Tom Clabots: Gatefold

Belgian designer & ADC Member talks about his new musically inclined studio

It’s always fun when you can combine multiple interests into one — and make money while doing it. That’s what Antwerp-based graphic designer and ADC Member Tom Clabots had in mind when he combined forces with friend and sometimes partner in crime Kaj Dillen to open Gatefold, a design studio with a knack for projects that involve music. Tom chatted with ADC about his new venture.

Graphic Designer
Antwerp, Belgium



Why did you start your own studio? Outside pressures and necessities? Inside passions and desires?

Kaj and I used to run a small video production studio when we were in our early 20s. It was an expressive side-activity; we were producing movies for music events, like parties and concerts. After a while we came to a point where we were doing some actual impressive work for clients as Tomorrowland here in Belgium, and the Outlook Festival in Croatia. Unfortunately projects such as these got pushed back because at that point we both graduated from school and started working fulltime jobs.

It wasn’t until April of last year that we started talking about doing things together again. I’m a graphic designer with a big passion for film and photography, while Kaj is a web developer with amazing skills in 3D modelling and Motion Graphics. After our previous smooth collaborations, it only seemed natural to combine our strengths into one studio.

Because we started with the intention of doing what we loved, outside of the things we had to do, we never had money as a goal. This creates the fantastic feeling of creative freedom, where we can output our passion for our work. From then on Gatefold grew naturally.

Why did you choose the name Gatefold?

One of my biggest inspirations is without a doubt Storm Thorgerson. He’s the one who got me interested in designing for music back in 2009. Ever since then I’ve been dreaming to start up my now studio and design artwork and creative projects for bands, artists, labels, festivals, concert halls, etc. Kaj is also very passionate about music and everything around it. Since we also worked around music in the early days, the link to a gatefold sleeve was an obvious choice. It’s also a nice symbol for how we are both different in what we do, but form one nice whole.

A lot of designers think about joining forces to open a studio, but actually doing it is another matter. What has been the biggest challenge for you guys so far?

To find the perfect balance between what we want to do and what we need to do to keep our studio running. We always want to create a project that has artistic value and that still meets the vision of the client. Often we come across companies that give us big promises, but don’t really share our vision. Instead of tagging along, we choose to turn down those projects. We try to never lose the vision of why we started this company. We try to stay true to ourselves.

What’s been your most exciting project to date?

So far all our projects have been great, but if I had to pick one that I was most proud of, it would be the Secret 7” project. Secret 7 is an annual event that combines music and art for a good cause. They take seven tracks from seven of the best-known musicians around the world, and press each one 100 times to 7” vinyls. They then invite creatives from around the world to interpret the tracks in their own style for every 7”. 700 sleeves are exhibited and then sold for £50 apiece. You don’t know who created the sleeve, or even which song it’s for, until you have parted with your cash; the secret lies within. Our studio got selected to partake in the 2015 exhibition, so it was pretty cool to see our work being displayed in the city centre of London for a month. We also got contacted by the person who bought our 7”, wich was a very nice experience.


What does Gatefold bring to the table? Other than your creative talent, why should people check you out?

We love designing for music and cultural institutions. Both Kaj and I love to tell stories together with the people we work with and the projects we embark on. For us, every new project is an opportunity to create something innovating and exciting. We’re always on the lookout for new and exciting projects that lead us to new collaborations, it’s a dynamic that works and creates the best results. We’re always open to all types of clients, but a project can only bear fruit when it’s something where everyone involved is passionate about.

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