During categories 3 and 4 of New Zealand’s COVID response we launched Take 10 with… to do a pulse check on how our community was feeling, working, what you are missing, and learn about your hopes for the future. We think the format has merit as we transition into practice in the post-COVID landscape, and we had feedback that you really enjoyed the series so we tweaked the questions and invited more of our friends and peers to participate in these candid profiles of Aotearoa designers today.
Mark Easterbrook, Writer and Creative Director, Easterbrook Words & Ideas
Image: Me, as shot by my son Hunter.
How did you get into design?
I tend to refer to myself as design adjacent. I’m no designer, though I do have a visual background, and I much prefer seeing talented designers, photographers, illustrators, animators and directors bring my loose ideas and words to life than trying to do it myself.
Go right back, and 12-year-old me had heard of this thing called a ‘commercial artist’ and thought I could maybe be one. I liked to draw and write, I unconsciously memorised whole TV ads, I enjoyed flicking through style magazines even though I was growing up on a sheep farm. I think I was always moving towards a creative profession, just along a fairly irregular path that included almost going to Elam, a couple of years at architecture school, student media with Craccum and 95bFM, and a couple of degrees in English and Film, TV and Media.
In terms of the design industry, I arrived here via its flashy and sometimes vulgar sibling, advertising. I spent 13 years in ad agencies then became Creative Director at Goodfolk, which had a much more design-oriented DNA. Four years ago, I decided to go out and do my own thing as a freelancer, and found a whole network of agencies and clients happy to pay for my words and ideas.
What do you love about design?
Design is, fundamentally, thoughtful. Because I like things created with care and purpose, and the people who create them, the design world excites me. As creatives, we learn to see the world thoughtfully and through other people’s eyes, not just our own. Working in design gives us all the opportunity to slowly but surely reshape the world, so it’s better for more people: kinder, more interesting, more meaningful and vibrant.
Zizz! The life and art of Len Lye, in his own words. This great little book put together by Roger Horrocks is a ray of creative sunshine – something we all probably need a dose of right now.
How are you feeling right now?
To be candid? Lockdown was tough. Work slowed down and motivation with it. At the start I thought it would be easy, as I already work from home, but the lack of face-to-face people contact other than my two sons was challenging. It was nice to have our little bubble together but I was pretty keen to talk to someone who wasn’t aged 11 or 16.
Right now, I’m feeling lucky to have come through it with my business intact and with new opportunities arriving to get my brain back to full speed. I probably should have spent the downtime updating my portfolio, which is about 3 years behind. Whoops.
What lockdown experiences would you keep going forward?
Not many, if I’m honest. I got into some terrible habits! I already work from home so my workday routine is what it is. It’s good that people have had to become more accustomed to video calling (I live in Titirangi, 30 mins from the CBD, so sometimes it’s an hour driving for a 20 minute meeting), but I’m enjoying popping into various studios again to talk face to face about projects.
How does your workload compare to before the COVID-19 Lockdown?
It’s the slowest it has been in four years of freelancing. But it is enough to pay the bills and it has increased almost daily as everyone moves closer to normality. I have a couple of incredible projects I have been involved with that have had to push pause due to COVID-19, but I hope to see them both up and running soon.
My work desk at home.
Tell us about your current workspace.
I work from my office at home. My house was designed by Dorrington Atcheson Architects and includes what we call the convertible: a room with sliding doors and a fold-down bed. It can be an open office off my kitchen, a private shuttered workspace when I need quiet, or a guest bedroom if I drop the bed down.
During lockdown I have tried to keep it tidier than usual. Clear desk, clearer head. It has floor to ceiling windows looking out at the bush so it’s a very calm place to work.
I’d love to share some of the stuff I’m working on in my office at the moment but all the interesting projects are either early stage naming or rebrand jobs or are covered in NDAs. But I’ve always got an eclectic mix going on: wine, real estate, government work, tourism, education, pet food, fitness, SaaS, heavy machinery, you name it (or, technically, I name it).
What are you enjoying most about Aotearoa ‘re-opening’?
Being able to see my partner Alaina again! She was in a separate bubble with her kids for lockdown. I’m dying to get back to Bestie on K Rd, my second home when I was at Goodfolk, and Hello Beasty at the Viaduct for a proper celebratory dinner. And the gym. I’m not a good self-motivator, I need the instructors at Les Mills New Lynn hyping me up. So glad to be easing myself back into that.
What’s your one tip right now?
Try and be zen about what we’ve all just been through together/apart – and what is still to come. Things will change. Things already have changed. You may need to do things differently and that’s okay. Go with it.
What do you hope for the Aotearoa design community going forward?
That we can show our clients and communities that design and creativity are an essential part of surviving the impact of COVID-19, not window dressing. Like I said above, design is inherently thoughtful. As we adjust to what’s changed, we need to think hard about how we want things to look and work and be.
LinkedIn: Mark Easterbrook