead the young apprentice to a career in design was unabated, and Hingston began making club flyers for friends. The work snowballed, and he began managing his own studio and working on more diverse projects for Dior and Mandarina Duck campaigns, to the title sequences for Anton Corbijn’s 2007 biopic of Ian Curtis, Control. Music and working with musicians has been a constant passion, and the designer’s fingerprints are all over album sleeves for Massive Attack, Editors, Nick Cave and Gnarls Barkley, to name a few.
The Hunger: Can you tell us about how you got started? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
Tom Hingston: I guess I was lucky, from the age of 14 onwards, I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer and that came about through my love of record sleeves and a love of visual paraphernalia that was surrounding me from my earliest teenage years. That’s what led me to art college.
You went on to Central Saint Martins?
Yeah. The great thing about being there was that there were all these amazing people in my year, all in one place in central London – filmmakers, illustrators, painters and designers.
That media mix has carried over to your own career – it’s not only record sleeves you’ve designed but idents and fashion advertising campaigns.
All my heroes – people like Saul Bass, Robert Brownjohn, Charles and Ray Eames – they moved seamlessly from one media to the other. I think that is what’s so interesting about graphic design: it covers a diverse range of areas, from filmmaking to packaging to idents and, now, websites.
You worked with renowned graphic designer Neville Brody when you were fresh out of college. Is that right?
I was at Neville’s for three years after graduating and it was an amazing, but very steep, learning curve. We worked on all sorts of projects when I was there, in all sorts of different mediums. It was a good grounding for what happened next.
And what happened next?
It was while at Neville’s that I did a lot of work for friends who ran club nights and had small independent record labels. I did a lot of work for The Blue Note which, back then, was in Hoxton Square. This was when the square was a no man’s land at the weekend. But as the club blossomed my workload for them did as well. What started off as two or three, four flyers a week grew into a full time job. I’d leave Neville’s studio at nine and then go home and do all the stuff for the club.
You must have been exhausted.
When you’re in your early 20s, you’re resilient. It was exhausting though, and it took its toll. So when I was 25, I made the decision to leave the day job.
Read more of our exclusive interview and Visualising Music feature in Issue Two of The Hunger, on sale now.
Look out for more of our Visualising Music interviews, coming soon to hungertv.com
To see more of Tom’s studios work visit his website.