At HypeForType we’re lucky to be able to work with some incredibly talented designers with influences and inspirations as varied and different as it is possible to get within the same industry. From works of incredible visual identity expression to fonts designed within extremely narrow parameters which hold true to the sense that restriction breeds creativity, every aspect of the design spectrum is covered at HypeForType.
These beautiful differences are undoubtedly worth celebrating, and if you are interested in learning more about some of the foundries we work with, stay tuned for our interview series, which kicks off today with Mark Bloom from Mash Creative.
Mark is a self-described typography geek who set up Mash Creative in East London in 2009, though his design career stretches further back than that, beginning with a degree in Visual Communications in 1998.
Mark’s innovative and unique approach to design has netted him a wide variety of clients across sectors. One of Mark’s key strengths lies in creating strong, engaging, representative brand identities, which is illustrated very well in the Kickstart brand. Kickstart’s brand marque represents both a ‘k’ as well as the three intersecting triangles coming together to form a ‘play’ button – strongly symbolic of their media production company. The boldness of the marque, coupled with the daring creative blue of the identity overall, has given Kickstart an extremely recognisable brand.
We started off asking Mark a few questions about his design career and background.
What inspired you to get into the design world? Is there one particular experience you remember which jump-started your interest in design and typography, or was it a more gradual thing?
I’ve always loved doing creative things and even from an early age I had a keen interest in Art. Growing up I had very supportive parents that allowed me to follow my passion even, letting me graffiti my bedroom walls and ceiling! At the age of 14 I won an award at school for the best artist of the year, the prize was a book voucher which I bought a book on Graphic Design with – ‘An introduction to Graphic Design’ by Peter Bridgewater. Not knowing exactly what a graphic designer did I simply loved the fact that I could potentially go into a career that allowed me to be creative and get paid for it. At 15 I undertook work experience at a Graphic Design firm in Waterloo and my interest in design continued to grow, eventually leading on to a degree studying Visual Communication design at Middlesex University.
Much like a lot of designers of my generation, my interest for typography came from looking at the work of The Designers Republic and Attik – both of whom had a huge influence on my early design work.
You have a really far reaching client portfolio, from a lot of different areas – how do you attract such an interesting and diverse client base?
I feel very fortunate to have a global client base, the answer as to how I gained them is a difficult one to answer though – probably a mixture of luck, word of mouth recommendations and reputation.
When I set up Mash Creative I spent a lot of my early days trying to build up a reputation in the design world, this meant producing a lot of self-initiated projects to try and gain exposure. With exposure through blogs, magazine and book features came new business enquires and work. I also found that once I designed work for a certain industry, say for example photography, that I then continued to get enquires from other photographers who had seen and liked what I had done.
What are your favourite kind of projects to work on? Some people work really well with a detailed brief which has a clear requirement, whereas others prefer to have a much greater level of creative freedom – which are you?
Without doubt, my favourite kind of work is branding, more specifically identity design as it’s what I feel most comfortable working on. During my 15 year career I have designed in excess of 120+ logos. I’m still passionate about designing simple, memorable marques that are essentially the ‘face’ of a business or product.
In my opinion a client brief shouldn’t be too vague or too restricting, it should allow you to be creative whilst also giving you some form of direction. For example, a client may say “go nuts, I don’t want to restrict you!’ so you design and present them with a lovely blue serif logotype, only for them to say something like “I don’t like serif logotypes and I don’t like the colour blue” – this is where a well written brief comes into its own!
When designing an identity I put together a research document that I present to the client for feedback. The research document will typically contain logos of competitors, various logo styles, colours, etc. – essentially anything that will spark an idea or get the client thinking about what they specifically want.
One of Mark’s most iconic branding and identity designs is the Ali Sharaf photography brand. Working with a photographer based in Bahrain, Mark has created an extremely powerful yet modern, simple design, with a marque which represents something important to both photographers and designers, and any profession where the danger of overcomplicating a situation is a constant threat – allowing simple, stunning beauty to speak for itself. Using the ‘less is more’ philosophy, Mark created a brand logo which represents both that ethos, as well as the attention to detail and high quality of Ali Sharaf’s photography. It also manages to look like an ‘A’ and an eye. Mark’s love of, and skill with, branding shines through in many ways on this project.
How do you balance running Mash Creative alongside doing independent design consultancy?
It can be a bit of a juggling act sometimes. I work and collaborate with various studios and agencies around the world – sometimes it may be on a small identity project whereas other times it can be working on a large campaign that goes on for several months. I like being busy so I will often take a lot on, sometimes due to a heavy work load I will have no choice but to turn work with other agencies down.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone hoping to get into graphic/typography design – the thing you wish someone had told you when you were a graduate fresh from university?
Firstly I would probably say that unless you have a real passion and love for design then it probably isn’t the right job for you. I find it very hard to switch off, I’m constantly looking for inspiration and ways to better my design work, whether it be through design blogs, books, magazines, even architecture – it may sound clichéd but it’s true.
