Rising star: Atlantic's Tom Cotton

Tom Cotton

This week's rising star is Tom Cotton, senior designer at Atlantic Records UK...

How did you break into the industry?

Whilst I was at university I happened across a job on Gumtree for a design internship at Warner Music International. I arrived armed only with a sketchbook, and luckily the designer saw my vision and welcomed me on board. After a few years of mainly repurposing existing artwork for online assets, my boss left the company and took me with him to a digital advertising agency. I realised after a few years that it wasn’t for me and spotted a designer role at Atlantic Records. Warner got me in straight away for an interview… And here we are almost five years later!

How can good design help artists?

The ways in which people are consuming music these days are becoming more and more visual. With platforms like Instagram and YouTube, it’s more important now than ever that artists have visual cues that help their fans believe their journey and connect with them on a much deeper level than just the music. A strong visual identity is absolutely paramount. From the styling to the social posts, to the record sleeves themselves, everything has to be fluid and consistent to help create a believable and authentic output.

What’s it like to work with Stormzy?

Stormzy is a pleasure to work with and he’s totally humble. As well as helping with the typesetting of the Gang Signs & Prayer album, I’ve recently had the pleasure of designing the cover for his first book on his Penguin Merky books imprint and it was such a smooth process. He’s very clear in what he wants and we have a good understanding. We’ve worked on a few other projects and his relationship with Atlantic has always been super-tight, so I’m really looking forward to what comes next in his campaign.

My ambition is to continue to grow as an art director

Tom Cotton

What is your biggest ambition?

The last few years have been amazing. I’ve worked with some really special artists and it feels crazy that I am where I’m at now. To get my first intern position at WMI, I was tasked with mocking up some Plan B assets for his Strickland Banks album, fast forward seven years and I’m sitting on a sofa next to him in his studio working on original designs for his new album! My ambition is to continue to grow as an art director and to have the pleasure of working with more and more new and established acts. I want to keep pushing boundaries and adapting.

What is the best album artwork of all time?

Big question! I’d have to say Barry Godber’s cover for King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King. It depicts an uncomfortably close-up painting of The Schizoid Man, full of paranoia and fear, and for me it totally complements and echoes the music. The image really stuck with me when I first saw it in my mum’s CD collection years ago. It’s terrifying!

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