A CONVERSATION WITH MARC ATKINSON
I remember stumbling upon Marc’s landscape photos in the middle of the night on Instagram. I dug deeper into his bio and discovered his creative agency, Land of Plenty, in the process. The portfolio of work was beautiful and I wanted to know more. I’m always curious to learn more about the lives of creative directors and designers. In this interview, I loved learning about how Marc turned his background in graphic design into a full career, essentials he keeps at his desk, and the motives that drive him to collaborate with others in a studio space.
Who are you and what do you?
I’m co-founder and creative director of a design and branding studio called Land of Plenty. I live in south east London with my partner.
What inspires you to photograph and design?
I studied Graphic Design—it’s my love and something I’m lucky enough to have made a career out of.
Design is a way of creating solutions to particular challenges, and I’ve always enjoyed that. I studied at Central Saint Martins in London, where it’s drilled into you that ideas are key to all solutions; beauty is important, but it’s secondary to the idea. Thankfully, there are a lot of challenges out there.
I love photography too, but in a different way. I know a lot of photographers, and I don’t think I have the personality for a career in it!
For me, photography is a way of seeing, a way of looking. It’s a reason to stop and look properly at what’s in front of me. I’ve always been a visual person, so I’m always looking at everything. When I’m somewhere new I find myself wanting to document it; photography allows me to work out what I find interesting about it, and question why.
I have always recorded for my own satisfaction, but it’s nice to be able to share these images with others through the likes of Instagram.
What are some essentials/tools you like to have on the road and at your desk?
My desk at work is an iMac, an A5 moleskine, and more piles of print-outs and scribblings than I’d like to admit to. I try not to work at home, so don’t have a desk there.
On the road I usually have my MacBook Pro, and I’ve got into carrying a sketch pad; I used to draw a lot, and I’m trying to reconnect with it. Camera-wise I have a Canon EOS5D, but it’s bulky, so I save it for ‘special occasions’. I also have a tiny Sony RX100 iii, which I can sling in a bag and not think twice. It’s incredible for its size; and great for landscape photography, and day to day use.
Oh, and I always carry a pen. Always. You never know when you might need to write or sketch something down.
How does a typical day look for you?
I cycle in whatever the weather, the 9-miles is a great start to the day. I’m normally in by 8am; I like to do an hour’s work before the emails and phone calls kick in. The studio is still small, so I’m very hands-on; I’ll generally have a couple of projects I’m working on directly, a couple I’m overseeing, and several others that I’ll have some input into throughout the day. We’ve just brought an excellent project manager on board, who has allowed our days to be more design-focussed, which is a dream. Even so, I’d say a third of my time is spent on talking/emailing about current/new work, internal/external meetings, and day to day running of the business. I think I’m hooked on the variety, I couldn’t imagine just being a designer, I like to be involved in all aspects of the business.
When did you start Land of Plenty?
I ran a studio with a college friend for nine years, before spending a few years on my own; I then set up Land of Plenty in late 2016 with two friends. It all clicked into place very naturally, and we’re in it for the long haul. The studio offers a mix of design, art direction and brand thinking, combining our individual strengths into a single offer. We’re now five-strong, and looking to grow steadily over the coming few years.
It’s super exciting to create a vision for your studio with other people, and then work towards that dream. When you’re knee-deep in work you can sometimes forget the bigger picture; but sharing the vision with others gives you the opportunity to take a step back regularly, and then I remember just how lucky I am. I absolutely love what I do.
What’s the most rewarding thing about working with clients?
Creating something together is always rewarding. Design is essentially problem-solving, and so coming to a successful solution is very satisfying. I also love working with others—what you create together is always better than what you could do alone. We’re not artists; we’re here to make the world a better place in some way; you can’t do that in a vacuum.
How long have you been living in London and what do you like most about it?
I moved to London to twenty years ago, and have yet to find a reason to leave! It’s an incredibly inspiring city. Its desire for change is infectious, and the history inspiring. It sounds like a cliche, but it is a true melting pot. The constant influx of people from all across the globe brings influences and cultures together like nowhere else I’ve been. Our smallish shared studio, for example, has six nationalities represented at the moment, and there is no way that it can’t affect your outlook. It feels normal now, and I love it, but it was quite a shock when I first moved here. The other big influence is the arts; I sometimes take it for granted, so need to give myself a kick every now and then. What’s on offer in such a relatively small area is really incredible.
What keeps you inspired and motivated?
Escaping the city gives me perspective, but what the city brings keeps me inspired: art, music, culture, people and collaboration. A healthy balance works for me.
Also, I’m always motivated by the next project, and what it may bring.
What is your next project?
We’ve recently started working with Nike, so I’m super excited to see where that leads. We’ve also been working on the identity for the redevelopment of an 8-story, 1920’s building in downtown Memphis, called The Commonwealth, and I can’t wait to see that come to fruition. It’s an exciting time, with many promising projects in the pipeline. Fingers crossed that continues.