Designer Interview With Mark Jenkinson
As Mark describes himself as The Heavy Metal Design. Professional Contrarian. Deadpool of graphic design. Winston Wolf of brand design, & creator of BrandTuning™. Mark is the holder of the title “World’s Least Attractive Male™” Advocate of slab serifs, Title Case and Oxford commas. Mark explains the worst thing we can elicit from others is disinterest, apathy and a lack of reaction — even if the reaction is in direct opposition to our intent.
Mark Jenkinson is a design professional with expertise in many fields of graphic design, and beyond. He has been running his Philadelphia based, full service 360° design and communications agency Limepickle for the last 15 years helping his clients to go gourmet, pump gas, imbibe duty free, recognize donors, direct visitors, educate palates, capture memories, go green, play the odds, send season’s greetings, eat out and procrastinate going to the gym. (there’s always tomorrow, yes?).
Mark brings a wealth of experience with an understanding of environmental and commercial identity design, retail design strategies, multi-channel branding, brand asset management, wayfinding & signage, exhibit and interpretive graphics, donor recognition programs, design for print and construction techniques of environmental brand programs.
His client experience is as diverse as the spectrum of disciplines he works in and ranges from the small to the large (and everyone in-between); from architects and design firms, to institutions and corporations, to towns and cities, to independent organizations and individuals.
Mark has worked with clients such as Targus, Argos, Sainsbury’s, Woolworths, Tesco, Konzum and The History Channel to name a few. Whilst Mark was in contract for Campbell Rigg Design his work for Argos won Best In-Store Communication for Retail Interior Awards in 2006. Limepickle has also won the AIGA PDA (Philadelphia Design Awards) in 2010, and again in 2012. And his work has been featured in some book publications to name a couple such as Follow Me — Wayfinding & Signage Systems / Dopress Books, Design/Portfolio: Self promotion at its best — Craig Welsh / Rockport
The Logo Creative — Hi Mark nice to have you taking part in our Designer Interviews. Love the branding work you did for such as Targus and Jessops, The environmental work you have done is great such as Tesco, Konzum and Gala Casino.
Mark Jenkinson — Thanks for asking me Andrew. I see the people you’ve featured and I wonder how the fuck I made it on there. It’s always nice to have your work recognized by your peers, but I’m just a guy in a small office in the arse end of nowhere.
The Logo Creative — What was the turning point in your life when you decided to become a designer and how did you proceed?
Mark Jenkinson — I was always pretty good at art at school, and a career in design was always on the cards until I went to sixth form for my A levels. The tutors there wouldn’t permit me to take art as a subject and forced my hand into taking Mechanical Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. When in upper sixth I was training at the track 3 times a week for cross country, long distance, and the 3000m steeplechase, and that meant I couldn’t take part in the Wednesday afternoon sports activities, so I went to the art room and asked if I could just hang out there and I’d keep myself to myself. After a few weeks, I was asked why I wasn’t taking art. So I explained the situation and so he fixed it for me to sit the A level, but I only had 6 months to do the full 2 years of course work. By that time our UCCA and PCAS applications had already gone in and I was accepted at York on sponsorship by BT doing electronic systems engineering. I was terrible at it, and I wasn’t interested in it, so after 2 semesters I dropped out and started trying to get on a graphic design course. Every school refused me, except 1. Preston Poly, which had one of the best courses available at the time.
Never ever be afraid of making tough decisions like that.
The Logo Creative — What does your day consist of?
Mark Jenkinson — I get up around 7am, and the first hour and a half is getting ready for work, getting the kids up, dressed and fed, and then the wife and I split the school run duties. When I do it, I’m in the office by 9am, when she does it I’m in the office around 8am. Once in the office, I deal with emails first, grab a coffee, and then start on the work. Mornings are when I’m at my most focussed and I can rattle through all the production work that needs to be done.
I usually have lunch around 1, and then I always try to make my meetings and conference calls for the afternoon. If I have projects that require conceptualizing, I usually get out of the office and take my sketchbook/laptop with me so I have a change of environment. Working alone can be challenging enough, so you need to change the environment to avoid cabin fever. And a few beers can help the creative process by negating the thought police.
