Studio Visit

Adam Gibson and Andy Sargent of SouthSouthWest

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
29th of June 2012

Andy Sargent of SouthSouthWest design studio, Fitzroy - photo by Sean Fennessy
Andy Sargent of SouthSouthWest - photo by Sean Fennessy
Adam Gibson of SouthSouthWest - photo by Sean Fennessy
Identity, branding and campaign design for Ceres Fair Food by SouthSouthWest
Web design for Ceres Fair Food by SouthSouthWest

OK I admit it.  I am crushing on the boys at SouthSouthWest.  It's all very innocent of course, all of them are happily partnered (as am I), but I can't help it if people are dashingly good looking and immensely talented AND just outrageously NICE, can I??? It's like the triple threat.

I've been admiring SSW's work for quite some time, but figured it was an opportune time to introduce them to you today because they are the amazing design team behind The Design Files NEW LOOK!! (Launching in 2 days, people, agh!!) It's the first time we've worked together, and I must say I am mightily impressed with their brilliant design work, attention to detail and general good manners!

Adam Gibson and Andy Sargest met at Art School in Hobart (they both grew up in Tassie).  Whilst at uni together they dreamt about opening a studio 'some day',  but it wasn't until the opportunity to presented itself in Melbourne in 2007 that they decided to take the plunge.  That makes SouthSouthWest 5 years old this September - an impressive milsetone for any young business.

In the five years that have passed since launching their studio, Adam, Andy, business partner / account director Jonathon Price and now fulltime staff member Jesse Mallon have tackled a great variety of design projects across both print and web - building a super slick portfolio of work for clients including Nike, KeepCup, State of Design Festival, Ceres Fair Food and many more.  At the moment they have diverse mix of projects on the go - from a Tasmanian cider company brand, to an independent arts festival, to an Eco-Lodge in the Kgalagadi Desert in Botswana!  As a small studio I'm not quite sure how they juggle such an epic amount of work, both locally and further afield, and deliver everything so perfectly, on time and with no fuss.  They are completely unflappable and have such a chilled-out approach to every challenge - I really wish some of that would rub off on me!

It's been such a lovely process working with these lads over the past few months getting TDF's 'New Look' just right.  I hope you enjoy learning a little more about this fantastic local design studio!

Can you tell us a little about your backgrounds – where did both you grow up, what did you study,  what path led you to founding SouthSouthWest?

Adam Gibson: I grew up in Hobart and studied at The School of Art. My interest in design started when I was much younger through my Dad who is a draftsman by trade. I was introduced to tech drawing and house plan drawing through him and I think that’s where the seed was planted.

At University Andy and I studied alongside each other, and we always talked about where we would end up with the hope to one day start a studio together. At the time it was a pie-in-the-sky kind of discussion, but as the years rolled by it became more realistic. Then one day we were in the right position to do it, so we did.

Andy Sargent: I have always been into making things and drawing things. The School of Art was a great way to learn design within the context of a Fine Art Degree meaning other disciplines like drawing, photography, printmaking, art history and painting were central to our learning and continue to influence our approach today. We launched SouthSouthWest in 2007, which means we'll be turning five in September!

What have been one or two favourite projects in recent years?

AG: For me our identity for room11 Architects was a big turning point and still remains to be one of my favourite projects that I have designed. It was a combination of a strong idea that was collectively conceived as a studio and executed in a really simple but thoughtful way. More recently we have been working on a Tasmanian cider company brand that obviously has a big emotional connection to the studio. Not only for the fact that it’s a cider. (Laughs)

Identity for Room11 Architects by South South West
AS: Our identity for Ceres Fair Food is one that we don't talk that much about, but it's seemed to resonate really well with the CERES community. It always nice to be able to push some illustrative work out and see it applied well and understood. In a similar way, our identity for Clay Fine Food and Health was another simplistic store identity that continues to work really well for the little store in North Carlton. Our recent re-branding of Australian Infront was another really enjoyable project and a brave outcome as well.
Branding for Clay Fine Food and Health store by South South West
Branding for Clay Fine Food and Health by South South West
How is your business structured – where are you based, how many do you employ, do you both still play a very hands on role in each project, and what significant tasks does the studio outsource?

