February 21, 2009


I recently gave a presentation and a 'Brainfood Creative Programs' seminar at Portfolio Center in Atlanta. Afterwards a few of the students interviewed me. Here is that interview:

Interview with Mark E. Sackett – Reflectur

PC: You said you have a terrific team behind you in your company; explain the process of how your studio operates on a day-to-day basis, and how each person plays a role in the dynamic team.

Sackett: Oh, good Lord. Well, we get a project in. We are structured differently than most agencies. We don’t have account service people. All of our designers work directly with the clients. So I don’t have an extra layer, an account service person that goes and talks to the client. I do have a Director of Account Services, however, and she handles scheduling, estimating, budgeting and contact back and forth with the client on anything that we need from them. She handles the trigger dates for billing and things like that. She also works on the vendor side to coordinate printer and photographer estimates, or anything we need from outside vendors. Then she coordinates the master schedule on the project, shares the key dates and gives the designers what their dates are, their deadlines and things like that, and also deals with, “Are we at a phase, or ready to bill a phase 2, or bill a phase 3,” or whatever. So she does talk to the clients but when it comes to anything creative, the designers pick up the phone and call the clients, and the clients pick up the phone and call the designers directly.

PC: You’re looking for a new type of creative. You need a creative who can talk to people.

Sackett: If you’re not looking at me when you’re talking to me, then you’re probably not going to work for me. If you look down and talk to your work and talk to your PMS chips, then you’re not going to work for me. If you talk about how your work looks, you’re not going to work for me. You’ve got to be able to look at a client, defend your work, talk about our creative, have a conversation, and pick up the phone.

PC: It’s not enough to be a good designer?

Sackett: No. I mean, not at Reflectur, anyway.

PC: What new business ventures do you hope to break into, if any, and what direction do you want to take with your current entrepreneurships.

Sackett: On my card there is a business listed that is called The Box. The Box isn’t articulated yet but will hopefully bring all these diverse things together. Ultimately, what The Box is going to be is the place where things happen with all the things I love: I’m passionate about wine and have a 4,000-bottle wine cellar. I love cheese, chocolate and wine. I love food. I love live performance. I love music. I love film. I love art. I love shopping--I’m a shopaholic. I love trends. I love products. I love product design. It’s going to take all of those things and combine them into one venue called The Box.

So I can imagine in my mind’s eye someone saying to a friend, “Did you go to The Box last night?” And the friend would be like, “No, why?” And the first guy answers, “Well, Carlos Santana performed in an unplugged concert. At midnight, they did a rare grappa tasting from Europe. And in the gallery, they’ve got this amazing orchid show of odd orchids from the Academy of Flowers that are for sale. And then they had these heirloom antique orchid pots for sale that you can buy.” And the friend says, “Well that’s cool. I’ll go see it.” And the first guy says, “Well you can’t. It’s over. They were only doing it last night. But I heard that tonight they’re having a children’s art show, and they’ve paired that with an infused juice and vodka tasting.”

PC: Really--you will only have one chance to see this show?

Sackett: Exactly. The idea is that I create this sense of space, and these events, and these things, these experiences, and people say, “Well, I’ll go tomorrow.” And they’ll say, "Well you can’t go tomorrow; it's only happening tonight, because it's the musician's record release party. Tomorrow night, they’re doing something completely different. Tomorrow night they’re doing rare cheeses from Europe."

PC: So would this be something that is listed, say, online? You would have the next month of activities here, or would it be something you would buy tickets at the box?

Sackett: We might just say, “Surprise guest Wednesday night and rare cheese tasting at midnight.” You know, that kind of thing. No, you wouldn’t buy a ticket per se. It would just say like tonight is a $40 cover, or tonight is a $15 cover. You still pay for your wine if you want it and your plate if you want it. There will be a cheese room. There will be an art gallery. There will be a store with handmade chocolates and antique objects and products designed by designers and best-of-class products. If you come to The Box store, you’re not going to see stuff you can go buy at other stores

PC: So The Box is really a dive into the mind and the likes of Mark Sackett?

Sackett: Yes. It takes all my passions and puts them together in one place.

PC: Very interesting. Okay, let’s talk about the behind the scenes of Mark Sackett. When you’re not working, what would people find you doing, and where do you go for inspiration for new ideas? I know you touched on some of these in your talk with The Box, but do you find your inspiration?