The Logo Creative — Are you a morning person or night owl and is there a reason why?
Mark Jenkinson — It depends. Generally, I find I’m more productive in the mornings. The earlier the better. I suffer from Type 2 diabetes, and although it’s not a supposed side effect, I do find that my powers of concentration and stamina diminish as the day goes on which is why I structure my day the way I described earlier. But I’m writing this at 2:36 am. So tomorrow is gonna hurt.
The Logo Creative — What was the first logo you ever designed?
Mark Jenkinson — Professionally? It was for two friends I went to school with who also did graphic design at college and when they went into business for themselves they asked me to design their logo. It would’ve been the 3 of us but I wanted to go to London to earn my stripes before becoming my own boss. They stayed in the North West. I think the font was Goudy and the emblem was based on a snowflake Christmas tree ornament we had.
The Logo Creative — What is your favourite logo you have designed?
Mark Jenkinson — If I pick one then the others will get jealous. haha. I don’t really have a favourite. But I’ve definitely created plenty of red-headed stepchildren in my time. If I really had to pick one it would have to be the one for the Dead Zolo Society. Which is kinda ridiculous as it was done in about 10 mins on the fly and I used some clip art from a free site. But it’s what it symbolizes I like. The Sons of Ben are the supporters group for the MLS team the Philadelphia Union — which has the nickname Zolo, after being founded in 2010. After several years of attending games, those of us that had been board members and also heavily involved with the organization, but were no longer, decided to get our tickets seated together. And thus was born The Dead Zolo Society.
It’s a group of emeritus elders. So the logo has the outline of the Sons of Ben within the feet. We launched it at 9pm on the night before the home opener by us all changing our social media avatars simultaneously. It caused quite a stir — my phone was buzzing so much it could’ve been a sex aid. But the following day we all wore black ski masks. Reddit went crazy. Talk about graphical trolling. I might add. And we also did some fun variations.
There were no rules. It was very guerrilla. Very underground. It wasn’t a job for my company but for me, personally. it was just me and the other guys. A basically don’t give a shit point of view. It was viral and subversive and it did exactly what we wanted it to.
The Logo Creative — What is your favourite logos of all time?
Mark Jenkinson — Lacoste. I was a teenager in the 1980s, and at that time in the North West of England, the kids were all about the sports apparel brands. This is where I learned about branding without actually realizing it. Our school uniforms were made up of Ben Sherman shirts, Pringle jumpers, Farah trousers, and Adidas trim trab trainers. Lacoste was always one of the premium continental brands, along with Fila, Ellesse, and Sergio Tacchini.
There’s just something about the crocodile that I found appealing, And I like the way they handled their ‘brand flex’ in the way they replicate the crocodile. I still buy Lacoste today. But what they recently did with the endangered species was genius. https://www.lacoste.com/us/saveourspecies.html
The Logo Creative — Can you describe or give us an overview of your logo design process?
Mark Jenkinson — Once a contract/proposal is in place I have a 6 stage process that is used to guide the project. But that is flexible. It can just as easily be 4 stages. It all depends on the budget and the resources of the client. Discovery begins with asking and listening. Stakeholder interviews, customer questionnaires, focus groups etc. from there I move into an audit phase where I catalogue and map various lines of communication and delivery vehicles, both internally and externally culminating in reviews of the mission, vision, values, positioning and brand essence. This eventually leads to the generation of a creative brief — which is required — so that everyone is on the same page and will drive the identity design. At this point, the fun begins. The design phase — concepts, sketches, ideas, iterations, refinements, applications. Then as the project develops, together we identify the touchpoints necessary for a successful launch and as they are implemented we look to deploy and evaluate the success of those items. Launching a brand can be a tricky process. Especially if it is a rebrand, so evaluation and support is always something that responsible designers should always do/offer.
The Logo Creative — What brands do you most admire and how do they influence your creative thinking?
