Interview with Spencer Harrison

His works are both vibrant and energetic, inspiring a sense of child-like fun within playful illustrations, patterns and objects for both his personal and commercial projects. We pick the curious mind of one of our Creative Festival speakers Spencer Harrison, a Melbourne-based graphic artist, illustrator and designer with a playful imagination and a desire for adventure.


With degrees in both Nanotechnology and Visual Communication, what led you to a career in graphic design?

My career has been a windy path, following my interests and curiosity as I go to get to the point I’m at today. Initially while studying Nanotechnology, I found I was procrastinating from my science work, by spending my time drawing and mucking around in illustrator and photoshop. I was finding this creative play much more exciting and joyful so decided that a career in science wasn’t for me and I should do something more creative. After I finished science I enrolled in graphic design and have been exploring a creative life ever since. 

We couldn’t help but notice your affinity for side projects. What has influenced you to create personal works such as MNML Thing and Rhythm & Repeat?

Yes I’ve always had side projects, which is I guess where my creativity first started when I was drawing on the side instead of doing my science homework. After I graduated from University and started working I found that client graphic design work wasn’t totally fulfilling me creatively so I started some side projects to push myself further and experiment. The side projects came out of interests and curiosity I was exploring at that time such as exploring minimalism and colour in MNML Thing and exploring repeat patterns in Rhythm and Repeat. I’ve found that all of these side projects have ended up influencing my commercial work, and lead to new directions for my career that have made it more enjoyable! These days my career is basically one big side project as I’m mainly working for myself as an illustrator and artist, exploring my interests and constantly experimenting and learning new skills that feed back into my projects. 


Playfulness is a major theme within your projects, and will be the topic of your talk & workshop at our Creative Festival. How do you incorporate a playful approach into your work?

For me Playfulness is about building into your work a chance to experiment, fail, explore your curiosity and most of all have fun. As children we are so full of creativity and ideas and will easily draw for hours or get lost in make believe fantasy worlds. Unfortunately as we grow older, our industrialized schooling systems devalues free play which leads to many people loosing this innate sense of creativity they had as a child. Getting back to this pure creative play has been something I have been exploring in my work for many years now and which has played a large part in my creative development. I incorporate play in my work by experimenting constantly, trying new materials and trying to make my creative process fun and enjoyable.  

How would you say your creative process has changed with experience?

My creative process has become much freer and more intuitive with experience, influenced a lot by the experimentation and play I do in my studio. I keep a sketch book which I try to doodle in daily and where the seeds of many of my ideas take place. From there I start playing with materials and mediums, trying new visual styles and ways of expressing these ideas. 

These days I incorporate a lot more hand made elements into my work and am very interested in developing my craft further in drawing and painting. The computer is still an essential part of my workflows but I think early in creative projects, the computer can be very inhibiting to coming up with new and innovative ideas. I believe it’s important to see the computer as a tool to carry out specific tasks that you require, but the best way to create and think through creative ideas is always going to be with the head, heart and hands. 


What are you currently working on? And what creative work can we expect to see at the Creative Festival?

At the moment I’m working on a series of new paintings and paper collage works for an upcoming exhibition entitled Synesthesia ( as well as a branding project for a creative conference here in Australia and a Tshirt design for a collaboration with a screenprinter in London. I’ll be looking forward to sharing these new works with everyone at the ING Creative Festival as well as giving some background behind the works. I’ll also be bringing over some new prints and artworks made especially to exhibit at the festival! 


Not only will Spencer be exhibiting his lively creations, but will also be giving his talk ‘Using Play To Unlock Your Creativity’ and ‘Creative Play in Your Day’ workshop during our three-day Creative Festival happening at Dubai Design District (d3). You can take a look at some of Spencer’s work on his website 


Creating the Community Wall with Ruben Sanchez

In the run up to our second annual festival, it's great to look back at all the opportunities that have been realised here in the UAE thanks to the work of so many great minds and artists from all over the world. These stories are what -ING is all about; bringing people together, and facilitating creations that might otherwise never have been. 

It was last February that, after over a year of anxious planning, preparations, and applications, the first major piece of street art of its kind became a reality for the city of Dubai.

The wall chosen for this project was a vast canvas stretching over 30 metres in length, and more than 15 metres in height, on the lakeside of a building in Jumeirah Lake Towers. On his commute to the office, Ramy would pass by the wall, which back then was almost completely bare other than a few basic graffiti scribbles, and “dreamed of seeing that wall as a piece of art”. 

