SouthSouthWest is a full service branding and design company in Melbourne. Started by Andy Sargent and Adam Gibson, friends who met in art school in Tasmania, this small studio has worked on big projects. They’ve designed The Design Files website, advertising campaigns for Nike and branding for a wide range of companies, from cider to state government. They are more than just graphic designers; everything the team does is underpinned by strategy and research.
Level 3 105 Victoria Street Fitzroy VIC 3065 Australia
Interview With Adam Gibson & Andy Sargent - SouthSouthWest
How did you get started in graphic design?
AG. Always had an interest in art, drawing, technical drawing as a kid. My dad is a draftsman, and he introduced me to ink and pens at a young age. I guess the idea of mark making came from him. I started using computers when he had one for his work. I used to make crazy type mashups in Microsoft Word.
AS. I've always made stuff with my hands and drawn detailed things. As a kid I loved graphic things like basketball cards, record covers, team logos and later flyers and street art. I didn't find graphic design as a career path till late in high school.
What made you start SouthSouthWest?
AG. There came a time where we were all working for other people and not really following what we wanted to do creatively. It was all about timing - the chance to take the plunge arose, and we jumped on it.
AS. We are really fortunate to be able to learn on the job before jumping straight onto it after Art School. Also fortunate to have two creatives and a more business focused partner (Jonathan) which has been invaluable.
You have a strategist at SSW, what’s the thinking behind that?
Strategy has become a necessary element of our offering as the studio takes on more larger projects. While we have a strategist involved, we also challenge ourselves to be involved in the strategy development and grow into this role. The advantage of this is there isn't a disconnect between strategy and creative. Or, the strategy has in-built creative potential.
How do you collaborate?
AG. If there's something that is beyond our skill set, or we think a certain artist can help add something to – we collaborate.
AS. Collaboration is a daily function for us internally and with others, we all have different aesthetics and skills so we apply them across the life of any project where required. If a project requires anything extra we collaborate openly with others, trying to make the most of their talent rather than crush it.
Do you think this will be a trend that we’ll see more of?
Collaboration isn't a trend. It has always happened and always will.
How can a young designer incorporate strategy into how they work now?
AS. Strategy is a process that takes time to learn, develop, refine and integrate into your process. At the simplest level the best way to begin to incorporate strategic thinking is to be extremely thorough in understanding a project from all angles, particularly on the client side including their business objectives and how they relate to the project at hand. Research, instinct, insights, thoughts.
What’s the one thing you would tell a graphic designer NOT to do?
AG. Spell stationery incorrectly. Other than that, there's no rules.
AS. Dont claim you can singlehandedly change the world with design.
You’ve spoken at design conferences such as Semi-Permanent, how did you find the experience?
AG. It's great to know that the students get a lot out of it and it makes them feel like they are on the right track. I also think it gives you a personal confidence boost and a sense of accomplishment. It's a win/win.
AS. Speaking at events like this is always a great opportunity for self reflection also, makes you question exactly what it is you do, what ties it all together. Also reminds you about being hungry to learn and staying inspired.
SSW works on a lot of different kind of projects from website re-designs to branding. What’s been one of your favourite projects of the last year and why?
AG. Our branding project for Spreyton Cider Co in Tasmania is close to our heart. And also the redesign of The Design Files website brought us much joy.
AS. We've been working on several projects in Botswana that are about to launch which have been fascinating, challenging, rewarding and inspiring
How do you stay creative?
AG. Get away from the computer as much as possible. Swallow some salt water every weekend.
AS. Stay open to as much cultural influence and non-design related inspiration as possible. Try not to always respond how one might expect.