Apologies if you're not that much into insects! The great "Mezzanine" album cover by Massive Attack from back in 1998. Art direction and design: Tom Hingston Studio, photography: Nick Knight.

Tom Hingston Studio: Visualising Music

If you ask graphic designers how they got into graphics in the first place, a lot of them will tell you about their favourite album covers or something else visually related to music. Enter London-based Tom Hingston: For over ten years, he has been designing quite a lot for music, from flyers for the legendary Blue Note club to Massive Attack’s covers. So for today, PingMag asks Tom about visualising sounds.

Written by Chiemi

Tom, how did you get involved with music projects?


Do you remember? The logo of London’s Blue Note club, designed by Tom Hingston.

In the mid 90’s, I started out designing flyers for the Blue Note club in London’s Hoxton Square. Through the club, I met a lot of really talented people — DJs, promoters and producers who went on to start up their own clubs or record labels and asked me to be involved. I guess it kind of grew from there really.

Did you set up your own studio straight after that?

No, I had a full-time job working for Neville Brody at the time. And I was designing the club artwork in my evenings and spare time. As the club blossomed, the more the workload increased and what started off as two, or maybe three flyers a week became ten or fifteen different bits of artwork, and slowly it was becoming a full time job in itself. So something had to give — either the freelancing or my job. I made the decision to set up on my own.

Just a few from his massive portfolio… beautifully designed logos for bands, club nights and record labels. From the top left in clockwise, Blue Note club night “Anokha,” Danish band Diefenbach, XFM radio show London XPress, record label Nuphonic, British electronic band Zoot Woman and record label “filter.”

Okay… We know that by now you do all kinds of work, but for today, we’d like to focus on your designs for music. How do you visualise it? Any tips?

An open-minded approach is key to each project. This is underpinned through a process of research which will then help us shape and define our ideas. Collaboration has always formed a fundamental part of our approach as well, over the years we’ve worked with some of the best photographers and image makers in order to realise our vision.

Dazzling! The cover of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “DIG! LAZARUS DIG!”. Art direction: Nick Cave and Tom Hingston Studio, design: Tom Hingston Studio, sculpture: Tim Noble and Sue Webster, sculpture photography: David Hughes.

Creating what, for example?

With Massive Attack’s “Collected,” we needed to find a symbol that encapsulated or conveyed the emotions and ideals of the band. With it being a “Best of,” a more obvious route would have been to utilise their trademark flame in some way. So instead we thought, a nicer way to approach the cover was to adopt a technique that we’d used before on their other album “Mezzanine:” a collage or composite of different elements, but applied to a new set of images. Working with Nick Knight, we took a still life of roses as the core element and introduced other layers over the top. When you first look at the rose, you see this very beautiful flower, or group of flowers. However on closer inspection, all these other hidden layers are revealed.

The working relationship we’ve established with Massive Attack is quite different to that we have with any other artist or band; it’s quite an organic process that takes place.

The record sleeve of Massive Attack’s “Collected:” powerful, elegant and quite dark. Art direction and design: Tom Hingston Studio, cover photography: Nick Knight, book photography: David Hughes.
From the elaborate CD booklet.

What means “organic process” exactly with them?

Robert from Massive Attack will come up with themes or words that are applicable to that project or that piece of music, and between him, Nick and I. We’ll gradually forge how the thing will look. We’ll push and pull each other in different directions until we end up in a place we’re all happy with.

A very ideal designing process! Any other favourite artists to work with?

Gnarls Barkley has been a great act to work with. With “St. Elsewhere,” the band were adamant that they didn’t want to be on the front cover – which is great because it opens you up to endless possibilities. Their initial references to us were early psychedelia, a lot of that West Coast imagery from the late 60’s, early 70’s. I’ve got a few books on Cuban posters from a similar era — not the political ones, which is what most people know of Cuban imagery –, but all the early cinema posters which are a lot more psychedelic. And the band were really supportive. They saw those early references and just allowed us to go ahead, which is great to have that level of trust from an artist.

The cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “St. Elsewhere.” Art direction and design: Tom Hingston Studio, illustration: Kam Tang.
Gnarls Barkley’s single “Crazy” (left) and “Smiley Faces” (right.)

