For nearly 30 years, Mark Sullivan enjoyed a successful career in advertising, creating campaigns for companies such as Stanley Steemer (including the TV jingle, “Call 1-800-STEEMER…Stanley Steemer gets carpets cleaner!”), Dairy Queen, Universal Studios Florida, and Pier 1 Imports.

Then, in 1997, a friend who was a pediatric dentist asked him to lend his creative talents to “dress up her new office with artwork and a new logo.” Shortly thereafter, he was hired for a second pediatric interior project, designing Western-themed custom murals, signage, and faux-carved structural elements.

“That was the moment I began to realize that this was my new career,” he says. In 2008, with business partner Ernie Pacheco, he founded Character Farms. Today, the firm designs interiors for both pediatric and adult healthcare facilities, including a recent “Lost World” game kiosk for a pediatric dental facility and a Zen rock garden theme for an MRI room at Preferred Imaging in Irving, Texas.

“I enjoy transitioning an often sterile, highly technical, and scary medical environment into a cool, magical place where children and adults can feel safe and comfortable through the course of their treatment,” he says.

How is creating a TV campaign similar to designing a themed interior?

When we approach creating a new environment, as with advertising, we start with identifying the objective or outcome for the patient. For example, the goal for a pediatric imaging client is to redirect the patients’ focus and provide a nonthreatening experience by inviting them to be a part of a story that’s rich in color and texture. For an adult imaging environment, the objective is to create a more calming and peaceful experience.

What’s the biggest difference between working in advertising and the healthcare sector?

The time it takes to get work approved through the decision chain. Working with individual doctors who own their own practice is one thing; working with large medical facilities that have a board of directors is another. It takes more time and patience, which only gives us more time to perfect our ideas.

Three words my co-workers would use to describe me

1 passionate

2 driven

3 perfectionist


Name three items on your desk

1 My magical digital scanner. It allows me to turn any crazy idea (usually drawn out on a napkin at lunch) into reality when it hits the screen of my iMac.

2 Beatle’s tribute mouse pad that I desinged for a fundraiser

3 talking Sulley figurine from “Monsters, Inc.”



Outside the office, you’ll likely find me….

At my favorite microbrewery down the street. My favorite beers are the blonde ales.

Annual holiday tradition I look forward to most

Making my own Limoncello for family and friends. I bottle it, label it, and give it out as Christmas gifts. People every year ask me when they’re getting their bottle.

Favorite quote

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”—Will Rogers. This is so true for those of us who run our own business.

Favorite …

Favorite architect/designer: Frank Lloyd Wright. I love how all his structures were designed to complement the very environments they were built within.

Vacation spot: Anywhere they grow great wine. My wife and I just got back from a trip to Napa, and we’ve been to Europe several times looking for those hidden gems. There’s nothing like being with people you love and savoring a glass of great wine, while looking over the most beautiful landscape imaginable.

Piece of artwork in your house: My wife and I were in Paris 19 years ago, hoping to see some of our favorite Impressionist paintings at the Musée d’Orsay. Unfortunately, the museums were all closed because of a labor strike, so we went to the local art galleries and ended up purchasing a painting titled “Image de Vacances,” by French artist Guy Charon. We hung it on the wall next to our bed, so every morning we wake to it. There’s no better way to start each day.

TV Character: Charlie Kelly from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” He just has to open his mouth and I’m rolling on the floor in laughter.

Line from a movie: “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get,” from “Forrest Gump.” The line says it all.

Snack: Boiled peanuts. I began eating them the moment my mother gave birth to me in Dublin, Ga.

Way to unwind after a long day: Coming home and spending time playing with my dog, Bear. No one misses me more, and that includes my wife.

Weekend activity: I love going to our log cabin lake house in east Texas. There’s always something to do, be it boating, fishing, or just hard work around the place to keep it up.


Character Farms created a beach-themed MRI room for Children’s Health Imaging Center in Addison, Texas (left), and a Zen rock garden theme for an adult MRI room at Preferred Imaging in Irving, Texas (right).