So we began to tirelessly send applications to the JLT authority, DMCC, to gain permission to utilize the wall as a piece of art that would bring together the creative community of Dubai. After over a year of occasional emailing with the DMCC, the authorities decided that they would love to have the wall painted. Of course, we could think of no better creative mind to collaborate with for the project than Spanish graffiti artist based in Dubai and Ramy’s close friend, Rubén Sanchez. 

With Rubén on board, we began to work out what we would use the space and opportunity for - we got equipped for the task, and Rubén set to work planning the theme, colours, and design of the piece. 


The Creative Community Wall stands in a city where street art is still scarce and new, and where nothing of this magnitude had been done before. That's why Rubén believed it was important that the piece pay homage to its backdrop, and so the story it tells is a bright and joyful Arabian love story made using a Cubist motif which fits perfectly with the city’s edgy look. 

It took Rubén 7 days to create the mural with a little help from a cherry picker crane, and during the course of the week over a thousand local residents, workers, tourists, and visitors came to watch as the spectacle unfolded.

Despite the challenges, and the frustrating wait on approvals, inspiration for creating one of Dubai’s only permanent outdoor murals finally became a reality. What's more, this collaborative work, which now brightens up city life in JLT, might stand as something which will, ­as we hoped,­ make it easier for street artists all over Dubai to create creative projects like this in the future. 

Once the wall was completed, the community had a little fun with it.

Join us this April 1st at the wall for Art, Live Music, and Food. Learn more here

Interview with Mark Brooks

Art director, graphic designer and Behance Brand Director, Mark Brooks, will be joining us this April at the -ING Creative Festival in Dubai Design District (d3). Barcelona-born and New York based, the very talented Mark splits his time and work between both cities, providing art direction, graphic design, illustration, typography and branding on design and advertising projects for companies of all sizes- from fresh start-ups to internationally renowned brands. We talk to Mark to gain some insight into his creative process and successful design career leading up to his Talk & Workshop at the festival. 

How did your creative career begin?

Not very poetically really. I was 25 without a better mission in life, other than staying away from class and enjoying life as if it was going to last forever. A couple of events made me realize at that point that it would be a good investment to learn a profession, so I tried to figure out what would suit me. I came to the conclusion it had to be a creative job. I can’t stand numbers and monotony. I ended up dealing with Photography, Graphic Design, and Journalism as my top three options. Design won among other reasons because I would never have to wear a uniform or suit and also because I really liked the idea of a job in which you would be learning new things until the very last day. I figured I’d be happier making a living designing logos and enjoying photography on the side than the other way around. As per journalism it just didn’t strike me as so much fun. So at 25 signed up for Graphic Design classes and walked out of school at the age of 30 utterly convinced that the choice I made was the right one and that there was no time to waste.

As a multidisciplinary designer, which area of work do you enjoy the most?

I’ve gone through three fundamental phases. In the beginning my main interest was on art and culture related projects, where there seemed to be room for experimentation and the projects were visually more powerful. On a second phase I started specializing in branding projects for startups and small businesses with interesting ideas and thirst for good communication and design. Recently I have entered the third phase of enjoyment. Editorial Design. 

You’ve worked on so many great projects for huge brands, is there a project that particularly stood out for you?

My favorite projects are usually the ones for small startups that appreciate the value and importance of branding. In these projects, the budget is always tight, at times ridiculously tight, but if the idea is good and the client is (and they generally are) willing to listen, welcome thoughts, and allow you to be part of the initial part of the creation, then the results can be absolutely great. You practically become part of the new adventure and surely a one-man-band doing what takes several distinctive roles in a studio to do. I’d say Magro Cardona is one of my favorites because the synergy was good, and with practically no money or initial direction, a pretty solid brand emerged.

Where do you find inspiration during your creative process? And how has that process changed with experience?

What I have learnt so far is that there is not an infallible way of finding inspiration or quick answers to questions related to the creative/visual/conceptual process. One day you just visualize what you are going after in the blank canvas of your mind. The next you just have to spend a few days working long and apparently unproductive hours until something clicks. Some other times you just stumble upon something that ignites a creative path or simply gives you straight out the answer you were looking for.

What I haven't gotten around is the formula to not overcommit to a project. I tend to lose sight and notion of the other things in life that are important when an exciting challenge arises. I know now for a fact it’s not as healthy and romantic as it felt for quite a while. The way I see it, life is more important than work, at least so it is in my mind. At a practical level I haven't quite figured out how to do it. Perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. 