AG: The third level of a warehouse in Fitzroy is the heart of SouthSouthWest. We have one other full time employee – the very talented Mr Jesse Mallon. We work across all projects in different capacities. Depending on the stage of project sometimes a little more weight is given with respect to our involvement, but essentially we are a very hands-on studio. As directors we encourage anyone to feel that they can challenge our ideas and designs, despite what their role in the studio may be. If we are designing for the real world it should be tested by the real world.

AS: We have also recently started doing work in Botswana in partnership with a like-minded local. It's really exciting to be working in and with an entirely different culture.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

AG: Several discussions around a whiteboard / pinboard / skateboard / cheeseboard. In amongst all of that there is also about eight hours of bum-on-seat time.

Andy Sargent of SouthSouthWest - photo by Sean Fennessy
Jesse Mallon of SouthSouthWest - photo by Sean Fennessy
Can you name for us 5 resources across any media (i.e. magazines, websites, blogs or other) which you visit regularly for a bolt of creative inspiration, or just to be kept in the loop!?

Adam: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Andy: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Brand New

Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

Adam: Thom Yorke Bibliothèque Josh Robenstone Darren Henderson Cory White

Andy: Jim Houser Anthony Lister Brendan Monroe Hayao Miyazaki Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis Niels Oeltjen My wife (with her taste in colour)
What are you most proud of professionally?

AG: For me the fact that we have created a studio that continues to grow is something to be proud of. It’s a tough world out there for the little guys so it’s nice to have achieved some success.

AS: I agree, I'm proud of the fact we have managed to help many people big and small grow their business through our approach to branding and design. I'm also proud and pleased to be doing work in interesting places that are outside of Melbourne, of course we love Melbourne, but it's nice to explore other cities some which presently include Tasmania, Daylesford, Sydney, Botswana and the US. It's also really rewarding to be in the position to work with other creative people as a collaborator, contributor, employer, mentor,  junior, any which way.

What would be your dream creative project?
SouthSouthWest design studio, Fitzroy - photo by Sean Fennessy
AG: Not entirely sure, but it would involve the ocean, fast things, heat, photography and full creative licence!

AS: 'Dream Job' is a bit of a utopian myth. If I was to rewind a few years, many of the projects we have on this week would probably fulfill the criteria. At the moment we have a really healthy broad mix of projects including an Eco-Lodge in the Kgalagadi Desert in Botswana to an independent arts festival, a basketball campaign for Nike and the aforementioned cider company brand. I think a healthy mix is as important as the one single dream job.

What are you looking forward to?
AG: The future where we will continue to advance creatively through the people we meet and the experiences we share. AS: Professionally, continuing to broaden the range of work we do and where we do it. Learning new things and facing bigger challenges.

Melbourne Questions

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

AG: Fitzroy. Moved here eight years ago and can’t go anywhere else! I love the mix of people in the area and there’s always a good energy around it.

AS: I always enjoy visiting a couple of mates down in Balaclava.

Where do you shop in Melbourne for the tools of your trade?

AG: Brunswick Street Bookstore, Smith Street Bazaar for everything, and L&D Photo for LOMO film processing.

AS: Gertrude Street for hardware and paint from Manfax, supplies from Deans Art, coffee from De Clieu, knick knacks and gifts from Third Drawer Down and veggie pasties from Fatto a Mano. Melbourne Etching Supplies is great for Art supplies too, I love their Japanese printmaking tools.
Where/what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

AG: Casa Ciuccio's  suckling goat.

AS: Jim's Greek Tavern's char grilled seafood platter.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

AG: Bird Rock in Torquay, Australia.

AS: Gleadell Street fruit and vegetable markets in Richmond with my son Otto.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

AG: I haven’t learnt that one yet!

AS: Maybe Adam Cruickshank.

SouthSouthWest design studio, Fitzroy - photo by Sean Fennessy

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