Tools of the Trade: Mark Goldwell of Zero Studios

By Kyle O'Brien 

Tools of the Trade is an AgencySpy feature to help highlight the many tools that help make advertising and marketing folks successful. The tools can be anything that helps people perform at their top form, from a favorite drafting table to the best software program to a lucky pen, a vintage typewriter or a pair of headphones.

Next up is Mark Goldwell, founder and executive creative director at digital branding company Zero Studios.

Mark Goldwell of Zero Studios takes a walk in a New York City park.

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What is one tool you use all the time at work, and how does it inspire your work?

My tool is going for walks to the parks across New York City. The huge rise in working from home over the past couple of years has provided a lot of new freedoms, but I think it’s led to a new type of burnout as well—one that’s not related to being overworked, but burnout from monotony or the mundane.

There’s only so much that can come from waking up and going to your kitchen table to work and stare at a screen all day. It can lack meaningful communication and a necessary interaction with community, and walking provides that. For instance, the entire graphic language for our studio brand came from, “yo, did you see that graphic on that hot dog cart?”

Why is it your favorite?

I try to take at least one walk a day. New York City has such a rich visual landscape and palpable energy. It’s cool to read articles and scroll Instagram and be plugged in that way, but I also feel like taking walks is a different way to engage with community and the real world. You get a sense of where the world’s really at versus only seeing how it’s being pitched to you.

Plus, walking is like free entertainment. You can walk down Broadway in Manhattan and you can rock that all the way from Chinatown to Midtown, or wherever you want. Now that’s a walk.

How did you acquire your tool or hear about it for the first time?

I’ve been visiting parks as long as I can remember, but as for walking as a creative practice, I’d have to say it came from living in New York. Walking and being around other people are such quintessential aspects of the experience of life in the city, and there’s always something new to see.

How does it help you be successful?

There’s so many visual inputs in the city that serve to counterbalance the digital world and what we experience sitting at a desk all day. We were recently working on a project at the studio where we came to a creative hurdle, and it felt like the solution was just out of reach. It became really important to shift our point of view, and there’s always so much inspiration just beyond our doorstep. From the bodega graphics to all of the wild postings and street art, there’s so much to be inspired by in the markings of real life. But diversity in that input doesn’t happen as naturally when you’re on a computer, or when you’re trying to force it.

I’ve found that when you’re out in the world tapping into those wavelengths, you’re able to be more open, and creative solutions seem to come to you. You see things from new perspectives that you maybe wouldn’t have otherwise. Being open to that kind of exchange with the world makes me more capable of making meaningful connections with what’s around me and channeling those insights back into our work at Zero.

Do you think your tool could go TikTok viral?

I hope so. How great would it be if using green spaces went viral? You can check out @truckendseries on Instagram for stuff I’ve seen on my walks. I’ve been known to put myself in harm’s way to get a good truck end.

We want to know what tools you use to make you successful. If you’d like to contribute or know someone who would want to be featured in Tools of the Trade, contact kyle.obrien@adweek.com and fill out our survey.

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