You share your life between Barcelona and New York, and have worked on many projects in both cities. How would you compare the creative industry in these two cities?

I’d say the creative industry is quite accurately related to the identity of each of the two cities.New York is bolder, daring and there’s a lot of business going on so the industry is in constant motion, which in return implies a lot of variety as well. The creative industry in Barcelona is much smaller, cautions and localized. Interestingly, when it comes to the design one experiences at an institutional level (the way the city brands and communicates itself graphically) the differences are pretty similar as well. New York in general has a bolder, rather neglected and rougher style. Barcelona’s institutional design is much more refined, sophisticated and obviously European. 

When it comes to the private sector of the industry, New York is clearly more marketing oriented in order to satisfy the need of the enormous amount of business going on in the city; there’s a massive side of the graphic industry which sole purpose is to generate business and revenue. But there’s also a smaller side (still bigger than Barcelona) that focuses on creating outstanding creative projects at a formal level. Barcelona on the other hand, in spite of its strange complex of inferiority, produces better quality in relation to its size and business flow. Both cities have very interesting and distinctive attributes as well as issues that I feel like could be improved. Design is part of the culture and the identity of every society and city. Its industrial approach as a generator of business is equally related to its cultural identity. At least this is my experience living and working on both cities.

We’re really looking forward to your talk & branding workshop at the Creative Festival. Can you give us a brief insight into what you’ll be sharing with us at the workshop?

I’d like to share some tips I’ve learnt over the years working on branding and rebranding projects for startups and small companies that realize the need of a solid brand and efficient communication. A lot has been said and done about big branding projects and campaigns for well known and established companies, but in the era of the freelance creative, a lot of interesting possibilities and roles are opening up as globalization defines itself. There is room now for a more personal contact and interaction with the client and his dreams/objectives. There are more and better possibilities for a true and rewarding implication just like there is a wider understanding and acceptance of the need for creativity. There’s a new world opening up for creatives who have a mindset that engages with an entrepreneur that starts a small company or a small business with ideas and values that transcend the fundamental idea of profit.


Join Mark at our Creative Festival this April in Dubai Design District (d3), for his inspiring Talk ‘Find Your Way’ and ‘Creating Branding For Startups’ Workshop. You should also head over to Mark’s website to check out some of his work.

Creating -ING’s 2015 Art Direction - Dust

If you’ve been a part of the ING creative community for a while, you’ll remember our Art Direction for 2015, otherwise labeled ‘DUST’. The project was created in the run up to our first -ING Creative Conference, which took place in March of 2015.

We felt inspired to make something creative right here in Dubai, where we merge a creative element with the local landscape of where we are from. Our Art Direction had to express that we were here to turn serious subjects into more approachable fun, and to inspire others in Dubai to unlock their creativity- something which is at the heart of what we do at -ING, bringing creatives together and allowing them to make great things themselves.

Initially, we wanted to create something with smoke bombs, but as they’re not available locally, we decided to build our own. Putting together our own smoke bombs came with a number of obstacles to work around. First came the sourcing of some very specific materials, such as chemicals to make the colours merge with the smoke using a certain type of colourful clothing dye. Once we had gathered our resources, we finally started experimenting with creating the smoke bombs. As you can imagine, we were utterly disappointed when the smoke weakly popped into a splash of dull white colour.

Ramy and Ryan got together to brainstorm ideas for overcoming the challenge, and Ryan suggested that we should fill balloons with both air and coloured powder that we could pop for the photographs. We would tie strings to the balloons and hang them from sticks so that we could hold them out for the photos and pop them with sharp cutters. We selected our first shoot location, Hatta, as a great place to represent the UAE landscape. We; Ryan, Jiani, Ramy, and Dani, set out at 4am with no idea if our DIY smoke bombs would work, but knew it was worth a try. On the way, we stumbled upon an opening in the road by pure chance. Most of these areas are fenced off, but we had discovered this totally untouched landscape with only rocks and the mountain in the background - almost like a scene from Mars. So, of course, we set up our equipment here and began popping balloons one after the other while Jiani photographed the explosions.

