Back 10 Questions with Mark Paton, Creative Partner at Here Design
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Here Design
I’m Mark Paton – one of the founders and Creative Partner at Here Design. What began as three of us in a room has grown in to a collective of 35 thinkers, writers, designers and makers. Our shared ambition is always to live up to William Morris’ mantra – to produce beautiful and useful work.
We’re a little different to other studios in that we design for a wide range of sectors – food brands, drinks brands, books, museums, restaurants, hotels and charities – and we think that that mix of work makes us better designers. It’s a cliché, but I’d always want our clients to feel that we’re an extension of their team. We’re very lucky to have worked with some of our clients for a really long time, so I’d like to think that we live up to that.
What are the pros and cons of being an independent design agency?
I like that feeling of self-determination that comes from being an independent company. Sure, there are moments when it would be good to benefit from a bigger infrastructure, but the speed of decision making that is possible in an independent studio is exciting, and ultimately better for our clients, I think.
Tell us about some of your favourite projects that you’ve worked on in the last few years
So many favourites to choose from! The projects that stand out are usually those that have given us unique experiences. It’s not just the end result, but the way you get there – the process you work through.
For me personally the stand out projects are the ones where I learn the most. In the last year or so that would be design of The Balvenie Stories for the opportunity to spend time with and record the distillery workers in Dufftown, Scotland – we ended up producing a series of podcasts for each whisky pack which was a new and really rewarding experience. The identity for The Fife Arms, which was an opportunity to witness and contribute to an amazingly holistic creative project – and to benefit from the unique insight and perspective of our clients Iwan and Manuela Wirth.
I also always regard Here Design itself as a living creative project. When people ask me what I’m doing, I usually default to explaining what we’re doing with Here Design – and that has probably been my favourite creative project for the last 15 years.
The Balvenie Stories
Branding identity project for Fife Arms
Can you tell us about any exciting projects you have coming up or have been working on recently?
Again there’s a lot to choose from, but many of our projects take a long time to develop and we’re contractually bound to secrecy! To give you a flavour of the projects in the studio we’re currently creating concepts for some extremely rare whiskies, creating an identity for a prestigious property developer, just finishing an identity for an exciting retail space in Amsterdam, and designing layouts for a book on ice cream amongst many other projects.
What types of brands do you like to work with, or are looking at working with in the future and why?
Because we work on a mix of projects – brands, publishers, restaurants, hotels and cultural institutions – we tend to make a judgement about which projects to work on based on the team that you would be working with and the creative ambition of the project. Our aspiration is always to broaden the diversity of our work as much as possible. To come back to my earlier point, with every new type of project comes the opportunity to learn something new about the world.
Here Design is a multiple Pentawards winner. What was it like winning a Pentaward?
Always a great feeling to win a Pentaward – it’s an international award with a global range of work – so that heightens the excitement with a sense of being amongst some of the best international design companies.
What’s keeping you positive and working during the current lockdown?
The lockdown is inspiring us to adapt very quickly – which is actually really exciting. In the last five weeks alone we have fundamentally reviewed and changed how we work as a studio. Some of the processes and ideas that we are adopting now, will continue to be used even as our lives start to get back a little closer to normal. We’re using a mix of platforms and constantly reviewing new ones: Teams, Zoom, Slack, Miro and more. Another fun example is that we’ve set up a company radio station for our team to share DJ sets, interviews, points of view, observations. For the last few Friday afternoon and evenings Hear Here has been airing for the whole studio to listen in on and it’s amazing how everyone has responded to generate a lot of really interesting and insightful content.
Who has inspired you the most in your career? Where do you find your inspiration?
I think Tibor Kalman said that the best clients are always much smarter than you and I feel very lucky to have learn a great deal from all of the clients that I have worked with over the years. I am constantly inspired by my fellow partners Kate Marlow and Tess Wicksteed – without them I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing.
Apart from that, probably the single most effective lesson, that I still refer to, came from my old boss Glenn Tutssel who challenged me to imagine a whisky label design as if the local printer had done it. This simple provocation, which implied that we designers can adopt a bespoke approach, philosophy or personality for each project remains really exciting for me. It’s a bit like method acting – where you are so immersed in your story and subject matter that the design response is somehow natural and elevated.
Glenn passed away last year and he will be greatly missed by many other designers that benefitted from his guidance.
What advice would you give to young designers?
First and foremost enjoy what you do. As well as design itself, engage and learn every other part of creative process – from strategy, to project management, to production – the more you can contribute to these broader aspects of design the more indispensable you will become. Be self-reliant. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up and share an idea or question assumptions.
To you, what’s the power of design?
The power of design is that it can help to solve any problem. If it was up to me, many more creative problem solvers would be involved in government – so that we can all benefit from a unified creative response especially the challenges that we are all facing at the moment.
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