Mark Elder: 6 years a Dog


It's time to find out about us Dogs. Being a Dog means you’re an individual, someone with a strong personality and talents in abundance. It also means you’re part of a team, our pack. In this series of posts, we’re finding out a little bit about the individuals behind Dog as they reach milestones in their careers here at the agency. This month, we’re chatting to Mark Elder, Head of Design, as he reaches 6 years at Dog.

How did you get into the industry?

I always loved drawing at school. With my Art background I applied for and started studying Graphic Design at what was then called the College of Building and Printing, now the City of Glasgow College. I focused on developing expertise in branding, magazine design and typography. I didn’t really get into Digital until the late 90s, working on CD-ROMs (check here if you’re too young to remember) initially, and then onto Internet sites. Looking back, graphic design gave me a great start into the design world and is still the foundation that underpins what I do today. Type and layout, for me, are often over looked in today’s digital world, despite the impact it can have on how people perceive communications, or experience journeys.

What does a typical day look like?

Everyone says this but, honestly, no two days are the same at Dog. Which makes the job a lot of fun. Primarily, I’m a designer, working on creating the visual elements of impactful marketing campaigns, branding or beautiful and functional websites for our major global clients. The other side of my job is management, leading the team of designers here. I scope work and oversee output, making sure everything we do as a team is bang on before it goes out the door or across to the client.

Even though I’ve been designing for 22 years, I still love it and get excited about each new bit of work. Life at Dog never stands still, and the work we do here, never stagnates. That’s down to the diverse range of projects we work with clients on, and the evolution of the wider industry.

Favourite Dog project or campaign to date?

One campaign I will never forget was the campaign we did for UEFA a few years ago.  UEFA wanted to promote its UEFA Europa League among fans. The campaign focused on fan engagement, celebrating the sheer scale and nature of the tournament. We honed in on the concept of ‘More’ – more cities, more fans, more adventures, and more memories. Delivered on Facebook, we designed and built a Facebook app for each of the five rounds of the tournament, encouraging fans to participate in games with the draw of prizes and incentives.

It was amazing to lead the creative design behind such an effective sports marketing campaign, a campaign that focused on the customer – the fan – and centred on fan experience and engagement. There was a huge buzz around the office throughout the campaign, a buzz that continued and even grew, once the campaign had wrapped and it had been recognised by Facebook as one of the platform’s most successful campaigns. Not to mention the fact that it was featured in Damian Ryan’s Best Digital Marketing Campaigns in the World II. As a football fan and a design professional, it was pretty much my ideal campaign!

Best experience at the agency so far?

Hands down heading out to UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. To experience the brand and discuss social marketing campaigns with them in their own environment, was a brilliant opportunity and definitely a highlight of my career so far. It was a surreal and proud moment to chat through the campaigns that we as a team had designed and delivered - to realise that we had contributed to the success of one of the world’s most important football championships - while sitting beside the actual trophy. It was awesome!

Thinking back to your first day at Dog….What do you recall?

The first thing I recall is the nerves. Quickly followed by the pint….Not that I had a swift one on the way to the office! I remember I was nervous coming from a bigger agency. I wasn’t sure of the dynamics of a smaller agency so I didn’t know what to expect. I shouldn’t have worried though. I was welcomed into the pack straight away, heading for a pint at lunchtime with my new team mates quickly made me feel at home. And the rest is history!

How has your role changed since you started?

I don’t think my role has changed as such, but the agency has certainly changed a lot over the last 6 years. 3 new offices in London, Singapore and Jakarta, and over 40 new staff. I would say evolving into an agency with a global footprint, has been the biggest change. The design team hasn’t really changed, we’re still passionate about design, and we are still as close a team as we were 6 years ago…albeit with a few new faces.

What do you hope to achieve at Dog over the next 12 months?

More of the same please. With our brand and proposition changing soon, I hope we can grow as a team and grow our client base. The business is in a great position with a lot of great clients and great people. At Dog we want to help these clients with their digital and brand positions. This might be through their website, a social campaign, an app or creating creative content such as an film or animation. It’s not just about a great looking website any more. It’s more than that - how the design, content and technology work as one connected entity.

The industry...What would you banish to Room 101?

Going beyond our own industry, a lack of manners is definitely up there in something I’d like to banish from every area of life! As they say, “they cost nothing.” It may make me sound slightly cantankerous, but I’m definitely an advocate of that. Thankfully, here at Dog, I don’t come across rudeness very often!

Favourite ad or marketing campaign ever? You haven’t worked on it!

There have been so many amazing pieces of work, but I think my favourite is Apple’s Mac vs PC campaign by TBWA/Chiat/Day back in early 2000s. The campaign consisted of more than 20 different little films communicating the ways in which the iMac was better than a PC. By bringing both products to life – actual guys named iMac and PC - Apple explained the benefits of their product over another in a really engaging way. It is perfect and clever example of using content to inform and entertain. Search for “Apple vs PC ads” to take a look at some examples of the campaign.

Who inspires you?

My dad inspires me more than anyone. He’s not a designer, but his work ethic and attitude in the work place has stood me in good stead throughout my career.

Within the industry, the creative team at AKQA consistently pushes the boundaries and has produced some inspiring work over the years.  In my role, it’s vital to keep an eye on the industry – from top network agencies through to freelance creatives – to stay motivated and inspired by the creativity expressed by talented individuals.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind if you feel strongly.

And what piece of advice would you give to a younger “you”?

Keep up to date with industry trends and constantly look for inspiration from people who are doing great work. Also, don’t be afraid of criticism. As long as it’s constructive, take it and learn from it.

How do you switch off and relax?

I do like to keep fit (honest). I’m a very keen golfer and any chance I get, I’m either on the course, or travelling around the different courses in Scotland. With over 500 in Scotland, and some of the best in the world, it’s a golfers dream…Just a pity the weather isn’t always great!

If you weren’t doing what you do at Dog, what’s Plan B? What would you be doing, and why?

I think I would be a personal trainer. At Dog, I love helping people be the best they can be, and at home, I love keeping fit. Those two things go hand in hand, so really, personal training is the perfect blend for me!