Craig Keown and Frederick Peens joined forces as MARK Studio in 2011 to focus on what they love most: design. Before that, Craig graduated from CPUT and went on to work for a small design studio before getting into the advertising industry for a few years. After completing his degree at Stellenbosch University, Frederick worked for Am I Collective as an illustrator followed by some stints at a few small design studios. Now, working from a space in Hout Street, Cape Town, the studio’s name speaks to their ongoing mandate of ‘making a mark’ in their field through smart, simple, authentic design that makes a difference. We caught up with Craig and Frederick to find out more.
What sparked your decision to form a design studio together?
Whilst working together at a previous design studio, it became evident to us that we had a shared hunger for genuine handcrafted design. In order to fulfil our passion we realised we would need to set off on our own. And so, MARK studio was born.
How has MARK Studio grown and developed since?
We have been pursuing our goal of producing work of the highest calibre. Currently we are working on building our client base across the globe, we tend to find that our clients abroad are more open-minded and have a good understanding of design. We trust our clients. And they trust us. That’s the only way to be brave. And to save the world from average design!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you’ve worked on so far?
It’s going to sound corny, but we honestly find all of our projects exciting. We’re always trying to find a great idea to shape great brands. Our most recent project was the corporate identity for a new tween brand called SODA Bloc (part of the Foschini group).
How would you describe your style or visual aesthetic?
Smart, simple, authentic design that makes a difference. We believe that creativity is the best way to communicate.
What else are you influenced, informed or inspired by?
We are influenced by everything we encounter on a day to day basis – the music we listen to, the people we meet and even the new Google logo.
We’d like to know a bit about your process. What does this typically entail, from start to finish?
We start almost all jobs by talking it through first and imagining what the outcome could be. The old school method of scamping is applied in our thinking process, which means we put down as many ideas as we can and move forward from one to the next. The best idea always stands out on the page. Once we have a chosen direction, we then decide on the right technique to best marry the concept and the execution.
You’ve got an extensive list of clients. How do you go about fostering and maintaining these relationships?
Our approach is collaborative. Being open, honest and passionate about what we do, because the process should be as rewarding as the final product.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
Being able to do what we do, thanks to the support of our wives.
Alternatively, what is the most challenging?
Educating some clients about what good design is.
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of ‘remarkable’ design?
To us a great design is when we say, “Ahh, I wish we’d done that”.