March 5, 2013


Founder / Director of London – based Ruby Pseudo Consulting

What do you use black markers for in your day-to-day activities ?

Mainly writing Post – It notes and messages to my team.

Every debrief of a project we write all the important insights and quotes up on Post – It notes and then look for the patterns.

Our last project involved over 1000 hand written Post – It notes that said things like “ I have three friends, I only know one of their names ” ( 14 year old girl in Ethiopia ) and ” When i’m with my friends we laugh about men with tiny penises ” ( 19 year old girl in Nigeria )

What brands and particular markers do you currently use in the office and in the field when conducting research?

Super Sharpie twin tips or Sharpie fine points, always in black. What I covet more than anything though are Staedtler 313 – 93 black marker pens.

You recently wrapped up an 8 month project in Africa. Did you see any domestic brands of black markers during your travels ? Any marker stories ?

We recently finished a project that took us across Ethiopia, Nigeria and Rwanda where we interviewed over 700 teenagers in 46 days. It was a mission, it was marvelous. Didn’t see any local African brand black markers though.

In Rwanda kids saw the tattoos me and my colleague Skout had, and asked us if we would draw tattoos on them. We drew maps of Africa on their arms in black Sharpies. It made them smile.

What marker brands do you think do a good job appealing to the youth market ?

I don’t think any marker brands particularly do. I remember working on Sharpie back in the day with their old PR company and all they wanted to be known as was as a labelling pen. They had David Beckham on board too, the king of labels and endorsements who has the ability to really influence youth. A waste of money and a missed opportunity.

What is the youngest age of child do you think could offer insightful data towards marker product development and marketing ?

Kids are darn clever. You’d be surprised how much kids know and how much their incessant pestering of their parents influences product sales. You’re not marketing to the adults, you’re marketing to kids. It’s just the parents that are paying for it.

Watching how a kid may use a Crayola – for instance how they grip it, what colours they ignore – is more insightful than you would think.

You’d definitely do more fun stuff with the kids to get them to give out insights, but it doesn’t mean you can’t question them.

What are your thoughts on licensed marker product directed towards young children ?

Not bothered by it, but now I wonder if I should be. Seeing how happy my niece is with a Dora the Explorer Band-Aid kind of quashes any morals I might have had about the marketing and licensing really.

What are some of your favourite markers of all time ?

Other than the Sharpie, I still love Staedtler. My oldest brother always had one, and seeing what came out of his brain as expressed through those markers will always inspire me.

Any special projects you are involved with we should keep an eye out for in the year ahead ?

Hopefully more work in Africa, including shooting a film and setting up some self – defence classes for females. I definitely want to get back there ASAP.

We worked on a shoot with eccentric British photographer Martin Parr for Stussy recently which should be out soon, and – as ever – i’m hoping to finish my book about kids in the projects this year.

Who knows what the year ahead will bring. If you’d asked me a year ago what the year ahead would hold, I would have had no idea it would be spent in Africa doing what we did. I think the not knowing’s kind of good though. It keeps you going rather than gone.