Mark Jenkinson — I can answer this in 2 ways. I have a thing for established luxury brands — Such as Mont Blanc, Audi, Tag Heuer. (it would be too easy to include Apple). Basically, shit you can’t afford. Those brands certainly have a very strong sense of self, their audience, elegance, and style, and really haven’t changed much over the years. You know what you’re getting when you purchase one of their products. Their identities are timeless.
Then there are the upstart brands that disrupt monopoly-ed markets. Such as Dollar Shave Club (who my wife went to school with), Uber, and Air BnB. With those brands, I’m more attracted by their positioning, activity, and personality rather than their graphic design image. And that’s where I get most of my kicks.
The Logo Creative — What do you consider your most successful design project, and why?
Mark Jenkinson — The Targus project http://limepickle.net/project_targus.htmlwas rewarding on a lot of different levels and led to the creation of our process BrandTuning™. http://limepickle.net/brandtuning.html. I interned with their VP of global design 25 years ago, so he brought me in as a consultant to assist them with pulling their identity guidelines together. As with a lot of companies, over time, their branded materials had become fractured or bastardized, and it became one of those projects that just kept getting put off internally. Originally the ask was the guidelines, but the deeper we got, we realized there were a lot of other materials that needed fixing, and new initiatives that needed documenting and including. It was my first major BIG client for my own company. A lot of times before I’ve been brought in as a hired consultant for other design businesses.
The Logo Creative — How long does it take to complete the average logo design project from start to finish?
Mark Jenkinson — It can vary depending on the complexity of the ask, and who the client is. Larger organizations have more bureaucracy and that can draw the project timeline out. Targus took 4 months. ScribeWise http://limepickle.net/project_scribewise.html took a month. Others took a week. And others were the first thing I sketched. The competition entry I did for Gander outdoors took 12 hours. I believe that everyone should have the right to good, or at least educated, design, so I try to find ways of working efficiently so that I can work with those that don’t have a lot of money to spend. I try to explain the ‘logo’ aspect as being just a small part of the brand, that way I can upsell additional services for building their brand world over a period of time. I feel part of my job is to be respectful and responsible with my clients’ money.
The Logo Creative — What are you recommended design books to read?
Mark Jenkinson — A Smile in the Mind — by Beryl McAlhone, David Stuart, Designing Brand Identity -Alina Wheeler, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be — Paul Arden, The Hardest Working Man — Ron Jeremy
The Logo Creative — Which software do you use frequently and is there any you would recommend to designers?
Mark Jenkinson — Adobe Creative Suite — Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Acrobat, XD, CadTools
The Logo Creative — What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
Mark Jenkinson — I like logos that are clean, minimal, elegant, and clever. They have to be witty. And by that, I don’t mean funny or comedic, but there needs to be that moment where the penny drops and in that happening it makes it memorable. Or even a little bit of cheek or sass. Since this is very difficult to achieve on every logo project (some just happen — others look labored), it’s probably why I like logotypes. They’re a little more forgiving if that BIG IDEA doesn’t manifest itself. This logo exemplifies a really clever idea that I look for whenever designing a ‘logo’, which I see as just a part of designing brand identity. Below are some logos I have designed with a description to follow.
- Outerwhere — was an apparel company I started with 2 friends. It’s custom drawn and the tree signifies true north. Oh, and it’s a tree.
- Section 101 was for a soccer supporters group that sat in section 101 at the Philadelphia Union
- Breaducation was a concept for an entrepreneur that wanted to start a chain of bakeries/delis that would sell bread and condiments from around the world. I don’t think it ever happened.
- Konzum — a Croatian Supermarket. the word mark was done by another designer, I was brought in to refine it because it was not replicating right, and as a result, developed the big K concept.
- Jessops — the UK high street photographic retailer
- Team Dinner (snake) — an event logo for a dinner at a churrasco restaurant (brazillian meat on a skewer) where fans get to dine with the players from the Philadelphia Union who use the Ben Franklin Join or Die snake cartoon in their brand.
