Ian Noble Tribute
  • Andrew Haslam
  • On Wednesday 20th of February over 400 family, friends, colleagues, students and former students said goodbye to a much loved and enormously generous man, Ian Noble.

    Ian was an engine of change, a force for good in both education and design, teaching thousands of students and influencing hundreds of educators and designers during what was a woefully short yet extraordinary vibrant life. He fundamentally understood that when he taught he shared not the discipline he loved with students and staff but also the greater part of himself. He enjoyed giving and engendered a sense of friendship and camaraderie. He had a very human touch, an ability to transcend the constrictions of social morays: within ten minutes of meeting him people felt like old friends. Bear hugs and sloppy kisses were his calling card. Ian read widely, shared books, words, phrases, passed them on and gave them away, wrote beautifully, designed intelligently, contemplated and thought deeply. Ian reconfigured ideas, positions, approaches, gathered thoughts from diverse sources and bowled them at poorly considered design thinking. He identified challenges, made perceptive observations and gave all that he had with enthusiasm and an unremitting generosity of spirit. He formed a position in relation to design and design education, research through practice, identifying the importance of visual research methodologies, which he and Russell Bestley so elegantly articulated through their collaborative writing. This philosophy underpinned his teaching and vision for the courses and colleges in which he taught.

    Ian despised meanness and pomposity because it abraded his anarchist spirit of punk. Perhaps this is why not everybody 'got' Ian. At times he was low and spoke of 'holding on'... 'the monkeys are flying the plane'. These periods of attrition served only to sharpen his wit and rejuvenate his maverick spirit. Ian was a great teacher, but he was far more than a teacher, he was a catalyst for educational change. His character remained essentially the same but his presence caused those around him to effervesce with a new sense of purpose. He was an agent of transformation, overcoming inertia through inspiration, an enabler of others, a shifter of ground, challenging the moribund within institutions, structures and individuals.

    He progressively grew to realise the influence of his eclectic gifts: intelligence, insight, passion, organisation and at times chaos and caustic wit. His innate generosity had a powerful and enabling effect on those he met. Ian was a genuine 'educator', offering his own abilities to 'draw out', cherish and nurture the talents of others. His enormous frame had the capacity to simultaneously host incandescent rage and pantomime comedy. He would fervently rant against injustice in a flurry of expletives but his body became increasingly disconnected from the cadence of his words, slipping into a comic gestural spasm, before being overwhelmed by an implosion of giggles, leaving all those exposed to the spectacle in shoulder shaking convulsions of tear jerking laughter.

    It was these moments that bonded groups together and it was Ian's personality that made the glue for these bonds to stick. For those of us who had the great privilege of knowing Ian as a friend and teaching with him, there are a multitude of stories and a deep well of joy and profound memories upon which to draw. Ian's ideas live on through the books and articles he wrote with Russell, within the philosophy of the art schools and courses were he worked and through the collective memory of all those with whom he shared time, who themselves have been inspired to share that most treasured generosity of spirit with those they teach and meet.

    Andrew Haslam. Course leader, Graphic Design, Illustration and Digital Arts, Faculty of Arts, Universirty of Brighton.