What is most important when designing for music?

For us, it’s important that the design captures the tone and mood of a record but also becomes an expression of our own personal ideas and inspirations at that particular time.

What is a good design for music?

To create something that’s both unique and beautiful.

British band Editors‘ album “An End Has A Start”. Art direction and design: Tom Hingston Studio, illustration: Idris Khan.
Editors’ single “The Racing Rats” (left) and the “An End Has A Start” single (right.)

And what would be a good album cover?

The Beatles’ The White Album and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here are two of my favourite album covers.

Good choice! Those are masterpiece for both music and design! Finally, what is the greatest thing to design for music?

When you’re designing for an artist whom you really respect and admire — that’s exciting. We’ve always tried to design for music we really like, and that’s what makes the project both inspiring and enjoyable.

We’re sure that working with your favourite artists must be a great experience! Tom, thank you having some time for us today!

  • http://www.graphicdesigner-designer.blogspot.com parviz azadian

    these photos are peroffessional
    illustrasions are so good
    it was so wonder for me to see the imaginary values of a bug with its horns.i alwayes think about that insect.

  • Pingback: pristina.org | everything design » Blog Archive » Visualising Music

  • Aroldo

    Great covers! And great musicians too.

  • http://www.chainsawsarestupid.wordpress.com angellesmelle

    gnarls barkley is freaking good.

  • http://www.simoniddol.com Simon Iddol

    he is a genius!
    THX for this interview!!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/enamonio Manuel Minino

    Amazing!! ..and the works are very different between each other, like the music thy represent!! good work!!

  • Pingback: DesignNotes by Michael Surtees » Blog Archive » Link Drop for the Week Ending in Friday the 5th (September 2008)

  • Pingback: Link Drop for the Week Ending in Friday the 5th (September 2008) | aboutCREATION

  • Pingback: links for 2008-09-04 | Ubernerd

  • animate_me

    this is just wow… thanks for the interview, it gives me insights and references on designing for music.

  • http://www.pattayareal-estate.com Alice Spencer

    Don’t apologize the picture of the insect is very effective.

  • http://www.bentographics.com Mr.Bento

    Gr8t stuff!

  • http://www.kilerciogluevdeneve.com evden eve nakliyat

    Here is our solution: START WEARING BELLY WARMERS! Belly warmers? What is that supposed to be? Read on and find out how people dress this winter in Tokyo and get to know the true story of how Itoi Shigesato turned a piece of granny underwear into a fashionable must-have accessory! [...]

  • Pingback: Via Alley» Blog Archive » Tom Hingston x Ping Mag

  • Pingback: Fortune Grey » Blog Archive » Designing record covers

  • http://www.franciscogalarraga.com Francisco Galárraga

    Awesome article! He is now enlisted in my favorite designers list…

  • Pingback: Signalnoise.com | The art of James White » Inspiration: Tom Hingston

  • http://www.ticketpoint.de Flug

    The Monster-Bug is disgusting and scarry. The rest is just awesome!!!Great article!

  • Pingback: Tom Hingston Studio: Visualising Music « thinkingouttabox

  • http://creativelife3000.ru/ ::.proto::.

    ябадабадууу

  • http://www.sikisci.com sikiş

    Don’t apologize the picture of the insect is very effective.

  • http://www.evvenakliyat.com evden eve

    evve Here is our solution:Belly warmers? What is that supposed to be? Read on and find out how people dress this winter in Tokyo and get to know the true story of how Itoi Shigesato turned a piece of granny underwear into a fashionable must-have accessory evve Here is our solution: START WEARING BELLY WARMERS! Belly warmers? What is that supposed to be? Read on and find out how people dress this winter in Tokyo and get to know the true story of how Itoi Shigesato turned a piece of granny underwear into a fashionable must-have accessory

  • http://www.keciorennakliyatankara.com keçiören nakliyat

    evden eve Awesome article! He is now enlisted in my favorite designers list Don’t apologize the picture of the insect is very effective.evden eve

  • http://www.musicdes.com Musicdes – Listen to Indian and Pakistani Music

    Read on and find out how people dress this winter in Tokyo and get to know the true story

  • http://www.konteynerprefabrikev.com konteyner

    Thank you for your comment

  • http://www.konteynerprefabrikev.com konteyner

    Really awesome collection of photos. I run almost a 3000 machine fleet of vending machines, but we don’t see anything like some of these!!!