We also worked on locations downtown and at Kite Beach, but we especially loved the construction site behind the Burj Khalifa, the one with the intertwining cables of the transmission lines, as Networking is a big part of what -ING stands for and we felt the importance of portraying that visually in our art direction. Looking back, bringing each element of this project together turned out to be just as fun as shooting the final images. The whole process of trial and error and repeat really built up our excitement, and made pulling it together in the end that much more gratifying. It’s great that we get the opportunity to work with a creative team to do something crazy, and to come out the other end with an incredible campaign that people all over the world would see. We even came across people whilst in Barcelona who had seen it, and that was definitely the most rewarding part of the project. The complete DUST art direction can be found here on Behance.

women who wander | Jiani Lu

Artist Feature | Jiani Lu

women who wander | -ING profiles graphic designer and photographer Jiani Lu

by Ysabella Chambers


The life of an artist, particularly that of a freelancer, is one that is often categorised as being plagued with uncertainty; that of ideas, of next moves, of career paths and so forth. In a 2011 article in New York magazine, economists argued that while today’s emerging creative professionals face some of the worst economic conditions since World War II, they are, at least, optimistic. In an age where twenty-first-century creatives are more driven then ever to pursue their work, it is becoming increasingly clear that it takes, however, more than just optimism. It takes, asJiani exemplifies, intentionality, persistence and some good information. In the spirit of adventure and artistic evolvement, last October, Canadian-born and Dubai-based Creative Jiani Lu went to Iceland and documented her trip for her photographic series, Jiani Goes. ING’s Ysabella Chambers speaks to Jiani about the creative process, making it happen, and the cultural landscapes from Toronto to Dubai. 

YC: How would you describe yourself as a creative? 

JL: I have great love for print design and have always been captivated by the tactility of the medium. There’s so much possibility and creative freedom in how we can express things by our choice of paper, print finishings and formats. While print design will always be my focus, I don’t like limiting myself to an area of design. I find myself experimenting and learning a lot through self initiated projects.

While much of the design work I do now-a-days is grounded in a digital approach, I’m much more interested in seeing how I can fuse analog, hands-on processes with digital processes. Self initiated projects often give me more freedom and time to experiment in a hands-on manner (e.g. building prototypes, sourcing and working with papers and materials, etc), and I’m trying to see how I can bring more of these processes into my freelance work.

I feel design is an incredibly powerful, universal communication tool. I’d like to think that my role as a designer means to create work that serves a functional purpose first, and is aesthetically pleasing second. Whether that purpose is making information more accessible or creating a visual language for brands to communicate to their demographic, design has the ability to enhance our visual and tangible experiences. 

YC: Your photography, particularly the personal project ‘Jiani Goes’ inspires a sense of adventure. In what ways is adventure important to your creative process? 

JL: Seeing new landscapes and interacting in new cultures has opened up my mind. I find it has been incredibly helpful in my self growth as an individual and as a creative. Every adventure I go on has allowed me to bring back new colour palettes, new inspirations, new ways of looking at things. There’s always a compelling beauty and scale in nature that I wish I could capture in my photography and designs. 


YC: From my experience, Canada, in particular Toronto, is a place that actively fosters and celebrates creativity, how do you find it compares to Dubai?

JL: Toronto is an incredibly vibrant city that is fuelled by all creative disciplines - from design to animation, illustration,  music, photography, dance, and the list goes on. There’s a lot of great talent, admirable studios, creative platforms and events that inspire.

Having lived in Dubai for 2 years, I feel there’s still a lot of room for growth in the creative community. It is a relatively young city, and it will take time for it to get there with the other design capitals. But there’s certainly been a big push towards closing that gap with the number of new creative events, studios and galleries opening. Emerging platforms in small and large scales from -ING to the Design District are bringing creative individuals together and making design a significant element in Dubai’s culture.


YC: When observing emerging designers and photographers, what grabs your attention? 

JL: Aside from being inspired by the final piece, I’m always interested in seeing how other creatives approach their work. Taking specific interest in their brainstorming process, their inspirations and mood boards, experimentations and research.

It’s often hard to see the behind-the-scenes of how a project is put together as most of what we browse and read is the final result. So I try to read interviews and case studies, attend conferences and talks that reveal more about the creative process. In the past year I’ve begun collaborating with other creatives and that has been a tremendously valuable learning experience in seeing how others practice design.


YC: Finally, can you give us an insight into your favourite cities to visit? 

JL: I find myself drawn towards vast nature and the great outdoors. In 2014 I did a solo 9 day road trip across Iceland and it has been by far the most memorable experiences of my life. I was fascinated by the untainted nature and overwhelming scale and beauty of the landscapes. Iceland is full of contrasts, I would be hiking through bubbling geothermal sites in the morning, and find myself in a glacial lake by evening. There were moments I was convinced I was on another planet, it was simply surreal.

To learn more about Jiani, visit and 


Ysabella chambers is an Australian writer and Fine Arts graduate currently residing in Brisbane