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.