Noël Nanton: An award-winning designer in search of unexpected solutions

—It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry: marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Written by POCAM members, the profiles are a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better—

Noël Nanton was drawn to the industry by the idea of making a living from being creative. Looking back at his career, he’s blown away by the fact that he’s been a designer since he graduated 30 years ago, and still loves it.

It wasn’t too difficult to get into the industry—lucky coincidences helped on his path, and role models like Sabaa Quao (who nominated Noël for this series of profiles) gave him valuable advice. “I’ve admired his design work for a long time,” says Nanton.

Now, as a veteran designer and owner and creative director of typotherapy, Nanton often lectures on inspiration and participates as a design awards judge. Numerous exhibitions showcase his award-winning graphic design and typographic work, and it has been recognized in design anthologies around the world.

A hands-on creative director, Nanton likes experimenting to find unexpected solutions. Because of his attention to detail and passion for type, he often creates custom typefaces for his projects. His many passion projects include typeface design, creating music, and interior design.

Nanton always made it a point to work with Black organizations and business owners throughout his career. He wants to see a lot more people of colour, women, and diverse cultures represented in our industry. “It would be more creative, and it would better represent our city/country,” he says.

Nanton has developed verbal and written policies so that his studio is equipped to deal with bias, microaggressions or plain racism. His own approach is to remain calm and professional.

As a Black designer, he offers young Black talent this advice: “Be true to yourself, and don’t get discouraged. Rejection—and mistakes—are par for the course. Take time out to work on your craft and create self-initiated projects. Work on your communication skills; listen and be empathetic.”

“It’s all about the process,” is the motto he uses to stay grounded and focused.

Gavin Barrett is CEO and chief creative officer of Barrett and Welsh, and a member of People of Colour in Advertising & Marketing’s steering committee.

Gavin Barrett