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by Emerson Welch  |  May 20, 2024

Creativity Without Boundaries: Chris Martin’s Journey as a Creative Innovator


Chris isn’t your typical creative leader – his journey is one of constant immersion, learning, and a relentless pursuit of innovation.

Discover our latest Creativity Without Boundaries blog, we connected with Chris Martin, Executive Creative Director at the Klive Agency.

From his early days using the power of QuarkXPress to his current passion for pushing the boundaries of creativity in a digital age, Chris offers a unique perspective on the evolving design landscape.

Buckle up as we delve deeper into Chris’s experiences, explore the projects that sparked his passion, and discover how he’s harnessing the power of design in today’s dynamic digital world.

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How did you get started in the world of art and design, and can you tell me a little bit about your journey?    

After coming out of a couple of UK art schools, I went into advertising in the early 80s. Starting as an artworker/visualiser/designer before digital media, I was consumed in a whirlwind of immersion, learning and development.

I soon moved into the creative department of a small award-winning London agency as an art director. Things gathered pace enormously quickly. I was working with a whole range of world-class illustrators, photographers, typographers and studios, and loving it. I was just learning so much in these early, formative stages of what has become a long career.

Then, I became, at the time, the youngest creative director in London at the age of 27 and spent the next decade or so hopping around from huge agencies.

Always being hands on, even as an Executive Creative Director, I got my first Apple Mac in around 1991 and never looked back. As a tool it was exceptional and opened new doors.

Of course, ideas still started largely on paper, napkins, scruffy well-thumbed notebooks, and beer mats, but getting closer to execution showed my control freakery perfectly. I started on QuarkXPress version 3 and have genuinely and obstinately stuck with it ever since.

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I got my first Apple Mac in around 1991 and never looked back. As a tool it was exceptional and opened new doors.

What is it about the world of design that you enjoy the most?  

Quite simply, problem solving. Design in all spaces and dimensions is an essential part of being a communicator and advertiser and starting with the blank piece of paper or screen is still the ultimate buzz. Making those first marks. First scribbles. First words. It’s terrifying but also so energising and exciting. STILL!

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Being a communicator and advertiser and starting with the blank piece of paper or screen is still the ultimate buzz.

Tell us about a project that you’ve worked on in the last 12 months that’s near and dear to your heart? 

Every project is dear to me, from huge corporate branding projects to internal communication design and so-called film and TV to corporate training manuals and email Customer Relationship Management campaigns.

A passion project with a couple of friends, outside of my ‘day-job’. We set up an ethical, sustainable and punky fine fragrance company with one of the perfume businesses best ‘noses’.

As a creative this was the ultimate challenge. No restrictions, brand departments or guidelines, no rules, no name, no identity. Nothing. Scary, but a wonderful opportunity.

I dived in. From naming, branding, packaging, advertising, web, shop design and pretty much everything else in between, including all the pre-production (on QuarkXPress of course).

It nearly killed me, but what a ride. And I’m immensely proud of the work.

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What are some challenges you’ve found with design?  

Over the years and the exponential change the basic challenges with design and visual communication have remained remarkably consistent. Lack of time, budget, imagination, backbone, passion, and belief. And lack of basic understanding of design principles.

The ‘democratisation’ of technology has been beneficial in many areas, but so many of the solutions leap straight to passable execution without true craft, consideration or thought, e.g., filtered photos, jaunty type, extreme and quirky layouts all delivered in a flash and a flurry of keys.

Original thought, craft and even basic design skills and fundamentals are being painfully avoided because you can get access to software which can superficially and supersonically make stuff look ‘good’.

Can you tell us why you enjoy using QuarkXPress?  

QuarkXPress has been on a journey alongside that of the world, commerciality, and the change in technology.

It’s history from its roots as a desktop publishing, print and design platform is rooted in best practice, and considered decision making. The type handling is so far more advanced than any other software from a purist’s point of view.

It’s infinitely flexible, but particularly for layout of type, it encourages you to be more considered by the way it’s constructed. Positioning means the mind works intuitively and sensitively. That said, its updates, features and improvements over the years takes it far beyond just the perfect type application and means that the only limit is in the user’s imagination – or lack of it.

Specifically, image handling (love the non-destructive feature), layer styling (multiply/overlay) which has made it even more of a one stop shop than ever and avoids toggling between apps, innovative flex stuff for online and the simple conversion to and handling of vectors is brilliant.

The type handling is so far more advanced than any other software from a purist’s point of view.

What advice would you offer somebody who is very early in their design career?  

Look everywhere. Listen to everything. Ask as many questions as possible. Lap up learning. Be respectful of history, tradition, and experience.

There have been so many brilliant people who, like you will, have started with that unifying, terrifying blank sheet of paper. Learn from their experience, mistakes, discoveries and wisdom. Just learn.

Thanks for reading! You can find and connect with Chris on LinkedIn. We’d love to hear from you, so let us know what you liked or what you would like to read more of in this series? And, if you would like to be featured in an upcoming post, get in touch! Contact us at  qxpsales@quark.com

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