Through the Eyes of a Designer

5th December 2017

It was the late 1970s, and Mark Guatieri had become disillusioned with test tubes and equations. His chemistry studies at college were proving less than inspirational, but there was something which was grabbing his attention and helping him plot the way forward – design. By the early 1980s, Mark, who is now Brand51’s Senior Designer, had fallen onto his preferred career path and was working at design agencies in the UK and around Europe.

Mark explains: “I’d always loved fonts, colours and shapes, and can draw and paint pretty well, so studying to be a graphic artist, as it was back then in the late 70s, just seemed the natural path to take.”

What makes designers tick? And how do they view the world? In this interview we tap into Mark’s 30+ years’ experience and look through the eyes of a designer.

Mark Guatieri

What is it that you enjoy about graphic design?

One joy I get from design is being a part of a company’s or business person’s journey. Whether they are starting from scratch as a start-up or are a more established business, the feeling of creating a new look for them is brilliant. That goes right from the initial contact through to the relationship you build at the launch of that project, when the work comes to fruition. It’s the same way that in my early years I would get satisfaction from drawing something for a friend or family member and the pleasure it gives them. There is nothing like knowing you’ve done a great job.

What inspires the designs you create? Can you pick up inspiration from everyday life?

Inspiration has come from so many different places. In my youth that was great painters such as Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte, impressionists Monet, Manet and Renoir, graphic artists of the time, for example Andy Warhol, and design magazines like Creative Review. But now it can be anywhere. TV, shop fronts, literature, vehicle graphics, other designers’ work, and even conversations with people. I still have a pen and paper by my bed, as don’t want to lose that idea when it pops into my head, even while I’m relaxing.

Which designers, famous or largely unknown, do you respect the most?

Strangely, I don’t really follow any particular designers at all. I just love what lots of them do. Design has become such a huge part of all walks of business and leisure now. There are endless things to admire and take inspiration from, too. My respect, though, is firmly held when it comes to artists such as the impressionists and surrealists who designed in pencil and paint.

When it comes to creating designs for a company’s branding, what determines the direction that you take?

I gather my initial thoughts and make sure I get a feel for a business. During start-up conversations with them, I will be getting an understanding of the company’s values and what they feel about their business, as well as its products and services. Usually we start at the beginning with a logo design. I always ask for their likes and dislikes, both for logos designs they’ve seen and colours they wish to use. Once we have the logo finalised, then ideas for other marketing collateral seem to naturally flow, as that logo idea and the initial talks you’ve already had point the way.

Over the past two decades we have seen the transition to digital. How has this affected the essence of what you do?

As an ‘old school designer’ working on drawing boards, using felt tip visuals, marking up text for type setting and getting pretty warm in darkrooms, I’ve seen the transition at first hand. I love all things design and digital. For example I just love the way now that you can instantly change a design and quickly amend text and imagery, sending new proofs without much time involved at all. That was a lot slower in my junior days, but somehow I think it would not harm students just to have a week or two of experiencing old school design to see how it was done. The traditional design methods helped me become structured and value the design time more. I still do small thumbnail visuals too and those squiggles, but they now translate to a screen instead of an artboard.

If you were told you could keep only one piece of software for your design work, which would it be?

It would definitely be Adobe Illustrator. It’s that one piece of software I use on hugely regular basis. I love that it does so much and is just very intuitive once you get a feel for it. It’s helped me craft the look and feel of my work. There’s also Adobe Photoshop which is worth a mention. We run a very popular workshop on Photoshop and have found that in the business world there is a big appetite to learn more about how to edit images.

Do you ever stop learning? And how do you pick up new techniques for your work?

I never stop learning and the opportunity to learn can come from the places you least expect. I am currently working with a group of 14 year old children through Young Enterprise (I’m the Business Advisor who teaches and manages the team), and the unrestricted ideas they have just increases your own learning and gives you new ideas. I also enjoy working with or talking to allied professionals, as they have the ability to breathe new life into thought processes and ignite new ideas.

Which design trends do you think will come to characterise the current decade?

I feel the trend of making graphics and design much simpler and cleaner has really come to the fore. When digital software came in, it was the always the way to throw in as many effects and treatments at designs as possible, which made designs messy in the wrong hands. But now everything is easier on the eye and more accessible to interact with, so the user has a greater appreciation for the design work that has gone into something.

If you’d like to discuss your brand design directly with Mark, he is available on 0117 261 5151.


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