Getting Under The Hood With….Mark Spurgeon, Co-founder / Managing Partner at Publica

10 months ago by

Ahead of our next Under The Hood September event, we learnt more about one of our speakers, Mark Spurgeon.

Mark is an accomplished CEO, passionate about telling compelling brand stories and bringing unique ideas to life through creative design and development. We talked about the 3 B’s of creativity to spark new ideas, a Fitbit for the brain, and the idea of incorporating NFTs and the blockchain into design work.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what your background is, and how you first got started in the industry?
I kickstarted my design career straight out of college in the late 1980s, when everything was still done and drawn by hand. I like to say I attended the university of life experience, learning the principles of design with no formal training.

I’ve now been in the design game for 35 years, and have experience working in creative agencies across Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I’ve had the privilege of working across multiple business sectors and holding long term client relationships with clients both nationally and internationally.

The biggest project I’ve embarked on thus far was co-founding Publica, a digital agency based in Christchurch that works to bridge the gap between users and their digital intentions. We’re a thought-led team of 28 in-house UX/UI designers, full stack developers, project managers, app developers, marketers and strategists working together to build websites, apps and brands that create compelling consumer and user experiences.



2. What insights to your methodological approach or philosophy can you give us?
Sitting at my desk in front of a computer all day is probably where I’m the least creative. Our minds are always at work, which is why I believe the best place for idea generation isn’t directly in front of a screen. I find that a change of scenery sparks new ideas and gets my creative juices flowing, which is why you’ll find me moving about the studio and switching up my space and environment. I’ve also found that my best design ideas arise when I’m doing things completely unrelated to design itself such as reading, drawing and finding the time to truly let my mind wander.

In order to unleash your most creative self, you really have to get in touch with your unconscious mind, which is why I’m a big believer in the 3 B’s of creativity: bed, bath and bus. A good night’s sleep has the power to change your perspective and can bring about that ‘aha’ moment in the middle of the night or first thing when you wake in the morning. Jumping into a bath or a hot shower can also create that perfect condition for a creative flash. And the bus, which is just the metaphor for travelling, can also help you ‘see’ new and creative ideas, which can easily be applied to your work.

In regard to my personal methodological approach, I like to draw and sketch to begin my design process. Doodling and drawing is an effective way to actively exercise the brain, explore new ideas and trigger insights and discoveries that aren’t possible through computers and words alone.



3. What project will you be presenting in Under the Hood?
At this year’s Under the Hood event, I’ll be presenting our work for the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB). Specifically, the illustrative approach our team took to soften the hospitalisation experience for younger patients and to name, brand and spatially design the new children’s hospital unit in the city.

4. What was the most challenging part of the project and what lessons did you draw from it?
A challenging part of the project was naming the new unit. We needed to find an appropriate name for the space that was relevant to both children and the health industry and held meaning and resonated with the people of Christchurch. We also needed to find a theme for the new unit that tied well together with the other seven floors of the building.

5. Was there an ‘Aha!’ moment in the project when things clicked and fell into place?
It wasn’t until our team began thinking back historically to what would have been in the area and its surroundings prior to the settlement of Ōtautahi were we able to unleash our creative ideas for this specific project.


6. Now that the project has finished, what are you working on?
There’s a lot of exciting and new things happening in the studio. We have a development project that’s currently underway for one of our US clients that has developed a Fitbit for the brain. We’re also creating a new arts platform for Toi Ōtautahi. We’re long-time supporters of local art initiatives, so we’re delighted to be partnering with the organisation for this undertaking.



7. Do you have a favourite paper stock? If so, why/what about it stands out?
I wouldn’t say I have a favourite, but I do like the recycling, uncoated stocks that are on trend at the moment. I’ve used those for the last ten years or so. For projects, however, I stick to selecting the right paper for the right job.


8. Outside of work hours what creative projects and/or hobbies are you involved with?
Drawing and reading is where I spend most of my time outside of work at the moment. I’m also working on reinventing preserve (, a personal project I embarked on to produce a permanent visual record of hand painted building signage throughout New Zealand. I’m currently in the early stages of looking to redesign and develop the site.


9. And finally, where to next for you? What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
I’ll be back to travelling as soon as the borders reopen. It’s something I’ve really been missing. I’m also exploring and very interested in NFTs and the blockchain. We’re currently in the process of looking for ways to incorporate them into design and our work here at the studio.



Get your tickets below, and thanks to our amazing speakers and DA partners for helping to make this possible.



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