Tools of the Trade: Mattias Mackler of FutureBrand

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 Mattias Mackler, creative director at FutureBrand.

Mattias Mackler of FutureBrand needs boredom for creative inspiration.


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

Tool: Boredom

Watch out, here comes a really boring article about creative inspiration.

No, really, a little boredom in my life helps me tremendously within the world of branding and design. I’ve found that getting away from all the distractions of screens and the demands of work gives me time to think about (quite literally) what’s on my mind.

It might seem odd, one might ponder, that the very thing we’ve been conditioned to avoid can be such a positive and productive tool. Allow a Nobel Prize-winning Danish physicist to shed some light on this paradox. Niels Bohr ruminated that “the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.” Bearing many similarities to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang, these “deep truths” describe a world in total balance, where seemingly contradictory forces coexist in harmony. Take sadness and happiness, or pain and pleasure; we can’t experience one feeling without acknowledging the existence of its counterpart. Therefore, by reframing our relationship with boredom, we can help turn this unpleasant feeling into a productive and creative gift. It’s always a good sign when modern science and ancient philosophies tend to agree.

Why is it your favorite?

It turns out that some mindless downtime goes a long way to help spark fresh thinking. It clears my head and allows my subconscious to finally step up and do some work for once. According to the Mayo Clinic, when our brains go into this “autopilot mode,” they begin to activate different regions and pathways that make surprising and spontaneous connections.

As a creative director, this is fantastic news. I am constantly finding useful ways for clients to solve branding and design challenges, through organizing information, clarifying communication, or engaging audiences with dynamic visual expressions. New and innovative solutions are always in demand, which means my team and I need to be constantly churning out ideas daily.

The wonderful thing is that boredom is very easy to come by – it can happen anywhere and take as little or as much time as you have. 60 seconds in the packed morning elevator enjoying an awkward silence, an hour-long Zoom call that should’ve been addressed via email, or a never-ending board game with my kids can all offer up some high-quality boredom. Now I just need someone to tell my wife and boss that it’s actually a good thing I’m sitting around doing nothing all day.

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

I grew up in small, sleepy town with a river in my backyard and a corn field across the street. Boredom is in my blood. It was a very real resentment back then, but now I understand it’s true value. It’s like I’ve been training my whole life for this.

How does it help you be successful?

By letting my mind wander, I’m essentially letting my mind wonder. It’s this unstructured downtime – or daydreaming – that I tend to value most in my creative process, as it helps me find solutions my conscious self might never arrive at.

Don’t take my word for it – some of the greatest thinkers of our time have used boredom to their advantage. Einstein was known to sail for hours, giving himself time to sit with his thoughts and theories without any other distractions. Newton basically isolated himself for two years during the Great Plague of 1665-1666, whereby he invented calculus, discovered gravity, wrote the Laws of Motion and split light into a spectrum. Charles Darwin and Henry David Thoreau spent large chunks of their lives alone in nature, reflecting on the world around them. And many a great writer, like Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, George Orwell and Stephen King, have been known to lock themselves in a room in order to write their next great work.

Does it have sentimental value?

It does when I think back to my childhood. There’s a freedom associated with boredom. As kids, we had all the time in the world. Today, time is so precious, that we don’t want to squander it. This is especially poignant now that I have my own kids who are growing up in a very different time. I try to teach them (and remind myself) to enjoy the time we have by ourselves. As French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre pointed out, “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”

Do you think your tool could go TikTok viral? Why or why not?

That’s seemingly a Catch-22. Our phones are the very tool that are hell-bent on destroying our ability to be bored in the first place. But maybe Bohr would say there’s a deep truth waiting to be discovered here: perhaps we could use our phones to spread a friendly reminder to put ours down occasionally. It might do us all a lot of good to bored out of minds.

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 and fill out our survey.