  • http://www.ebrandwatches.com men watches online

    Thanks for an honest and truthful post, I like it very much. And happy new year!

    Good writing, this article bring me a lot. Your blog is great, thanks for sharing.

    Thank you for brxcbnxcnbxcninging more information to this topic for me. I’m truly grateful and really impressed.

  • Riding Lawn Mower Store

    Denver, Colorado.

  • http://www.thebestteethwhiteneronline.com the best teeth whitener online

    john gray

  • http://www.iwantmyownpodcast.com podcast marketing scott paton

    Nice website. Awesome job.

  • http://www.bestsecretformula.com Anonymous

    Great website. I like this info your providing.

  • http://www.yourpersonaldevelopmentandsuccess.com/ personal development

    I like your way of thinking. Personal development and its many forms are really close to my heart. I also believe in getting different points of view on this subject to really broaden my thinking.

  • http://www.weightliftingroutines.com weightlifting routines

    Here we go now with that talk about doing the right work-out, the right way. Does it really matter?

  • http://www.boomers-bank.info future of computing

    “Our body is precious. It is a vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” -Buddha.

  • http://www.tuscanywind.com energie rinnovabili

    Turbine Idroelettriche

  • http://www.cashwealth.net Weight loss

    Keep up the good work, wonderful job!

  • http://www.improvingyou.net marketing

    information was enlightning good work

  • Zumba Fitness

    I have bookmarked your site for future reference all the info. you have shared with us will help me no end with a project which I am doing for my course work.

  • http://factoidz.com/hard-stool-treatment-home-remedies-for-constipation/ Hard Stool treatment

    You had post some pretty interesting topic here.Thanks for the information.Hoping more posts from you.
    Health benefits of almonds

  • http://www.stepstoplayingsoccer.com Soccer

    If u like soccer visit us!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.heyycanli.com goruntulu sohbet

    süper sitee buyrun

  • http://linkbrander.com/lb/3247 Affiliate Marketing Reviews

    Norway Mourns Its Dead As harsh Rhetoric Spreads. Let Me Offer Condolences

  • http://janisproductions.net Wedding Video Philadelphia

    “If you ask graphic designers how they got into graphics in the first place, a lot of them will tell you about their favourite album covers or something else visually related to music.”

    With this I would have to agree based on the people I’ve met!

  • http://janisdigitalmedia.com Video Production Philadelphia

    Great covers!

  • http://srahomeproducts.com/sunroom.html Sunrooms South Jersey

    It must be really difficult putting all those elements into an album cover and portraying what needs to be conveyed.

  • http://kandjfence.com Fence New Jersey 

    Like the Editors’ covers. The simple the better!

  • http://myweb-traffic.com/blog/ dental dental plans

    Great topic,I will post a link to this page on my blog.

  • http://www.marketingstrategytemplate.info/ Marketing Strategy Template

    I am a giant fan of foreign exchange and finance so I find this subject very interesting. I actually get pleasure from business and finance so this post gives some interesting ideas for me to think about.

  • http://www.skinnyguymusclegain.com/ Skinny Guy Muscle

    I always prefer to undertsand a brand new means of looking at it. Thanks for the information. I always like to undertsand a new means of taking a look at it. Thanks for the information.

  • http://www.healthnaturalproductsdatabase.com/ Natural Products Database

    I loved reading this post. I am completely happy to seek out this post because I’m interested within the topic.

  • http://mightysolos.info Get 125.000 visitors Free with Mighty Solos

    Niels van raak

  • http://brevillejuicersx.com/ Breville Juicers

    Juicing is one of the best ways to start getting healthy. By drinking freshly made juice that lacks all the preservatives and chemicals you actually being to purge your system of all this bad stuff that you ingest daily.