Secondly, it’s probably not going to be you’re average 9-5 job. Most designers work over and above what they get paid for and if like me, you run your own business, chances are you will be working lots of late nights and even the odd weekend.
Lastly I would say if you’re thinking about setting out on your own then try to get as much experience behind you as you can. I worked for other people for over 10 years before setting up Mash and even then I still felt that I had a lot to learn. Fair play to graduates that go straight into setting up their own studio though, I know I couldn’t have done it at that age. With fewer design jobs available I can understand why this is becoming more common place now but if you get the opportunity to learn off from others first, I would recommend it.
If you recognise the name ‘Mash Creative’ but can’t quite put your finger on why, you may have seen Mark’s font, RM Regular, leading the charge of the HypeForType selection along with our other exclusive typefaces. RM Regular was the first typeface released by Mash Creative and is one of a few fonts which offers a genuine alternative to standard sans serifs like Arial and Gotham.
We asked Mark a little about the background of the font, and where it came from.
What was the inspiration behind RM Regular?
RM Regular started out as part of a rethink for the Royal Mail identity commissioned by ICON magazine in 2010. As part of the identity I wanted to create a bespoke font that would remain timeless. Designed in just two days from start to finish, the font is essentially a cross between a grotesque and a sans serif humanist font, something that to my knowledge had never been done before. I had never intended for the font to become available but after the magazines release and a few blog features, I got quite a few requests from designers asking whether it would be made available to purchase – so that’s exactly what I did.
Have you used it in any projects?
I have used it for body copy in a quite a few projects and also as a base font for several logotypes. I’m actually planning a new poster later in the year which I may well use RM on.
How do you think it would work best out in the world?
I designed the font to be versatile and work equally well large or small. It is slightly bolder than most regular weighted fonts so I find it works quite well set big in titles or posters. For extra impact I individually kern each letter to get it looking its best.
Have you ever seen it live in use (unexpectedly)? What was that like as an experience?
Yes, I have seen it used quite a few times, some recent designs that come to mind are posters designed by Duane Dalton (click here and here to see) I think he did a great job! Occasionally designers will tag me in on their Instagram images to notify me of a design they have produced using RM Regular too. It’s very rewarding for me to see other designers using it.
Here at HypeForType, we think the designs produced by the foundries we work with is fantastic, but believe it or not, we’re only humans (don’t be too surprised!) and we all have our favourites. For myself, Mash Creative’s ‘State of the Obvious’ collection, including the follow up which was created for the Design Museum, was a brand which was to other brands what reading is to the TV. Challenging ‘normal’ consumerist behaviour, S/O/T/O was playful, rebellious, and a little bit anti-establishment. It provokes, coerces, incites, and compels people into developing a social conscious and rethinking their buying behaviour.
This powerful effect is achieved with simple design, bold copywriting, elegant typography, and a tongue in cheek, sideways glance at the world. Leonardo Da Vinci said ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ and that’s as true today as it was in 1500.
We asked Mark about the process behind these design projects and in particular, the influence of typography on the work.
How important was typography in these projects?
Well-structured type is fundamental to any design project I work on, this means using grids to ensure everything lines up perfectly. The Ali Sharaf stationery set has no bells or whistles in the design – just clean type and a logo, so when working with very few elements, the question becomes “how can I make this look interesting?” The answer in this project came from running type both horizontally and vertically using all four corners of the artwork combining with a centred logo.
Good leading, kerning and font selection are also key to good typography – it can make or break a design. When I re-designed my website the design and initial build was actually fairly quick, what took the most time was working alongside the developer to ensure that the type looked its best across all devices.
How did the typography impact and shape the overall design outcomes?
The type solution for Ali Sharaf is now used across all brand communications, from his portfolio and website through to his stationery. This type layout and choice of fonts is as much a part of this brand identity as the logo.
To close, we asked Mark a question that perhaps all typography fans must ask one another at some stage.
What are your most loved and hated fonts?
My favourite font is without doubt New Rail Alphabet by A2 Type – For me it’s about as close to perfection as a font can get. I’m also rather partial to Maison Neue by Milieu Grotesque – it’s very clean and works great as a body font.
My worst font? It would be easy to say comic sans but it’s not, for me it’s naff 90’s looking fonts such as Neuropol. Go Pro (http://gopro.com/) use it for their logo and I just hate it! It looks so dated. Such a shame that a great product can have such a disappointing logo!
We’d like to extend our huge thanks to Mark Bloom from Mash Creative for taking the time to answer our questions. You can get RM Regular, Mark’s font, exclusively at HypeForType – it’s not available anywhere else online. And you can see more of Mash Creative’s work at the studio website, www.mashcreative.co.uk – strongly recommended if you’re even a tiny bit interested in branding and logo design.
Stay tuned for our next interview piece, coming your way soon.