Mark Randall is the 2017 AIGA Medalist, Principal Creative Director of Worldstudio and future ice cream mogul. As part of Worldstudio Randall also started a scholarship program that became Worldstudio AIGA Scholarship, benefiting minority and economically disadvantaged students who are studying art and design disciplines.
AIGA DC’s scholarship program is funded by the Design Continuum Fund, which is turning 10 this year.
Before coming to DC to celebrate this anniversary, Randall talked with us about transitions in the scholarship, his career and the future of the design world.
AIGA DC: You’re here for two events — a benefit for the Design Continuum Fund, which is for students just starting their careers, and for a salon about about changing directions. How do these two things come together for you?
Randall: They’re both really about transitions.
The event around the Continuum Fund is in celebration of the scholarship program that I started with my business partner in 1995. In 2005, I joined forces with AIGA [National] with the idea of transitioning the work of the scholarship program to a much larger organizational institution, and now it’s taken 12 years to make that transition. And that was the goal, because it has to be able to live without me in order to live into the future.
And because I’m Type A, as I release control over the scholarship program, I’m filling the void with something else. I’ve done what I’ve done for a really long time, and now I’m working to figure out what the next thing will be.
AIGA DC: What do you think your next steps are?
Randall: I’m in the process of exploring a lot of different things. I have this kind of crazy ice cream idea. It started as a bit of a lark, but now it feels like it has a life of its own.
I’m a big believer in the idea of following the energy. That when you’re trying something, it should feel somewhat effortless … not that it’s not a ton of work, but that it has some internal forward momentum, positive energy. And it makes you want to pursue that path. That’s where I am with the ice cream, so we’ll see where it goes.
I’ve also been doing a lot of teaching lately because maybe that’s something I’d like to do.
I’ve run the Impact! program at SVA for eight years. I’ve been at Parsons full time for a little over a year. It’s been a great opportunity for me to kind of test the idea of wanting to teach full time.
And the jury’s still out. Parsons may not hire me after the end of the semester next year, or I might decide that I really want to go run an ice cream business. Right now it’s about me exploring different things to figure out what the next thing I want to do is.
AIGA DC: So you’re basically prototyping careers.
AIGA DC: Do you see the ice cream business as a real left turn? Or is it part of your career path?
Randall: Kind of both. It’s a continuum of my career because I’m bringing to bear the skills that I’ve learned as a designer to do this business — all the marketing capabilities and developing the brand. It’s also from the teaching I’ve done — helping students develop entrepreneurial ideas and teaching strategic design management at Parsons. It’s really giving me a skill set that allowed me to do this.
AIGA DC: Even in your work with Worldstudio, it seems like you looked for a variety of experience — having the nonprofit side, where the scholarship is and the for-profit design business.
Randall: I always say that I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. I like to do so many different things. You can focus your energy vertically and become an expert in one thing, or you can work very horizontally and dabble in a lot of things. And I’m a bit of a dabbler.
AIGA DC: Do you think either vertical or horizontal has an advantage?
Randall: I think that they’re both equally valid, and it’s really your personality. I have friends who work very much in the vertical, and they’re super talented. They’ve really mastered their field, and they’re really successful.
I think it’s great, but it’s just not me. I like too many different things.
AIGA DC: Why do you see AIGA National as a good partner for the Worldstudio scholarship program?
Randall: Because they are the professional design organization of America, and it’s all about scale.
What DC is doing with the Design Continuum Fund was exactly my vision for how our scholarship could be scaled at AIGA. They’ve done such an amazing job. It’s been so wonderful to watch how they’ve leveraged the program within the chapter and supported the students that they’ve given awards to. Now they’re able to start to scale the program to chapters across the country.
AIGA DC: So it’s the 10th anniversary of the Continuum Fund, and we have a goal of getting the endowment to hit $100,000. What’s your pitch on why someone should contribute?
Randall: We need to support the next generation of creative talent, and it’s important that we promote a future of design that’s more diverse and more inclusive. I think our culture depends on it.
Ed. Note: We have $6,000 left to raise, so if you’re convinced, visit givecontinuum.org to donate
AIGA DC: What’s the advantage to having that diversity in the field?
Randall: There’s this fear right now of the other, a fear of the them. But we live in an incredibly diverse society and with a diverse design community, we’re able represent society so much more.
I think of design and creativity as an audible voice in social change. It’s something that we continually need to strive for because we can be powerful.
AIGA DC: What do you mean you say we can be powerful?
Randall: Design is a great motivator for people. It can create symbols for a movement, it can rally people. Design can galvanize people around ideas, can educate and inform, can be a real catalyst for change.
In the material world that we live in, every single thing is touched by design. So as designers we have a lot of responsibility to deploy our skills in a way that is effective and positive. That makes the world a better place.
AIGA DC: The scholarship is more than 20 years old. For this year’s recipients, what would you wish for them 20 years down the road?
Randall: To be happy, to find satisfaction in whatever they’re doing. Even if they don’t stay in design — in 20 years, they’re a doctor — if they’re happy and felt like they were contributing members to society, we did right.
That’s one of the things about the award. The money’s great of course, but it’s really the recognition by a constituency of professional designers that carries more weight. It gives somebody confidence to pursue something. It gives them confidence to move forward in life. And I think that’s really valuable.
Learn more about and donate to the Continuum Fund at givecontinuum.org