- Curry’s — a logo for a family member who does underground pipe maintenance.
- The Wheeled Scotsman — A logo for a charity I threw in for free but never got used
- Kristina Whalen — A realtor — looking for any rhythm in the letterforms to make her unique without cliché.
- Work of Art Homes — a guy called Art who builds homes in the craftsman style typified by the Charles Rennie Macintosh style logo — the idea can be simply in the style.
- Arts and Carafes — a competitor to “Painting with a Twist” but with a better identity J an easel and a wine carafe in the monogram.
- Velocity — a cycle based courier company
My wife says I have no style — and I tend to believe her. I like to think the consistency is in the “approach” not the visual.
The Logo Creative — What is your daily inspiration when you design?
Mark Jenkinson — I can get inspiration anywhere. I could be in B&Q or Home Depot buying paint and an idea will come to me. It can be triggered by the commonest and most unrelated thing. I also like to read books and learn new skills, such as kirigami, because you never know when that might come in handy. Kids activity/craft books are another great resource for paper engineering and things that might come in handy if you’re designing an invite for example. I also like to surround myself with the work of other people. I’m obsessed with movies and I have a large collection of original movie posters going back to the late 60s. In more recent times I’ve started purchasing movie screen prints from Mondo, or Grey Matter Art, or Dark City Gallery. There’s very little of my own work on the office or home walls.
The Logo Creative — When you’re not designing do you have a favourite free time activity you like to do?
Mark Jenkinson — As mentioned above watching Movies is a big one. Kirigami which is creating 3d forms from a single sheet of folded paper with no tape or glue. Just an Exacto and folding. Building things from Lego. I bought a heat press to make t-shirts for the kids. I play the guitar. Basically, I have to do something creative that uses a different part of my brain to what I do on a daily basis. It’s almost cathartic. And I can fail spectacularly. You should see some of my lamentable attempts to make furniture. But there’s always been, my team. I’ve been a Liverpool supporter since I was 5 years old, and I almost never miss a game on TV over here. I founded the Official Liverpool Supporters Club in Philly, and am the chair on the board. I was also very active within the Sons of Ben for many years producing most of their merchandise and establishing partnerships with the likes of Adidas and Umbro.
The Logo Creative — What was the biggest challenge you ever faced on a project?
Mark Jenkinson — Most are a challenge. It’s whether you have the balls to go somewhere that’s way out of your comfort zone, and you know you’re going to have to build the plane as it’s heading down the runway whilst convincing your client to be an active participant, or play it safe and go by the numbers. Risk/reward. I’m in this to do the best work I possibly can. Not going to second change anyone.
The Logo Creative — In your opinion what’s the best and worst part of your job as a designer?
Mark Jenkinson — The Best — Pretty much everything. I love the fact that very few days are alike. Today I’m working on a restaurant, tomorrow a supermarket, and the next day a realtor. Variety is the spice of life. Plus, I get to make stuff on the side for myself. Stuff I want to wear or use. I do it for me, and if no-one else wants it then that’s ok. You have to take time to design for yourself. Why have these skills if you yourself cannot benefit from them. We’re not packing frozen chickens. People would kill to have as much fun at work as we do.
The Worst — creative block, paperwork, getting the next client, timesheets, naysayers, account and project managers who want to play designers.
The Logo Creative — Who is the most inspiring person to you and why?
Mark Jenkinson — That depends whether you mean as a person, or creatively. There’s plenty in the creative realm; music, movies, artists, designers, and I could name everyone from Stan Lee, to Trent Reznor, to Francis Bacon, to Steven Spielberg. All are inspiring by simply being really good at what they do. But if you’re talking about a ‘person’ I’d say Phil Scraton, a Liverpool based criminologist and author, who is instrumental in the 29 year fight for justice for the victims, and the families of the victims, involved in the Hillsborough disaster on April 15, 1989, when during an FA Cup Semi final, 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death on the Leppings Lane end of the stadium. The disaster was involved in a cover-up by both the police and the government. Phil and the families have been fighting for justice ever since. It’s a subject that continues to affect everyone in the city every day. ESPN made a 30 for 30 2 hour documentary about it, and I believe it won an Emmy.
