Dribbble’s Pump Up Mix Vol. 1 — Mark Johnston

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Looking for some new tunes to power your creativity? Well, you’re in the right place. Dribbble is excited to present a brand new series—Dribbble’s Pump Up Mix—a monthly Q&A and curated playlist of songs highlighting your favorite designers and the music that influences their creative process.

We’re kicking things off none other than designer Mark Johnston who spearheaded the idea for the Pump Up Mix and helped us bring it to fruition. Huge shout-out to Mark for introducing this new series into the community!

Dribbble’s Pump Up Mix — Vol. 1

Get a glimpse of the sounds and hits behind Mark Johnston’s design process. Ranging from oldies to funky to a little bit of loud to keep you awake at the desk, give it a listen for a steady, upbeat workflow.

Tell us about yourself! Who are you and where do you hail from?

Hi! My name is Mark Johnston, I specialize in freelance branding and illustration. I currently co-own a boutique paper and letterpress goods store called Prickly Pear Paper in Gilbert, Arizona with my wife Lauren and shop dog, Pepper. We also have a cat, not at the store of course.

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Do you listen to music while you work? If not, what do you listen to that keeps you going?

Music all day! I pretty much always have to be listening to something while I work, there’s something awkward about silence. My office situation is a little unique in that it is located in a retail store I own with my wife. Since we have customers coming in all day, we typically cater our song selection to a welcoming, mellow vibe.

I pretty much always have to be listening to something while I work, there’s something awkward about silence.

About two years ago I started a Monthly Mix Series playlist to combat playing the same songs over and over and haven’t stopped since, it’s been a great way to make a playlist cover once a month all the while discovering new music.

What role does music play in influencing your process? Does music inspire the content of your work?

Music does a few things for me. First off, it helps cater to my mood, either how I’m feeling at the moment or the direction I would like to go. If I’m getting tired and it’s later in the day, gotta blast something loud and fast to wake up, or if I’m a little stressed or overwhelmed, I’ll go with something calming.

I’m not sure if there’s a complete connection between the literal content of my work and the music I listen to, but I definitely feed off the vibe of what I’m hearing.

  1. Cactus Country Bird country club logo branding flag logo desert cactus bird illustration bird peacock illustration flag peacock cactus country

  2. Cactus Country Tote arizona cactus sunset desert illustration saguaro cactus counrtry tote

  3. Western Branding WIP western cowboy stee monogram brand identity brand horse cowboy western logo logodesign logo branding

  4. Indoor Badge Collaboration badge illustration quarantine club quarantine indoors the great indoors badge design badge fashion socks and sandals sandals socks indoor badge challenge indoor badge collaboration

  5. Happy Trails stars moon outdoors trails night desert scrambler illustration dirt bike motorcycle happy trails

  6. Desert Rainbow arizona cactus desert illustration illustration graphic tee graphic t shirt design shirt rainbow desert rainbow desert

What artists or musicians are you currently listening to that help keep your design work inspired?

My music preferences and artists I listen to vary all of the time. I’ll usually be stuck on a few artists at a time until I overplay them and need to switch it up. Right now my taste has been all over the place but a few artists I’ve been jamming to lately include Charley Crockett, Goth Babe, Fruit Bats, IDLES, Remi Wolf, Kota the Friend, Jorja Smith, and Spotify’s Reggae Classics playlist.

Who is your “go-to” artist or musician?

I can pretty much put Mac Demarco, Orville Peck, or Goth Babe on at any time of the day and be fine. When I really need a pick me up, I like to check out funktastic playlist by Poolside called Daytime Disco. It’s updated every week so each listen is usually different.

Do you play music yourself? If yes, does this play into your design workflow at all?

Once quarantine struck, I broke out my dusty old acoustic and have been playing it on and off again for a few months now. In high school, I played drums and guitars in various bands. The experience actually opened my mind to graphic design and art. Record stores and album art were my intro to graphic design, and all I wanted to do when I was playing with bands was to make cool merch and posters.

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Have you worked with bands or musicians on designs or artwork?

I worked on my first official album cover a little while back for a local band in Arizona called Some Dark Hollow and had a great time. Recently, I made an experimental style album art for a close friend who is recording a personal album to play for their baby when she’s born. It’s a pretty rad concept actually—most of the songs are calm, synthy, and meant to be played as background noise, both intended for the parents and the baby to relax to.

Top 5 favorite albums of 2020:

Not really in any particular order…

  • Mac Miller — Circles
  • Tops — I Feel Alive
  • Orion Sun — Hold Space for Me
  • Kota the Friend — Everything
  • Charley Crocket — Welcome to Hard Times

Dream musician or artist to work for:

Orville Peck for sure! I’ve been a big fan of his music for a while and I think his whole artistic vision and persona would make for some really fun artwork and concepts.

Favorite concert you’ve attended:

It’s honestly so hard to choose one but my wife Lauren and I went to a BROCKHAMPTON concert last year and had one of the absolute greatest nights. It was probably one of the most unique shows I’ve ever been too and everyone was going nuts for them.

Best place for live music in your hometown:

Arizona has a bunch of rad spots but my favorites to go to are The Valley Bar, Crescent Ballroom, and The Van Buren. All three are kind of in the same area, so once the show’s over we typically head down the street to Gracie’s Tax Bar.

If you could choose 3 artists or musicians to play one epic concert extravaganza, who would you choose and where?

Oh man, this is a tough one—the possibilities are endless! This is going to be all over the place and not make sense in a traditional show setting whatsoever but here it goes…

  • Opener: Blaze Foley — Legendary singer / song-write that died fairly young. I’d love the opportunity to see him perform.
  • Supporting Act: I’ve never seen them live but I imagine they put on one epic show, and they’re a favorite of my wife and I.
  • Closer: Mac Miller — I never got the opportunity to see him and makes me sad.
  • Location: Cheer Up Charlies, Austin, Texas — My wife took me here earlier this year on a trip to Texas and we stumbled upon a couple of really great local bands playing inside (Indoor Creature & Pelvis Wrestley). The energy and vibe that Charlies brings alongside an intimate stage and tasty cocktails would be the perfect setting.

Want to keep up with Mark? Find him on Dribbble, Instagram, Twitter, and at shoppricklypear.com


Find more Interviews stories on our blog Courtside.
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