Original Interview: June 2016

Mistress

Mistress is a full-service multi-disciplinary agency based in L.A. and Hamburg. Before Blake Marquis (one of the founders of Mistress) started the agency, he tells us about how he interned with Shepard Fairey before even going to design school, also how nurturing design students is he’s passion project and how it should be for all design teachers!

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
Growing up in New Hampshire – my mother who was a graphic designer as well, often did identity work for The Yellow Pages. I remember we had a studio and darkroom in our house and this huge Stat Camera (this is before computers) and she use to encourage me to make logos or blow up skateboard graphics out of magazines so I could redraw them. Slap Magazine was a huge influence on me during this time.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I studied at Pratt but my first job / internship actually came prior to school. I took a year off after high school cause I knew I wasn’t ready to commit myself to college life, nor was I sure I knew what I wanted to do. My parents were supportive in this and in 2001 I moved to San Diego to intern with Shepard Fairey. After seeing that “drawnig skateboard graphics” was an thing you got paid to do I applied to Pratt and took off to Brooklyn.

Mistress - The Design Kids

What does a typical working day include for you right now?
I try to manage a life that blurs “working days”. I know a lot of people say you need a work life balance but for me I try and find a “work, my work” balance. I’m a strong believer in personal projects or hobbies and developing skills that make you grow. Being a designer has helped me think a bit more orderly and entrepreneurly. Since co-founding my agency Mistress six year ago my role has changed a bit. From being in start-up mode in the beginning by doing everything design related for our clients, to now where design hours are rare.

Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice?
I’m a professor at Otis College of Art and Design. I teach Interactive Branding and a Content Concept Production. I’ve always had a strong point of view on design and creative, but teaching has helped me reach back and explain or articulate why certain design works. I work hard on developing a vocabulary with the students that eliminates subjectivity in their work – without compromising the complexity of the creative. The misconception of design is that it is just a pretty picture – and often it when done wrong or poorly considered the context. May be the difference between art direction and design.

Any passion projects you would like to share?
I hold teaching in high regard. The students truly become an extension and reflection of you and your skill. I juxtapose teaching to being a guide. I take their success and failure very personal – a trait I wished existed more in academia.

I’ve also recently co-founded and branded a beverage product called Mixwell and opened sister company called Neato that focuses on collegiate marketing.

Mistress - The Design Kids

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?
By making lots of custom typography and the pursuit of the perfect bézier curve. But the biggest impact on style came from a passion for screenprinting and repetition. I had a client that needed a few gig posters produced each month so I got to develop and evolve a style through that – often working in series or limited palettes and textures.

Early on often the best design and illustration work comes in the form of a favor or small budget, so my tip for anyone is to take on everything that has the possibility of being great or brings a level of exposure you’d otherwise not have. Great work attracts more…

What advice would you give students starting out?
Work harder (and longer) than the person next to you.

Website: Mistress