Monday, 12:00pm
11 May 2020

Tom Hautekiet, 1970-2020

Belgian designer Tom Hautekiet was one of the smartest, most energetic practitioners of his generation. His witty and subtly subversive spirit will be missed. By Jan Middendorp

On 30 April 2020, Belgian graphic designer, illustrator and musician Tom Hautekiet died unexpectedly at his family home, aged only 50. The Flemish cultural world was devastated, writes Jan Middendorp.

Hautekiet (also known as ‘Kiet’) had been one of the friendliest, smartest and most energetic designers of his generation – a very talented communicator working for musicians, festivals, theatre companies, museums and television. He was a standard-bearer for Flemish design. As designer-teacher Hugo Puttaert wrote, ‘Kiet produced designs in an eclectic range of styles and techniques, yet all carrying the same spirit – witty, sophisticated and often subtly subversive.’

Right. CD packaging, 2001, for the first album by big band El Tattoo del Tigre, in which Hautekiet also played drums.
Top. Animated gif for Rock Werchter festival.

3 TattooDelTigre 2001

Based in Antwerp, Hautekiet was also an accomplished musician. Twenty years ago he co-founded El Tattoo del Tigre, a professional big band that played dynamic versions of Latino classics – Cuban mambo being its favourite rhythm. Tom Hautekiet was the drummer, and he created the band’s unique visual identity.

Hautekiet’s sleeve design for Blackened Cities, a single-sided LP by Belgian jazz musician Melanie De Biasio. Photography by Stephan Vanfleteren, 2016.

4 Hautekiet BlackenedCities-DeBasio-Photography by Stephan Vanfleteren 2016

His relationships with clients were invariably long-lasting. For many years he designed the ever-changing communication of experimental theatre company De Roovers. He was a regular contributor to the cutting-edge Antwerp Museum on the River (MAS), developing refined visual environments for exhibitions. When designing identities and logos, he preferred visual puns to corporate graveness.

Poster for De Roovers & Muziektheater Transparant for Dürrenmatt’s The Visit, Antwerp ca. 2015.

1 Kiet-DeRoovers-DürrenmattHetBezoek 2018

Poster for De Roovers’ When he comes (based on Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh), Antwerp, 2018.

2 Kiet-Roovers-ONeill

Hautekiet became internationally known as the designer of Belgium’s largest music festival Rock Werchter. His colourful constructions and animations, using an endless variety of geometric shapes, were not limited to two dimensions. He designed the façades of The Barn, a spectacular tent for the festival. At 115m long, it is one of the largest tents in the world, holding 20,000 people.

Music festival Rock Werchter’s tent known as The Barn.

7 The Barn, tent at recent Rock Werchter festival

Rock Werchter artwork, 2017.

5 Kiet-Rock Werchter2017

When not at his studio, Hautekiet could usually be found on his racing bike. This passion, too, made him very Belgian.

His sad, premature passing has cut short one of the most spectacular graphic careers in Flanders. We have lost a man who was admired and loved by peers and students, and who brought intelligence, skill and humour to graphic design.

Alles Gut [All is fine], Hautekiet’s limited-edition poster for Belgian art site Supercollect. A2 letterpress print, produced with a laser-cut wooden plate.


Jan Middendorp, designer, writer and author of Dutch Type, Berlin

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.