After leading design teams at Code and Theory, ABC News and Newsweek Digital, Mark Forscher retired his managerial hat and decided to start his own creative studio called Under After in 2008. His natural interest in technology coupled with his background in branding and product design makes him an obvious collaborator for founders looking to launch their company. We talked to him about his creative process, some of his favorite branding projects and more.
Mark’s branding philosophy:
“I understand that it can be a challenge for founders to make definitive decisions around picking a logo or picking a color palette. It feels very concrete when a lot of product is about finding the right product/market fit, iterating, testing and using data to inform the process. So wherever possible, I try to bring that kind of iterative philosophy into the branding approach as well, which tends to work pretty well with founders, especially technology founders.”
On remaining independent:
“The reason why I haven’t scaled up my design business, why I’m not trying to be like a 10-person shop, or even a five-person shop, is because I want to be a collaborator, not a vendor that somebody outsources work to. I think it sets the expectation right upfront that we’re both in this together to figure this out. I’m just a person deeply committed to working with the founder.”
On common startup branding mistakes:
“I think one of the biggest things that impacts the success of a branding project is not investing time into it. Sometimes founders think that if they just throw money at a problem, it’ll get solved, and I think they underestimate the amount of time that’s required. It’s not that it takes an extensive amount of time, but their thoughtful feedback at every point in the process is important, and small decisions build up to big ones. It’s hard to do that if the founder’s super busy, and oftentimes founders are busy. Prioritizing that work is important.”
“Incredible brand identity and brand systems design. Thoughtful product strategy and UX design. Truly magical at taking hard concepts and making them easy to understand. A CEO & founder in NYC
Below, you’ll find the rest of the founder reviews, the full interview and more details like pricing and fee structures. This profile is part of our ongoing series covering startup brand designers and agencies with whom founders love to work, based on this survey and our own research. The survey is open indefinitely, so please fill it out if you haven’t already.
Yvonne Leow: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started in design and what particularly drew you to branding?
Mark Forscher: I’ve been working in design professionally since 2004. I was at R/GA while I was in grad school, worked on the Nike basketball account, and after finishing an MFA degree at Parsons, I joined Code and Theory. I was one of Code and Theory’s early hires, I think I was the 6th or 7th employee, and was quickly promoted to be their first official creative director. So I learned a lot about how to run large-scale digital projects, from definition, UX, design, to project management. I really liked working directly with clients to understand their needs, and to create impactful work.
After Code and Theory, I wanted to work in-house at a media company because I wanted to build digital projects and create longer-term value instead of a single engagement on a contract basis. I was really interested in doing work in the service of good editorial content.