Mark Searfoss launched Farmhand Co out of necessity: passionate about vintage Americana graphics, he needed a creative outlet to channel his energy. When it became apparent that his nine-five would offer little opportunity to cultivate his love of Americana posters and signage, he realized it was time to open his own small studio.
By day, Mark works at a local marketing firm, where he currently spends his time designing for a national financial client. By night, he creates glorious, limited-edition screenprinted posters, rich with warm, retro color palettes and scratchy texture.
“I’ve always been the type to not sleep much,” laughs Mark, who’s based in Columbus, Ohio. “When I’m not at work, much of my time is spent focused on developing Farmhand and creating my own work. Honestly, I don’t think you ever ‘find time’. You ‘make time’ for the things in your life that you're passionate about and drive you. Let’s face it: if you’re enjoying it, it doesn’t really feel like work.”
Mark founded Farmhand Co to focus on his personal work
Inspired by everything from the local diner’s street sign to hand-painted window signage, printed adverts, labels and typography, Mark also boasts a budding collection of vintage tins, retro print work and “really cool old stuff”.
“I love design and studying the work of the past,” he explains. “I love that you can see the hand of the artist in much of it. Perhaps the thing I love most is the ‘perfectly imperfect’ – those little mistakes that let you know what you're looking at is real: a misprinted advert, an off-registration matchbook, or a hand-lettered showcard that’s not quite right, but still beautiful.”
“The computer is an amazing tool,” he adds. “But sometimes I think people put it at the beginning of the process, instead of the end.”
Mark used the Matchbook Print Machine Smart PSD to give his Scooters soda graphic an authentic retro look
Farmhand is a work in progress – something Mark struggled with when he started the studio. “As a creative, I tend to want everything to be perfect before I put it out into the world. It’s far from where I’d like it to be,” he admits, adding that he’s about to redesign the website using some RetroSupply goods.
Despite not being fully ready, Mark launched Farmhand anyway. And since starting to sell his posters online and in local shops, he hasn’t looked back.
Like Hey Monkey’s Lenny Terenzi, he has sage advice for anyone who wants to launch a new venture, but isn’t sure how to get started:
01. Do your homework and ask questions
A bit of planning and research will do wonders for getting a self-driven project off the ground. But don’t let it scare you into not going for it.
02. Avoid analysis paralysis
Take baby steps if you have to, but don’t let yourself get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’. Start small by all means: the most important thing is to start.
03. Talk to others
Talk to other creatives doing a similar thing and get their advice. It might just save you from making a costly mistake, or spur an idea to make something truly spectacular. I’ve found that unlike some businesses, creatives are generally the most giving with their time and insights.
LHF Elixir was inspired by late 1800s lettering
Mark’s biggest achievement to-date, he says, is the creation of his first font, LHF Elixir. “I’ve always been drawn to type – and the power it has to affect the look and feel of a design,” he says. “So spending time creating a font of my own was a pretty amazing process.”
“It’s something that honestly should be included in design school training. It helps you with so many critical design and type basics: spacing, balance, form, and so on.”
His designs all start with pencil, pad and a “sense of wonder”. He’s rarely without a pencil in his hand, sketching an idea for a font, doodling a logo or poster concept, or making a list of things to do next.
“After that I’d be lost without my Mac,” he says. “RetroSupplyCo has also become a go-to resource. Their products are great for quickly tweaking a design to give it an old-time look.”
Does design get him out of bed in the morning? “I’m not sure it gets me out of bed in the morning – but it sure keeps me from getting into it on a regular basis,” he laughs. “My drive is pretty high. I love finding old design work and using it to inform a new solution for my work.”
Creative Giants: In this new series we’re looking at inspirational creatives with a thirst for learning and pushing the boundaries. They aren’t afraid to take risks. They face each new challenge with optimism, grit and passion. And they’re changing the world around them, one step at a time.
Mark Searfoss: Early Bird
Mark Searfoss: Kayo Kid
Mark Searfoss: Woodward’s
Mark Searfoss: Ferguson
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