Mark Ecob: Designer Interview

Here at Arcangel we like to keep informed, whether it’s photography, technology, art and design or just industry people in the know. Today, we combined all of those elements as we had the opportunity to interview top book designer Mark Ecob , here’s how it went…

So Mark, I guess we should start with what it is you do and where it all began.

I design book covers, and have been since 2001. I grew up tracing Garfield cartoons and got ok at drawing. Thanks to some awesome teachers and my family I found myself in graphic design, at Nottingham Trent University. I graduated with no idea where I wanted to work, so I left it to the design industry to decide. I got a few vastly different interviews and ended up at a Hodder & Stoughton, the book publisher and have been designing book covers ever since.

You seem to work across design markets, How do you keep up with trends across industry sectors?

Nice of you to say that, I try and work in as many areas as I can so that clients can change direction on a job, without feeling like they have a precious designer to worry about. To find out what’s going on, I just keep my eyes open. Social media is a massive part of that, Twitter particularly. I follow loads of designers and publishing people, and some fantastic bloggers like The Casual Optimist, Caustic Cover Critic and the various Art Department blogs out there. When I started out, all I really had was a visit to the bookshop. Nothing still comes close to spending time in your local bookshop and giving the books a good fondle, but your phone can keep you in the loop with what’s going on.

So what does a typical day look like for you?

It’s a brilliant mix of family and the business, I’m a Designer-dad. I take my son Joe to school at 8.30 which is a nice walk away from our house in Frome in Somerset, when you’re working at home some human contact and exercise is really important, so it warms up the engine. I’m at my desk for a 9am start, and do my best work in the morning by far (leaving the less creative work for the afternoon).

Design from our home studio til 12, cook a lunch for myself and then do the afternoon shift until dinner with the kids at 5. I made a commitment to be around for the kids as well as do design, so until they’re both older that’s the plan.

Alongside Mecob, I work for Unbound as their Associate Art Director, which means time in London every other week. I run a cover meeting for them and spend the rest of the time designing in their Victoria office or seeing other clients around town.

What would you say are the most challenging aspects of your work?

I’m a perfectionist and have a constant drive to find and do more good work, and I never really let myself off the hook. It’s something about working for yourself I think. Keeping up with blogging and promotion can be a challenge. Whilst I don’t want to bore people with more noise online, it’s important to be transparent and show people what you’re up to. I could spend as much time talking about what I do, as actually doing it.

For someone starting out in design what would your top 3 tips be?

Get a website, maintain it, it’s the first stop for anyone looking to hire you – Get in front of people, go to events and listen. Never stop learning, do some work placements. – It’s the offline skills that people value as much, if not more than the design skill. Show that you’re more than just a Mac genius.

As well as Design and Art direction you also lecture, can you tell us a bit about that?

I’ve always had an interest in helping other people with their ideas, when I was at Uni my mates would come to me to brainstorm – that was pretty much all i was good at! In my second job I set up a partnership between Orion Books and Nottingham Trent, to develop new designers to work on the list I was Art Directing. It worked really well, and since then I’ve worked at Edinburgh College of Art and Glasgow School of Art.

For the last few years I’ve been a visiting lecturer on the Publishing & Creative Writing Degree at Bath Spa University, where I run an annual Fantasy Publishing Venture project plus some design bits and bobs. The aim is always to look at new ideas and talent in book publishing, and that informs where I want to be within a changing industry

Thanks for your time Mark, we appreciate you taking time out to tell us a bit more about yourself but also the advice, I’m sure there are a fair few designers looking to replicate your success and it’s good to hear it from someone who really knows their stuff and earned their stripes.

For more info on Mark or if you would like to know more about what his design agency can do, check out the site at