In Interview : Tom Gordon

Tom is a highly experienced and passionate print art-worker from the UK specialising in the merchandising sector of the music and entertainment industries, having over five years of experience in design for print at a professional level.

How long have you been freelancing?

I have been freelancing for almost a decade now however I have only been full time for around 5 years.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I have a pretty solid routine despite working from home. I get ready and dressed properly (I don’t sit in my pants!). I do the school run and walk the dog and then I usually settle into work mode around 10.30. All of my projects are usually a day long at most so I have to open my project E-mail, make a moodboard and get designing instantly. I break to pick up my son and have dinner etc and then I do the bulk of my work in the evening. Most days I work up to about midnight.

Could you take us through your process after receiving a brief?

I don’t have a lot of time for my projects and I usually have between 3 and 6 designs minimum to do for each brief so time is limited. I make sure I fully understand the brief and usually check out past designs for said client to gauge their taste. If I have enough time I will put together a moodboard to keep me on track and on brand. After this I just get stuck in to designing. I do all of my work in Photoshop but also use Illustrator for occasional tasks that aren’t possible in Photoshop.


What artists/bands are on your bucket list to work with?

I still haven’t designed for a few favourite bands of mine. Sigur Ros, Fleetwood Mac, Brand New, Bon Iver and a few others are on my wish list for 2017. I’m never too bothered whether I get to tick bands off any more but it’s always a treat. Last year I worked on Nirvana stuff which was very cool for me personally.

What are the biggest struggles and setbacks you have faced working within the music industry?

The main struggle with designing in the music industry is the heavy expectations to work for free or for very little. When I was building a name for myself I found that I was treated very poorly in that respect and learnt the hard way to be selective about my clients. These days I am very well set up with enormously respectful clients who treat me well and pay me well. For many others they never reach the point that I am at now and so they move to more lucrative sectors. Many of my friends who are well established in the industry as designers still don’t have consistent income and often find themselves short. Another big issue is burn out. Many can’t hack how intense the music industry is with the high turn around and short deadlines. It’s very common to see people burn out after a few short months.

Highlights of 2016? and do you have any goals for 2017?

My highlights in 2016 were working on Nirvana, NWA, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce and getting some Tupac designs I made in Urban Outfitters. I’m undoubtably missing some highlights but most of the years seem to blur into one these days!

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?

The decision to go freelance is always a big risk for anyone and is probably my only real risk that I have made so far. Towards the beginning, particularly after the birth of my eldest son, there was pressure to work in house but I worked very hard and knew a few people so I always felt that I was right to stay freelance.

I have, at times, considered hiring extra people but ultimately I have issues trusting others to work at the level and speed that I have gained my reputation for.

Do you have any book recommendations?

Most of the books I have in my office are resource books more than reading so I’m not the best person to ask about books! I have a couple of books on advertising that didn’t really help me in any way and then a few roger dean books because his work was a huge inspiration to me as a teenager and ultimately put me onto the course I am on. I know a lot of people in my industry recommend a book called Threads Not Dead but I’ve never read it myself!


Follow Tom here


InterviewMatt Fletcher