The Logo Creative — Who is your favourite graphic designer and why?
Mark Jenkinson — That’s tough. There’s so many. Trying to think of the monograms/primers I have on my shelves, Bierut, Sher, Bass, Sagmeister, Millman, Johnson, Rand, Glaser, Chermayeff, Geismar, Vignelli, Carson, Frost, Brody, Fletcher, Wheeler. All have a special place of reverence. There would’ve been one more person on this list and high up — but never interact with your idols. They will only serve to disappoint. Although when I met Debbie, she was an absolute sweetheart.
The Logo Creative — What’s your favourite design quote or quote in general, and do you have a mantra or saying you live by? (This can be included)
Mark Jenkinson — “Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context — a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.” — Eliel Sarrinen
We have 4 key pillars we use to inform everything we do
“Process” keeps us aligned
“Intent” keeps us focused
“Context” gives us perspective
“Responsibility” keeps us humble
I might add a fifth — “Non-Conformity’ keeps us young.
The Logo Creative — In less than 10 words what is graphic design?
Mark Jenkinson — Communication through visual and organizational storytelling.
The Logo Creative — What steps did you take to start your graphic design business? Did you have to make any sacrifices on your journey?
Mark Jenkinson — Not sure if they are sacrifices. I was kind of forced into it. I took a new job, and after arriving on my first day they’d decided they didn’t need anyone anymore. So they kept me on board for 2 weeks while I decided what to do. I went freelance and set up Limepickle Ltd. I spent the next 2 years working on a bunch of my own small boutique clients as well as full-time contract work for folks such as 20/20. At that point, I emigrated and married my wife who was in the United States. I restarted Limepickle up in 2009, and in 2013 took a full-time gig when we were about to have our second child. After almost 3 years there, In Jan 2016, I was let go. So all of a sudden I found myself without a salary, struggling to keep a roof over our head, and needing to rebuild business, while trying to deal with a medical condition that was playing havoc with me. I said I’d never work for anyone ever again, so I started on the slow process of the journey I am on now.
The Logo Creative — Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you would have changed early on in your career?
Mark Jenkinson — I believe regret is a wasted emotion. You can’t change the past, you can either learn from it or make reparations to fix any damage done. Had I done maybe one thing differently I wouldn’t be talking to you right now? So no. No regrets
The Logo Creative — If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Mark Jenkinson — Grow old disgracefully.
The Logo Creative — What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a designer that’s helped you?
Mark Jenkinson — That’s a tough one, It was probably from the tutors at college who really drilled into us the value of a concept/Big Idea. We would do these one-week exercises where we really didn’t know exactly what it was teaching us until we came to use it. A bit like how the Karate Kid learned by waxing the car and painting the fence. We did very little in the way of ‘craft’ per-se. We were taught how to handset type with paste-up and that really helped in understanding kerning and the like, but back in those days, it was all hand pasted comps. Safmat and Omnicrom, so the craft we learned was very hands on. Not mac/computer based. Then in the third year, we went on a 6–9 month placement/internship — and that’s where we learned a lot of technical aspects of the job
The Logo Creative — What would be your advice for new Logo and Graphic Designers?
Mark Jenkinson — Find your point of view as early as you can. It will be what differentiates you. Be mindful of market sea changes, but don’t follow trends. Read as much as you can about design, design process, and design history. Listen to your creative directors but don’t be afraid to put forward your point of view. Always back it up with solid logic and reasoning. Qualify your decisions. They can and will overrule you, but they’ll know they can trust you. It might feel like a failure at the time, but it actually isn’t. Don’t look for your first job at one of the ‘big boys’. Go somewhere smaller where you will have more hands-on experience with designing rather than the traditional junior underlying work or taking the owners’ dry cleaning to be done.
learn more about Mark Jenkinson | limepickle.net
Originally published at The Logo Creative | International Logo Design & Branding Studio.