2 Minutes With ... Mark Sloan, Head of Mother Design
Mark serves as Head of Mother Design across the company's New York and Los Angeles studios, a position he has held since 2018. A graphic designer by trade, Mark strives to create bold, unpredictable work that stirs strong emotions. He believes that design is a thrilling, evolving team sport that requires taking some risks.
In previous lives, Mark worked at Wieden+Kennedy, Anomaly and TBWA, and he has also spent time brand-side at Quiksilver. At his agency posts, Mark guided campaigns for Apple, Airbnb, Cadillac, Tripadvisor and Nike, as well as for smaller brands and organizations such as Realm, Eyebeam and Filthy Foods.
We spent two minutes with Mark to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations, and recent work he's admired.
Mark, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I was born and raised in LA, which is where I live now. My family and I have lived in Amsterdam and New York at multiple points over the past 15 years, but we’re trying to stay put for the time being.
How you first realized you were creative.
I was constantly drawing as a kid, which is—I’m guessing—a widely shared experience. But as the majority of my friends and classmates started losing interest and retiring their markers, I just enjoyed it too much to stop. Drawing and lettering (though I had no idea there was a name for it) provided a sense of escape, and later on when I really needed it, a sense of pride.
It’s a shame that drawing is equated in such a reductive way with someone’s creativity at an early age—it seems to discourage some brilliantly creative people from pursuing certain avenues if they’re unable to draw in a somewhat realistic way. Thankfully it seems like parents, teachers, and counselors are wising up to this outdated measuring stick.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
Wow, I can’t possibly just list one person. In loose chronological order: My great aunt Brooks. Ed Emberley. Gary Larson. Tom Curren. Jean-Michel Basquiat. Stanley Kubrick. Raymond Pettibon.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
Visiting Art Center College of Design in Pasadena for the first time as a 19-year-old was pretty transformative. Walking through the halls on a tour, I overheard students using vocabulary that began to illuminate the world for me again. They were just talking about their work amongst themselves casually, but they discussed form and color and space in a way which was entirely foreign to me, but which also made perfect sense. I realized immediately that I had found my people, and that there was a path forward for my life, and that I had to find a way to attend the place.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
I’ve always really liked artists who manage to do their own thing over a long period of time. With that as a filter, I have a ton of respect for people like Bob Dylan and Dr. Dre.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
I thought Everything Everywhere All At Once was quite good. You could feel the energy of the filmmakers through the screen in a very inspiring way. It felt like a perfect confluence of many energized talents, a beautiful story told in exactly the right way.
Your favorite fictional character.
That’s a close heat between Nijntje and Scout Finch.
Someone or something worth following in social media.
Rick Rubin’s Instagram account is worth a follow.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
Professionally it definitely changed a lot for us as a practice—it exposed many areas for improvement and spurred a cultural shift of sorts in the studio, and reminded us that a healthy mix of being physically together and apart is the right way to go. On a personal level, it was devastating to see the sheer amount of death which resulted from the virus. But on a positive note, it allowed me to spend many more hours with my family while the sun was still up than I ever had before.
One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on, and why.
The Unfortunately Small Gallery, while (perhaps appropriately) short-lived, was a lot of fun. At the Anomaly office in Amsterdam we had a window on the Herengracht, and wanted to utilize the space somehow in order to share art with pedestrians as they made their way through the canals. We had these basement windows which we converted into a lit window box gallery, because it was our only viable option. We had tiny shows from a range of artists who made site-specific work.
A recent project you're proud of, and why.
The most recent project which comes to mind is Mother Design’s work for Ceria Brewing Company. It was a true collaboration across all Mother business units, involving us, Mother, Media by Mother, and Mother Ventures. The founders of Ceria are such lovely amazing people, and it’s always a thrill to help people who are great at their craft reach and resonate with more people.
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.
When I was just discovering design I was most excited by people who had a strong visual signature. People like Ray Johnson, Keith Haring, and Margaret Kilgallen stood out and their work really spoke to me. Then Doyald Young’s work blew me away after I had a class with him at school. Saul Bass and Charles & Ray Eames are still my gold standards for excellence in a range of interconnected disciplines.
Someone else's work you admired lately.
When our past client Ritesh Gupta created the Useful School, that was quite admirable. He’s had a pretty great career so far helping brands from the inside, and it’s really cool to see him translate his natural generosity and talent into such a worthwhile venture.
Your main strength as a creative person.
I hope one of my main strengths is providing a safe place for other creative people. I want designers and everyone on the team to be able to push themselves and achieve great things in an environment that provides growth and emotional safety.
Your biggest weakness.
Starting too many things at once and then racing like hell to finish them.
One thing that always makes you happy.
Seeing my family. I’m completely biased but I think my partner Lise and children are pretty great.
One thing that always makes you sad.
When I think about certain people who have passed on. It’s not a debilitating sadness; I find solace in the belief that we’re all quite connected (in the grand scheme of things). But it’s a sadness nonetheless. We are quite fortunate to be here, now. The sheer odds of our very existence are crazy from a scientific standpoint. And sometimes sadness helps me truly appreciate that.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in design.
Ooh, it’s impossible to say with any real certainty. I’d like to think I would have the patience and finesse for shaping surfboards. Which is still design of course, but it requires such a balance of skill sets and knowledge bases—it’s more of an art form when done well. I have such respect for the generous and driven people pushing that craft forward. If I was unable to make that work, I’d love to be a DP or film editor