The Meaning of Life in 10 Questions… Mark Masterson

There are some of truly creative people in this industry. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be constantly concepting, developing, and executing or you get left in the dust. I’m fortunate to work with some really dynamic and inspiring people, ranging from art directors, to producers, to creative directors, photo editors, art buyers, and print producers. Instead of questions about email blasts, printed promos, and portfolio reviews, I think that it’s time that I put some of them on the spot to show us their meaning of Life. “The meaning of Life” may be a little far flung to answer in only ten questions, but hopefully these interviews will serve to distill some of the inspired and intellectual energy of the creatives that we work with.

This post, we’re featuring Mark Masterson, Senior Vice President Creative Director at Doner. After a tenure at Momentum Worldwide as group creative director for Coca-Cola, he moved on to start white_space, a boutique agency where his list of projects grew to include Anheuser-Busch, AOL, General Motors, and Gateway. You may recognize Mark from our behind the scenes in Hawaii – we worked with him recently on projects for Travaasa Austin and Hana. Mark’s got a penchant for beer and bicycles, and he’s a killer creative. I’ll let him tell the rest.


1. Name one actor in one movie to represent you as a teenager

Clearly it’s Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science.

2. What is your preferred vehicle or mode of transportation?

With six bicycles it’s a tough choice.

3. What is your favorite beverage for creative inspiration?

These days its a little beer called Vicious by North Peak Brewing out of Traverse City, MI. Tomorrow it could be something else. If a big brewer wants to work with me, I’m all about the macro-brew and have plenty of experience.

4. Name your favorite band and album?

As someone with a bit of a music addiction these answers change daily and have big range. Today, I’m quite enjoying a band called Cults who do some nice upbeat music referencing Jim Jones. I’m also listening to a lot of Dengue Fever and Surfer Blood.

5. How did you get where you are today?

It’s certainly not talent. It’s the values that my parents ingrained in me and a huge but friendly chip on my shoulder. For me failure is not an option and understanding the clients business combined with how to creatively make them stand-out in the white space is the ultimate goal.

6. Where do you source your inspiration?

Inspiration for me comes from so many places. Its music, the design of others, the latest book I’ve read, with much of it wrapped up in travel and exploration. I’m always looking for something new, and sometimes this new is actually quite old. Often when I travel, I return home armed with a style of creative flavored from the experience. I leave for Cambodia in a couple of weeks and can only imagine how my work might be flavored on return.

7. What is your philosophy on creating?

If you can’t make something good, you’d better be able to make something really awful. Good takes talent. Bad takes ignorance. Average, for average there’s usually no real excuse, and can mostly be blamed on either long painful meetings, groupthink or not having the balls to make the leap.

8. Describe your most liberating project

I’d like to say it’s for a big global client, but it’s actually for a local bike shop, that had the courage, sense, trust, whatever it’s called, to go with the work I produced and allow me to craft their brand voice. It’s a shop that went from a small storefront to 4 quite robust locations and has a real activist role in the city that it’s located.

9. Name a project you would like to work with in the future and why?

I’d love to find a project with a nearly dead brand with a client with the vision and trust to allow for real substantial change. It’s either that or a situation of the same trust scenario willing to allow me to really help.

10. If the world is ending in 2012, how will you change your life plan?

No change in plan, but a readjustment in end date: live life at top speed and end it with a long swim in one direction before things get ugly or sad.