We had a super fun interview with Founder and Creative Director of Auckland based Studio South, Sam Southwell we asked him 25 questions, it’s a great quick read – especially if you want to know how to pimp your portfolio and learn more about their internship program!
If you were going to start your career what would you do differently?
Find a rich investor.
What about your education, what would you do differently?
I’d go to a fine art school, I never trained as a graphic designer at a school.
When did you fall in love with design?
I fell in love with design when I could execute my ideas to paper at a young age.
List your top three design books?
Any book from Unit Editions catalogue.
Who are the members of your team and their roles?
Jeremy Evans, Matt Kitto and Kirsty Dawn, all creatives leading design projects across many different commercial industries.
What have been your highlights since you started out?
Growing into a team so I could share my ideas with other intelligent cool people, then rebranding this year has been a huge highlight.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1. Design is hard, don’t underestimate how long design can take.
2. Human conversations solve things 10 times faster than computers.
3. Listen to your clients.
4. Don’t overcommit your studios production calendar.
5. Don’t stoop on quality to get work out the door, it’s better to keep the bar high for studio satisfaction and staff moral.
Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?
The world is so populated with design, good and bad, invisible design is the best design, so less embellishment, more clever thinking.
Whats the big goal in the next five years?
Keep paying my designers wages! Aside from that push our studio and its work onto the world stage.
Whats your take on internships?
We try to offer two internships per year if we can fit them into our busy schedule. One in March for 1 month and 1 in August for 1 month. We judge whether we’d take someone on purely based on their online portfolio.
What advice would you give students starting out?
Learn the technical skills because the ideas should come naturally. Once you have both you become a product of desire for design directors.
What do you look for in a great portfolio?
Clean pragmatic work, nothing too trendy.
What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate?
Across the board skills, strong conceptually with good technical skills to execute their ideas.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I didn’t study anywhere, my first job was doing packaging graphics for a New Zealand beverage company. It taught me a lot about print production and how to build vector art into nice print outcomes.
What does a typical working day include for you right now?
My role as creative director is to provide an environment where my designers feel comfortable to confidently express their ideas. I’m in charge of all communications from sales to important creative decision making process’s. I build relationships on a daily basis with new and existing clients and suppliers to solve creative problems. This takes up 65-70 hours worth of my time every week. I wear a lot of hats!
Any passion projects you would like to share?
Our recent project for our new studio name was a very passionate project, limitless in budget, so very enjoyable to produce.
What has been some of your biggest disasters?
Spelling someones business name wrong when presenting their identity! Always check your work before presenting.
Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
Professionally I’m extending my creative strategy skills, as our projects become large and detailed across more layers, the need for strategy and definition of design purpose is key. I’m also still trying to learn to spell better. Personally – I’m getting married to my best friend, she is my world outside of work. We’re also renovating our house a little.
What do you think the design community could do more of to give back?
Sharing design stories is intuitive and understanding how others work is nice, so I’d like to see as much of that as possible. Less tax from the government on the design industry would be good.
Tell us about any collaborations you have been doing.
We are a very inhouse style studio, we take pride in trying to produce everything. We often collaborate with local based artist Elliot O Donnell, (TMD) the guy is so talented. We collaborate with Torque Productions a lot with high end fabrications.
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops?
I recently did a lecture at Whitecliffe School of Design to the 4th year students about how to prepare for the commercial world. I think all students need to be very focused moving into the commercial world, it’s competitive out there.
What three naughty things have you done in your career to get ahead?
1. Haha, I’m a pretty honest guy.
2. I’ve used the same font for a few logos…!
3. I’ve sold expensive design solutions to my good friends!
Bonus. I didn’t go to school! Whoops
What role does digital design play in your studio in 2015?
The digital landscape is a monumental part of just about every large identity we do. Applying the same principles you would use for print design is creating a much simpler web environment. I’m enjoying where the web is heading.
What are the three worst jobs you have done?
I’ve worked on some shocking projects, it would be embarrassing to publicly list anything so I’ll just say I’ve sold my soul and integrity just to get a project over the line a few times. It’s normal I think!