British art director Tom Hingston is behind some of the most innovative album artwork of the post-Peter Saville era. Here, in conversation with collaborator Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack, he talks 20 years of cover design and upping the ante on artist ‘merch’ with Paul Smith
Over the last two decades London-based art director Tom Hingston has worked with The Rolling Stones, Nick Cave, U2, The Chemical Brothers and Young Fathers, as well as collaborating with David Bowie on his last three music videos. Perhaps his best-known work, though, are the covers created for Massive Attack with band member and artist Robert Del Naja and the photographer Nick Knight, including 1998’s Mezzanine (part of MoMA’s permanent collection) and 100th Window, from 2003.
To celebrate his studio’s 20th anniversary, Hingston has joined forces with Paul Smith to create ‘Process’, an exhibition to open in Smith’s flagship store on London’s Albemarle Street in May. It will include 15 of Hingston’s album covers, reworked as lenticulars. Del Naja, Nick Cave and The Chemical Brothers have also worked with Hingston and Smith to create a superior range of band merchandise. A Nick Cave bomber jacket features embroidered mermaids based on the artwork for his Lovely Creatures album; The Chemical Brothers’ knitwear features zig-zags from the Born in the Echoes sleeve; and Del Naja is part-printing, part-painting his own artwork onto leather jackets.
Del Naja, better known as 3D, established a reputation as a graffiti artist in Bristol before helping found Massive Attack, and his artwork has featured on all their sleeves. He has also designed all the Massive Attack live shows, in collaboration with Icarus Wilson and UVA. To help celebrate Hingston’s anniversary we sat the pair down to talk beetles, biker jackets and the future of the rock artefact in the digital age.
So When did you two meet?
TH: I guess a year before Mezzanine was released, in 1997. Robert had worked with a bigger design studio and there was an impetus on his part to explore a more one-on-one relationship, something more collaborative.
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