Artist, designer and art director Marco Oggian is a creative jack-of-all-trades. At our ‘Expert Day Graphic design: Building up your studio’, he was one of our experts. With an impressive international portfolio — from campaigns for huge brands such as Zara over an exhibition for the city of Genk to work for tech giant Apple — and two studios, he shares his learnings.

Marco Oggian

Marco Oggian

Who is Marco Oggian?

  • is born in Italy, lives in Spain

  • is artist, designer and art director 

  • is founder of Brutto Studio and Studio Follow

  • has more than 300 projects around the world in his portfolio 

  • worked with major clients such as Nike, Volcom, Campari, Vogue, Samsung and Saatchi & Saatchi

  • his work has been published in more than 30 books on design, branding, illustration and typography 

  • his work has been exhibited in galleries in Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Milan, Seoul, Turin and Tokyo

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How did it start out for you?

With an architect mother and an art teacher as a father, I got a good dose of creativity genes. As a two-year old kid I made very detailed and hyperrealistic drawings. With my drawings and Lego I could reach anything I ever wanted. Once older, I worked the regular student jobs but applied for internships at local graphic design studios. I decided to develop my design skills further at university. What promised to become the next step in my creative career, turned out to be quite different. I got expelled from the design university in Switzerland and suddenly found myself in need of work and money to pay the rent. In the next ten years, I started thirteen businesses. Each and every one without a business model or plan. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Marco Oggian

So, you’re a serial entrepreneur. Any learnings from those years?

It was great to do very different things. And every start-up had its own pros and cons. It was good to get to know many people but, in the end, we always went bankrupt because we didn’t care about the business side of things at all. I would not recommend being on too many things at once. You need a focus. After ten years, I cancelled almost everything except Brutto and the Follow Festival, a 100% carbon neutral design festival, with a complete program of sustainable development. It was crucial to the expansion of the studio to not be on top of ten projects at a time.

Exhibition SHOUT, C-mine Genk Marco Oggian

Exhibition SHOUT, C-mine Genk

T-shirt for NWHR Marco Oggian

T-shirt for NWHR

Tell us a bit about Brutto. How do you work and what’s your secret to nail so many international top clients?

Brutto means “ugly” in Italian and that says a lot about how we handle things. The perception of ugliness and beauty is very personal. And the same goes for our client approach. We solve a client’s need. Brutto counts about eight people now. We don’t have a special secret or motto. We just have fun doing what we love to do.

Our approach is clear and honest. We treat our clients with respect and in full transparency. 

Sneakers voor Vans Marco Oggian

Sneakers for Vans

Socks for Pacific and Co Marco Oggian

Socks for Pacific and Co

You worked for many different clients. How do you bring those brands in line with your own signature?

No matter how big the name of the company is, you’re always talking to people. You should never forget that. It is very important to me to have a transparent, honest and open relationship with my clients. From the very first briefing, we are open in what we can and cannot do. We make things clear enough. For example: I work with the exact same five colours for every design. I don’t change that way of working. If a client demands I do, they will need to pay a surplus. If you’re clear upfront about that, you can move forward without surprises. If we can’t meet a deadline, we explain why. All clients matter, big or small. We did a campaign for a small shop that was ultimately picked up by a very big company because the two owners happened to live in the same city.

Marco Oggian

Marco Oggian

Do you have examples you look up to?

I think about two very different people. I love Kobe Bryant’s mentality. I used to be a basketball player and I translated a lot of the sports state of mind in my way of working. I also believe that, with a clear focus, you can achieve any goal. I had set a personal goal in making one piece for MoMA in New York. I approached everything with that goal in mind and I achieved it. So I set a new goal and work towards that. Apart from Kobe, I definitely look up to Picasso. What he made is wonderful, great and awesome. But, he is also a very hard worker. And so am I. I’m sort of a lazy workaholic. I can work extremely hard on the things I focus on.

Any tips for graphic designers in the start-up phase of their company?

If you want clients, you shouldn’t sit around waiting for them to fall in your lap.

Show your work in any possible way.

Showcase on Instagram, participate in competitions, mail and call companies. Send them your work. If you do a presentation, nail it. A presentation is your first real impression and a great way to show what you’re worth. Once you get a job, be transparent and listen to your client. You are solving a problem for them so don’t pick a fight over details. And believe in what you do.