  • http://www.wbrandwatches.com men watches online

    Interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.
    ddddf

  • http://www.jamondesalamanca.es Jamon Iberico

    Gran articulo. Somos seguidores vuestros desde hace tiempo y queriamos aprovechar este comentario para felicitaros por vuestro blog y por el trabajo que estais haciendo en los articulos…

  • http://www.affiliatemarketing01.com affiliate marketing

    affiliate marketing,affiliate marketing programs,affiliate marketing software,affiliate marketing training,low cost affiliate marketing training,low cost affiliate programs,low cost affiliate software.

  • http://www.happyseasons.gr xristougenniatika
  • http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=184858251599166 Black Friday D-Link Wireless-N USB

    Thank you. Is something that interested me.

  • http://www.blackfridayslta55v.com Black Friday Slt A55V

    It good article.

  • http://www.blackfridayslta55v.com Black Friday Sony Slt A55V

    Nice for me

  • http://www.fridayblackd5100.com Black Friday D5100

    It good article. Black Friday D5100

  • http://www.fridayblackd5100.com Black Friday Nikon D5100

    Nice for me Black Friday Nikon D5100

  • http://www.wbrandwatches.com men watches online

    That was exactly what I was looking for.

  • http://www.ego-tank.ro tigara electronica ego tank

    Exetrmely helpful article, please write more. Team tigara electronica ego tank

  • http://www.realelixir.com อาหารเสริม

    กระ จุดด่างดำ คืนผิวขาวเนียนนุ่มชุ่มชื้นให้แก่ผิว ด้วยส่วนผสมอันทรงคุณค่าจากธรรมชาติ

  • http://c-35.com Canon Black Friday

    Thank You FYI.

  • http://sonynwzwalkman.info technology

    Check out our Cyber Monday deals on everything from cell phones with service to no-contract phones, unlocked phones, Bluetooth headsets, cases, chargers, and more

  • http://www.classificados.katavendo.com.br/ An�ncios Gr�tis, An�ncios Classificados – Kata-Vendo

    Anuncie no Katavendo e usufrua DE TODOS OS BENEFICIOS OFERECIDOS, NO KATAVENDO voce encontra: anuncio, anuncios, anuncie, anunciar, classificado, classificados, classificados gratis, anuncios classificados gratis, imovel, imoveis, autos, automoveis, automovel, veiculos, carros, motos, celulares, video-games, computadores, dominios, cameras digitais, livros, quadinhos, revistas, cds, cd, dvds, DVD, hd, informatica, eletro-eletronicos, eletronicos, audio, video, decoracao, joias, relogios, esportes, lazer, negocios, filmadoras, videos, selos, moedas, ferramentas, antiguidades, raridades, oportunidades, promocoes, empregos, curriculos, servicos, artigos esportivos, empresas, produtos, vestuario, revistas, Sao Paulo, sp, Rio de Janeiro, rj, parana, pr, classificados, katavendo, kata-vendo, catavendo, cata-vendo, an�ncios, gr�tis, gratuitos, gratuitamente, empregos, oportunidades, comprar, vender.

  • http://watchestimex.com Timex Watches

    White Timex Watch

  • http://solusina.com/ toko jasa

    wow… is cool….

  • http://www.yoogly.net reza atayee fard

    I was Mtalbtvn

  • http://friendsorganic.com/2011/12/facts-to-consider-for-website-design/ Elba Bouleris

    I conceive this website holds some very great info for everyone :D .

  • http://www.realelixir.com แอลคาร์นิทีน

    สารสกัดจากธรรมชาติต่างๆ ที่นำมาเป็นอาหารเสริมเช่น กลูต้าไธโอน,แอลคาร์นิทีน, น้ำมันรำข้าว, กรดอะมิโนต่างๆ และอื่นๆ นั้นมีประโยชน์ต่อร่างกายของเราอย่างไรบ้าง

  • one week car insurance

    A few weeks ago my family and I went on vacation and had to rent a car. When at the car rental counter we were asked if we wanted to buy one day car insurance. Not knowing what 1 day car insurance was at the time time we figured we better be safe then sorry. So of course we did.

