Tom Noon shares an update of his work, which includes a gritty book on life in lockdown
The graphic designer has continued his music-related pursuits – but he's also designed his biggest publication yet, in collaboration with Josh Greet and The Midnight Club.
- Ayla Angelos
- 29 January 2021
“It’s a funny one, so much has happened since we last spoke,” says Tom Noon the instant we reconnect after what’s been a difficult year, to say the least. “But at the same time, it’s all a bit of a blur.” In pre-pandemic life – December 2019, to be exact – everything seemed breezy as we discussed his illustrative projects for music clients like Khruangbin and Low Island. Little did we know what the creative industry was about to endure.
Then, world events turned “unprecedented,” he adds, “there we go – we got that one out of the way and off the bat.” Like many, Tom’s year has been disrupted, which is an experience that he describes as a “synoptic lack of punctuation in time during the pandemic”. But it hasn’t all been bad; Tom has actually had quite a busy year in terms of work, an aspect he’s thankful for considering all of the various lockdown restrictions.
One major change is that Tom has moved back to his hometown of Falmouth with his girlfriend, which has been an idea in the works for quite some time – Covid-19 only worked as a catalyst. The seaside town has inspired a lot of new-found creativity for this graphic designer, who refers to himself as fortunate for having an array of projects on the go. A “good distraction for everything”, this includes his usual illustration-led music projects, logo design, adverts and posters, alongside some fashion and branding work. Not to mention his continued collaboration with The Midnight Club, which is how his latest endeavour Day Zero came about.
Working collaboratively with photographer Josh Greet and the wider team at The Midnight Club – a creative company founded by Ben Moutrie – the project was driven by a natural response to Covid-19, questioning “how can we use this time creatively and have a positive impact?” Josh then began roaming the city of London on his bike taking pictures, something he embarked on during the first lockdown in March 2020. He continued this activity on a regular basis, using up his allotted time for outdoor exercise. “Speaking to him about this time, in addition to providing him with structure and routine it actually had a significant impact on his approach to photography,” adds Tom. “Recalibrating his process from image-making to image-taking, he became more reactive and in-tune with his surroundings.”
Feeling liberated with heading out with no preempted plan, Josh ended up compiling thousands of images in the process. An exploration as to how best to document them in light of all that’s happened over the course of a year, Day Zero arose as a strange, eery representation of deserted landscapes. “Josh’s photos sought to explore the impact of the pandemic through desolate scapes, speaking on behalf of a caged population,” Tom says of his interpretation of the imagery, which appears warped and dystopian – a mirror to the events still unfolding. This atmosphere is reflected in the visual tone of the book, too, whereby themes of shock, isolation, confusion and helplessness drive the direction of the design. “However, it also aims to remain optimistic and future-facing,” he says. “After all, the idea was conceived from a positive regarding the situation and, frankly, I think we all felt that compounding doom was the last thing that anyone needed. It had to be honest, but also provide hope.”
As a result, there are a few key characteristics that are splintered throughout the book’s pages: bold typography, distortions and manipulations, day number annotations, odd page numbers turned on their head; plus grit and textures to reflect the “rawness and suffering and a sense of humanity”. You can instantly tell that this book took time and effort to compile, a process that Tom refers to as “a slog!” Either way, the collaborative nature of the project paid off, and the complementary sequencing of the imagery is balanced out by Tom’s well-formulated design – something he enjoyed and found comfort in creating.
“In the final chapter we wanted to explore different visions for the future, and graphical artworks played a part in this. I had some fun with this spread. I wanted to look at the way things had spiralled out of control – there’s chaos and weightlessness to it,” he says. “There’s also plenty of layers of grit and texture at play, reflecting the complete mess of the situation. I think this spread captures that extra layer of graphic narrative that we wanted to include in the book well.”
Tom Noon: Day Zero, in collaboration with Josh Greet and The Midnight Club. (Copyright © Tom Noon, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.