Sackett: First of all, I have a little camera in my pocket, a 13.6-mega pixel Sony digital camera. I don’t go anywhere without it. It’s always with me. I’m always taking pictures of stuff. I’ll be walking down the street and my friends will get ahead of me and they’ll look back and ask, “What are you doing?” And I’ll say, “Well I just saw these cool shadows.” You know, I take pictures of shadows, light, textures, and graffiti--all kinds of cool shapes and typography. I’m always just taking reference photos.

As I said before, I’m a shopaholic. I do a trends research and shopping trips in the Bay Area called Bay in a Day. I take people on a shopping and seeing trip called One Blue Box that I developed. It talks about taking your blinders off and widening your vision to see the things that are left and right that you miss as a creative person. When you start to work on a project, you can get severed from everything else. I would argue, as a creative person, that the severed-ness is actually causing you to miss a whole lot of stuff.

So, behind the scenes for me, I don’t know. Occasionally I’ll have a date. I eat every meal of my life in a restaurant, unless I’m cooking for friends. I play drums, I sketch, I spend a lot of time on the internet, futzing around, you know, building my profiles for my social networks. I am very visual. I am very tactile, and I always have music on, especially in the car.

I’m usually driving around somewhere, exploring., I’ll just go pick a neighborhood I have never been to and be like, “Oh, nobody is here,” and I’ll just go walk eight blocks up the street and go shopping on it, see what’s there—new galleries and stuff. I take all the things I find and put them in my Brainfood database, and I start to build out my shopping trips.

I have a million and a half miles on United, so I’ll hop on a plane and go someplace. Last September, October, November, and December, I crossed off six-bucket list trips I have always wanted to do. For instance, I flew three days before Thanksgiving to New York. I have always wanted to watch them inflate the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats, so I flew to New York and watched them inflate them. It was like a big kick to watch these giant block-long floats come alive.

I had always wanted to go to a ghost tour in Savannah, Georgia, so I went to this music festival in McRae, Georgia, and I took one night and went down and did a ghost tour, where I saw these heavy energy orbs explained to me and I actually captured them with my digital camera. Yea, it was kind of weird.

PC: Made you a believer?

Sackett: A little bit more than I was. I have a buddy who’s a drummer with Jason Aldean. They’re on tour right now with Clint Black, I think. In the same trip, I went to Nashville and hung out with him for a night, then I went to Chattanooga, Tennessee, another bucket list trip. Since I was a kid I have been having these dreams about gnomes, and I didn’t know where they were coming from, so I called my mother and I asked her, “Did we go some place with gnomes when I was a kid?” And she said, “Yes, we went to Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.” And so I said, “Okay, what’s there?” I looked it up and there was this place called Rock City. So I went to Rock City, and I recreated my childhood trip.

I spent the whole day by myself, seeing these gnomes and touring around these rock formations, hiking, and saw all these gnomes and took hundreds of pictures. Then I went to Ruby Falls, which is also on Lookout Mountain. It is the tallest indoor waterfall in the world. Then I rode the incline train. I stretched some pennies for my stretched pennies collection. So, wherever I go, if there is a stretch penny machine, I stretch pennies. I tell anyone who is traveling to bring me stretched pennies from wherever they go. Anybody who ever sees a stretched penny, I am happy to reimburse the 51 cents. (Laughter)

Let’s see, I went to New Orleans to play drums and congas with a band on Bourbon street that I play with sometimes, and then I wanted to do a Lower Ninth Ward Katrina tour, so I did that in October. I spent about six hours down in the lower ninth ward of the Harry Connick’s projects and Brad Pitt’s projects, seeing just how pathetically we have treated that city. It’s shameful how we have treated New Orleans.

I worked heavily this last fall on the Obama campaign. I hosted all the debate parties in San Francisco. It was about 4,000 people, and I really pushed hard to get this man elected, so I hope it pays off and doesn’t let me down.

Sometimes, I’ll pick a city and just be like, “Oh I’ll just fly to Chicago this weekend.” I’ll go to Chicago and explore. I have no fear of anything, and I have met some of my best friends on airplanes. I talk to anybody. I meet people in bars. I just love people, so people ask me, “How do you know everybody?” and I just say, “Well, I talk to everybody.” When you say hey to everybody, half of them are probably going to like you. So I figure it’s pretty good odds that I have friends all over the world.

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