  • http://www.thevisayas.com The Visayas

    Thank you so much for this content, Im so lucky and glad that I found this website, Please keep this website going and I will keep

  • http://removingtattoosnaturally.com Removing Tattoos Naturally

    Your business sounds very interesting. It is great to have businesses that can contribute to so much to our society these days.

  • http://www.hallohi.net HalloHi Social Network

    HalloHi is Social Network service . You can write what ever you want you have your space on this site and you can do whatever you want share music , videos , write blogs , read blogs , ask question , answer question , play games , upload documents , do

  • http://onedaycarinsurance1.info car insurance for one day

    A few weeks ago my family and I went on vacation and had to rent a car. When at the car rental counter we were asked if we wanted to buy one day car insurance. Not knowing what 1 day car insurance was at the time time we figured we better be safe then sorry. So of course we did.

  • http://www.e3lancm.com مجموعة اعلانكم الاعلانية البريدية

    مجموعة اعلانكم الاعلانية البريدة المجموعة الاولى للدعاية والاعلان والاشهار

  • http://www.majalatouki.com المرأة

    I always visit your blog and retrieve everything you post here but I never commented but today when I saw this post, I couldn t stop myself from commenting here. Fantastic article!

  • http://www.rollup-awnings.com roll up awnings

    Hey this is awesome blogs. Keep posted usefull information. Thank you

  • sweets

    A Massive Thank you so much, I thought that your article was

  • http://www.yorumblog.com Laptop Özellikleri

    Thank you. I’ll sharing the post at my twitter.

  • http://www.imobiliare-video.com Real estate

    Imobiliare, vanzari case, vanzari apartamente, terenuri, craiova

  • http://www.1001obiavi.com Безплатни обяви

    Безплатни обяви в Facebook, сайт за обяви вестник за обяви добави обяви, София, Пловдив, Варна.

  • http://illslickfc.blogspot.com illslick

    Thanks for this post. It is very useful. I hope you will write an article. This issue again.

  • http://www.stopitnow.gr ηλεκτρονικο τσιγαρο

    Online store Stopitnow Ego-T

  • http://www.alamanda.my Malaysia’s Online Marketplace

    Welcome to Alamanda.my your 100% free online classified marketplace. Our idea is simple, why pay when you can sell for free?

  • http://www.titaniumvisa.net titanium visa

    That is really interesting. What kind of improvement can you suggest?

  • http://www.temple-jewellery.com Costume Jewellery

    This piece of information is a gem for me, very helpful, really a great piece of writing, thanks for the effort made, really impressed.

  • http://www.hitbeats.de Live Music MOTET – Deutsch Polnische Hochzeitsband (Band) Polnische Hochzeitsband

    Tanz- und Hochzeitsband Deutsch Polnische Band Polnische Hochzeitsband

  • http://whirlpoolwashers.org whirlpool washers

    Hi ….. I have information about Whirlpool washers, you should read them and get tips and tricks commersial business with Whirlpool washers.

  • http://www.bestmarriagepalaces.com Best Marriage Palaces

    Hey, Nice Blog you have for {Latest|Best|Exclusive} Stories. It {Bring|Write|Publish} {News|Stories|Updates} {as they are|as they should be|at the earliest|when they are fresh}.

  • Pingback: visualising music : Nick & Tom « musiikimaku

  • http://gunlukkiralikev.com.tr günlük kiralık

    Günlük kiralık residence kampanyalarımızı takip ediniz, beş yıldızlı otel konforunda, SPA, türk hamamı, açık ve kapalı havuz farklılığına 99 TL ye sahip olun

  • http://www.goadvertisetomillions.com advertise to millions

    Im so happy, now that I found your website, your contend is very informative and educational. I will always come back for

  • http://www.renover.se Målare Stockholm

    Another useful article again. Thanks.

  • http://www.stopitnow.gr hlektroniko tsigaro

    Very nice site.Thanks

  • http://www.stopitnow.gr ηλεκτρονικο τσιγαρο

    Thanks for usefull site

  • Pingback: Massive Attack – Robert “3D” Del Naja | Art for Music