Mark Unger, 2002 Graphic and Interactive Communication

Mark Unger has more than earned his bragging rights.

At just 25, he made Partner at Push, an Orlando-based creative agency specializing in digital branding and communications for restaurants, retail, and higher education. His work has been recognized with countless Webby, Communication Arts, and REBRAND 100 Global Awards. And as Chief Creative Officer, Mark has helped Push earn a coveted array of over 300 district and national awards.

But you won’t find him stopping to brag. He’s too busy rolling up his sleeves to get the work done.

What’s the office culture like at Push?
MU: A lot of people think culture is a ping pong table, a beer fridge, and excursions. For Push, culture is pushing each other to grow and be better versions of themselves. It’s the ability to speak freely, work really hard, and make great work with a bunch of like-minded people.

It’s not a hide-in-your-cubicle, fight-for-the-next-opportunity kind of place. It’s more like, we’re doing this together so let’s work hard and have fun. And it’s a round-table culture. We absolutely believe great ideas can come from anyone. Everybody goes to check-ins and every idea goes on the wall.

Do you feel like Ringling College prepared you for your professional success?
Absolutely. Ringling changed my life and I owe everything to it. I had a lot of confidence in my abilities when I left Ringling, and a big part of that was the Design Center. That little mini agency is such a powerful tool. It set me up really well, gave me confidence that I could become somebody in the creative world.

And being able to call on a plethora of creative, extremely successful people – you can’t put a value on that.

Mark’s agency Push specializes in digital branding and communications for restaurants, including Sonny’s BBQ.

You come back to Ringling to recruit for Push. What is it about Ringling students that is a differentiator among new talent?
Ringling students are extremely hard working and always hit the ground running. They really love to make things and have the practical skills to make the work and push the boundaries. There’s a lot of great talent at a lot of schools, but there’s an attitude that Ringling does so well.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring creatives?
It’s going to take your entire career to become great, so find what you love doing and make sure it’s something you can do every single day. And never underestimate the power of a great team. I hate seeing young, talented designers freelance and miss all the intangibles of working on a team. Being exposed to different philosophies and thoughts can be life-changing.

Tell me a little bit about the thinking behind the company name.
Well, when Push was founded in ’96, most traditional agencies were using founders’ names in company titles. Our founders really wanted to create an institution, something that could live beyond themselves and stand for something actionable. The idea was to push clients to achieve something beyond what they thought was possible. That expectation created a kind of scrappy momentum you just can’t put your finger on.

How does Push help companies find creative solutions to drive growth?
When a client identifies a challenge, our process allows us to hone in on strategy and make work that is going to effectively drive goals. Our old creative director used to say, ‘if you make the box smaller, it’s easy to think outside of it.’ So, the more we narrow in on a specific strategy, the more we can disrupt the market and create change for the brand. We also push the client to think through the consumer’s eyes. It becomes about really understanding the brand and seeing what your customer will respond to, both psychographically and on a personal level.

What’s your creative process when approaching a new campaign?
It starts with research. So, for restaurant campaigns, I visit, see how people interact with the brand, listen to how they talk about it, see how they order, what doors they use, where they like to sit. If we’re working with a product, I play with it, see what I can do with it, take photos of it. Then I get online and do a competitive audit. I see how people treat the product and if we’re going to create something that aligns or disrupts with what exists. Then, I take the research to my team, and just like any good creative director, abuse my designers and writers—let them explore and solve and compose something that’s on strategy.


By Kate Schwartz | Images courtesy of Mark Unger
Kate Schwartz is a former media and public relations copywriter who has been freelancing for over a decade. Her work is published across print and digital platforms in the arts, science, and education sectors.