#EmbraceEquity with judge Claudia Mark

A Q&A with 2023 Design judge

March 8, 2023

#EmbraceEquity with judge Claudia Mark

In recognition of this year's International Women's Day (#EmbraceEquity) we wanted to celebrate all the talented hard-working women in our industry and so, we approached the women jurors of our three 2023 Awards competitions –  Photography & Illustration, Design and Student - with a Q&A. We wanted to provide them with a space to discuss their experience in the industry today as well as share their advice to up-and-coming creatives.


Claudia Mark, Creative Director, Agenda, NYC, NY

How did you end up in the industry?

I always loved Art but wasn’t the best artist. I liked coming up with the ideas and concepts behind my drawings the most. When I got to college and discovered graphic design it all clicked for me, and it’s been love ever since.


What were your goals as an up-and-coming creative?

My goal has always been to be challenged every day. What the challenge is has evolved throughout my career. In the beginning it was always about getting my work in front of the client — that was success in my mind. As I have moved up in my career, I still need the challenge, but that challenge has changed. I don’t do as much of the creative. It’s not about getting my work in front of the client – it’s about getting my team’s work in front of the client. I take the most joy out of seeing members of my team push themselves to do their best work. I take more pleasure out of helping navigate a difficult client or situation to a solution that works for the client but also is something we can be proud of as an agency. Keeping myself challenged has always helped me continue to grow.


Who was your mentor?

I had an incredible Creative Director early in my career who gave me a lot of opportunities that most juniors wouldn’t normally receive. He also took the time to give me constructive feedback instead of just killing work — another unusual trait. I learned a lot about selling work from him – building your case to the client. We are creatives but we also need to sell. The more you can say by showing, the better chance you have to sell in the most compelling ideas. I continue to use a lot of what I learned from him when constructing presentation decks and telling a brand’s story in my work today.


What was your experience climbing the creative ladder?

It is a lot of fake it until you make it. I had the confidence (or faked it) to figure out stuff I hadn’t done before which, earlier in my career counterbalanced my lack of experience. I had to really go for what I wanted. I didn’t sit back and wait for opportunities to come to me. I learned a lot in each stage of my career – it was incredibly important to try to deeply understand feedback – what it means, how its delivered and why it was given. The most eye-opening time in my career was when I first became a manager. Figuring out the balance of being a creative and manager was a struggle, but it also made me think about how I approached different people and projects. Everyone needs something different to thrive and succeed. You must learn to be flexible and open while still maintaining a high standard for the work. It is something I continue to work on every day. And honestly – I am still faking it – it keeps me on my toes. What’s the fun in just doing what you have done before?


Do you feel the creative industry has evolved when it comes to fairness to women in the workplace?

Yes and no. I consistently see male executives on the client-side preferring and listening to males on the agency side. I will say something that is often ignored until a man in the room says the same thing – but since it came from him it is heard and acknowledged. This is something I, and many women in this industry and beyond have had to deal with our entire lives. It has shaped how we show up. Since I am not always taken as seriously as the men in the room, I have felt like I have had to over perform – go above and beyond, put in the extra hours, and create the most airtight reasoning for everything. In one respect it has made me better at my job than a lot of the men in the room, but it isn’t fair. I am now lucky enough to work for an agency that values women and diversity – I have worked for agencies that have not. I feel much more supported, elevated, and respected than I have before within the agency itself. I do think there is an unconscious and conscious bias toward women and their experience and value that continues to be an issue inside and outside the industry. There have been baby steps towards more fairness, but I think the industry has a lot more ground to cover. We all have more work to do across the board.


Has your career provoked change out of the office?

As I have progressed in my career, I’ve become more aware of the importance of work/life balance. I love my job, but I am not saving lives and I certainly shouldn’t be missing out on my life to design a logo. It’s important as a creative to have a life and new experiences. That will influence your work more than you know. I promise you — you are not going to look back at your life on your death bed and be like “damn that was a great logo I designed in 2023.”


What is your advice to young creative women seeking a career in the industry today?

I am going to steal this from a fellow female friend and former colleague– “what would a white man do?” Would a white man hesitate to ask for more money? Would he question his worth? Generally, they don’t. The world has been created to benefit white men – the only way to change it is making it work in your advantage.