In today’s 5 minutes with… we are excited to introduce one of our favourite writers Mark Easterbrook. Mark collaborated with DA on the 2020 field guide, our most recent Be seen. Be heard. Be friend campaign, on the messaging for Kātoitoi the Aotearoa Design Archive and is facilitating our upcoming Writing for Designers workshop in Auckland.
Mark is a freelance copywriter and creative director with 20 years of experience in the communications and creative industries. He has written everything from hardcore retail advertising to poetic brand films to culturally sensitive government communications. He has an MA in Film, TV & Media Studies and has been a radio host, copywriter, bouncer, gravedigger, gas station attendant, charity board member and Programme Director of the Going West Writers Festival.
His craft is exceptional and his writing is always a delight. We caught up with Mark to learn more about his mahi, his collaborations with leading Aotearoa design studios, his fascination with language, and what participants can expect from next weeks workshop.
I’ve always enjoyed language. As a kid I read everything – books, cereal boxes, posters at the dental nurse. I was a total word sponge. My ears and my eyes were always open – I can still sing advertising jingles I heard when I was 5 or 6.
My career was semi accidental. I got to the end of my university career with two degrees, a huge student loan and one marketable skill: being able to write clearly and persuasively. I talked my way into a junior copywriting role at a small agency and soon discovered I was quite good at it.
What followed was about 15 years in agencies, mostly focused on advertising. But for a long time I had a bit of extra work bubbling away (these days you’d call it a side hustle) working with a branding agency on brand stories, values, positioning lines and so on.
The two streams came together when I joined Goodfolk as Creative Director in 2014. We did a really good mix of advertising/comms ideas and brand development work and I really learned to appreciate the difference between the design and advertising worlds.
For the last 5 years I’ve been a freelancer, working directly with clients, other freelancers and with agencies, doing exactly what it says on the tin – words and ideas.
Haka Fusion for Māori Television Concept and creative direction – produced at Goodfolk https://vimeo.com/176981392
I don’t remember if it was advice I was given or something I came to myself, but “write for the ear” is my golden rule. You have to hear the words, even if it is inside your head, to know they work.
Getting yourself out of the way of the words. 90% of the writing I do is about clarity for the audience, not satisfying my own creative urges.
I’m a massive self-critic, so all my favourite projects are usually collaborations where it’s the work of a film director or designer or photographer or illustrator that really shines.
A lot of my best work also never makes it into the wide world because it is tucked away inside someone’s brand book, meant just for an internal audience.
And yes, I’m trying to dodge the question.
As a writer, I guess I am most proud of myself for the period a couple of years ago when I dredged some poems up out of my subconscious, for the first time in nearly 20 years. When you write all day, it is hard to then write for yourself. I think this was the best one: https://www.instagram.com/p/BuCiq3xBiCS/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Absolutely. I am always drawn to projects that try to make the world a better place. That doesn’t always mean they lead with a big social message. It can be just the mindful use of language that is more inclusive and less divisive. That’s what matters most to me, that words aren’t doing invisible harm.
Lots of rambling tangents, some surprisingly simple rules and, hopefully, enough inspiration to realise they are already good writers, they just need to let the words do what they need to do.
LinkedIn or my website www.easterbrook.co.nz. You can follow me on Instagram if you want, but prepare to be disappointed – it’s mostly photos of my kids, my partner, random things I see in the world, and the occasional poem.
Who is the workshop for?
Designers who want to develop the written language skills to support their talents with visual language. Anyone working in design who wants to improve their ability to communicate ideas through words.
What will you learn?