Board of Trustees
Deputy President, D&AD
Co-Creative Director, GBH
Mark graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1993 and worked at The Partners, Carter Wong & Partners and SAS before co-founding multi-disciplinary graphics group GBH In 1999. Now 14 strong, GBH works internationally across disciplines solving communications problems for clients such as Puma, Royal Mail, Land Securities, Eurostar, Flos, Gatwick Airport, Starck Network, SBE Entertainment, Virgin Galactic and Yotel.
GBH have consistently ranked within the UK’s top ten most creative design groups by awards won (DW Hot 100 Survey) since its foundation in 1999, reaching No 2 in 2007.
Mark won a Student Yellow Pencil in 1991 and a Professional D&AD Yellow Pencil in 2005 and has received five D&AD Silver Nominations, five Design Week Award wins including Best of Show in 2003 and a Silver Award at the New York Art Directors Club.
Mark is a regular judge in industry awards schemes - six times at D&AD - including a stint as chairman of the Donside Awards in 2004. Mark is also a regular visiting lecturer at Kingston, LCC and New Bucks Universities.
Selected by The Independent Newspaper as a ‘Top Ten British Graphic Designer’, Mark was listed in Who’s Who from 2007.
What, for you, makes a good idea?
The best solution is the right one. I think a designer intuitively ’knows’ when they’ve done something really, really great. Its obvious, because they’ve the context of the entire journey; the blood, sweat and the tears that got them there.
It’s never easy. It’s an addictive feeling. The real difficulty is repeating the big successes, time and time again, across disciplines and cultures. That’s what drives me on.
The feeling when you’ve had an original idea, and then the quest to protect and improve it with the client to ensure it happens.
From where do you get your inspiration?
Being a designer is about a lot more than just being inspired. I think you need many stars to align, and you need to keep working at all of them:
- A deep desire to understand and experience other worlds than your own
- An enquiring mind hungry for information, with the memory to store it in
- An intuition for finding the solutions that solve ever changing problems
- An microscopic eye for detail, as well as a instinct for when too much detail becomes noise
- A mix of dlplomacy, persuasiveness and salesmanship wrapped up inside natural charm
- A sixth sense for what will work
- A thick skin
- An ego to keep you motivated and a conscience to keep you honest
- At least one truly great client
- The good grace to tell other designers that their work is great too, and why
What is your favourite piece of someone else's work and why?
Alan Fletcher designed a wonderful 48 sheet poster for Polaroid at Pentagram to launch the famous filmstock we all know and love.
It was a landscape multicoloured Rorschach Test, which I always thought perfectly represented that moment of wonder when you can see what you photographed appear as if by magic as you peeled the print from the negative.
It’s intellectual, but for everyone. It looked damn beautiful, and celebrated a childlike joy of colour image making.
Storm Thorgesson’s Pink Floyd cover: The winter tree in the shape of a male profile, branches for neurosystem… using a chainsaw in Richmond park as an early form of retouching.
Bob Gill’s lateral thinking genius. Bruno Munari’s inventive playfulness, his poster for Campari collaging myriad labels and logotypes with an effortess, dynamic beauty. M&Co’s crazy humour…
The longer I think about it the more I think of.
What is your favourite piece of your own work and why?
I love everything whilst I am doing it, and then often go off it when its done. I’d love to know why that is…
Two stay in my mind, the first was a job from the early, kitchen table days of GBH, an identity for a tiny company which made protective clothing, called Turtons.
I remember the schlep of driving up to Birmingham from London to present to them every couple of weeks, this tiny husband a wife team, who’d never commissioned design in their lives.
They were two of the best clients I’ve ever had. They really believed in design and wanted to do something great. We did a lovely job of it, together. A quirky Armadillo, nature’s natural protective clothing personified.
I bump into it in our archive every now and then, and it still makes me happy.
The second, was an early project for Puma. The most obvious idea in the world… wouldn’t it be great to have a real puma prowl the store? We’d create a virtual Puma for every store. How hard could it be?
In 2002, it was very difficult indeed. Seeing a prototype motorised projector from Toshiba, being programmed all through the night - touch and go the whole time - and then finally seeing the ‘real’ lifesize cat we filmed against greenscreen in LA leap from shelf to shelf just as I’d imagined he could, was incredible.
In focus and keystoned as he moved from wall to wall, it was ahead of it’s time. More mathematical science than Graphic Design, making that work gave me a lot of pleasure, and a Yellow Pencil.
Where did you study?
- 1986-88 - Hounslow College 1986-88
- 1988-91 - Kingston Polytechnic
- 1991-93 - RCA MA Graphic Design & Art Direction
Who gave you your first break or was your first mentor?
I worked in design studios in the holidays to fund my time at college. I figured it’d be much more useful than waiting tables. I was right.
How did you first get to know or get involved with D&AD? The annuals. I always had my head in them, looking for the problems in the solutions.
Give us one pearl of wisdom.
The best designer is the one that polishes the most facets of the diamond.