Studio South is a design consultancy based in Auckland, New Zealand. We recently talked to their Founding Creative Director, Sam Southwell.
How did you come to founding Studio South?
Studio South was established in 2015. We had just undergone a significant amount of change, we moved to a new neighbourhood, obtained new clients and most importantly built a strong but small team of talented designers. We needed a way to represent our newly refined offering and collective vision, we felt rebranding ourselves from APLUS to Studio South was the answer to this.
How do you feel the studio has evolved, particularly in the transition from APLUS to Studio South?
The studio has evolved in many ways. While APLUS was a representation of my early career as a designer, South is the representation of a team that work under a singular vision. Outwardly, we’re probably perceived as a more sophisticated and refined offering, largely due to the body of work we’ve focused on obtaining and producing. Inwardly, we've evolved steadily, striving for a sense of control across all of our work. We have seen success come from an understanding of each other and an understanding of the way in which we each operate. We’re genuinely passionate about the jobs we take on, and we try to portray this passion in the work.
For The International’s branding, what was the creative process like in getting to a solution that is as daringly striped back as the end result?
The creative process for The International came with relative ease, although no project is produced without it’s own set of hurdles. It was a project where everyone involved were on the same page from the outset. The idea came quickly and was one that doesn’t take a genius to solve. We certainly weren’t setting out to create a stark or minimal piece of design, rather leave as much room for the idea to do the talking as possible. As a studio we’ve always loved the quote by Leonard Koren – "Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry.” To a certain extent, the identity for The International examples this concept.
Do you like to have books in the studio for reference, or do you find research is becoming more web based?
We have a lot of great books in the studio, although we try not to look too much at what’s already been done. When we’re researching a project, it’s about gaining as much understanding about a client or subject as possible. Before we start on any design, we spend a large amount of time getting to know our clients and their audience, finding out their processes, interests and what inspires them. It’s this time spent upfront that always makes our job a little easier when conceptualising ideas that connect later down the track.
The At Your Request branding avoids all stereotypes associated with cleaning. Do you feel that was crucial in communicating how premium the service is?
In the sense that they wanted to move away from what you might typically associate a cleaning company to look and act like, then it was essential that we did something different. At Your Request always saw their strength in the market as offering a truly premium service and wanted to avoid getting lumped together with more generic cleaning businesses, they wanted us to challenge them in terms of how a cleaning company could be presented. We were dealing with all the same themes as their competitors but chose to express these in a much more refined and sophisticated manner. We picked a very simple idea and threaded it though the entire brand which has proved to be highly adaptable and effective.
What was the process like of developing the website and discovering the new technologies used for the transitions?
Our relative level of inexperience in designing for the web was probably an advantage in this instance. We weren’t really thinking of what was or wasn’t possible – and although it’s not groundbreaking, it did throw up its fair share of technical challenges. It was simply a case of presenting an idea to our developers and giving them enough time to figure it out. We worked with a hugely talented team of developers, General Studios, who were able to take our loose ideas, fill in the gaps and produce something we were extremely happy with.
Do you work with a photographer to capture your portfolio shots?
The majority of our portfolio shots are photographed in-house. While there's some benefit to producing the shots ourselves, it’s very time consuming and we don’t always have the gear or space we require.
Why did you decide to use the simplest part of tailoring – a button, as opposed to something that represents the more challenging and skilled parts, as the face of Meg’s Tailoring?
The button is perhaps the single most identifiable shape within the business and one that relates to the gender-neutral audience. We found that by picking a simple motif, we were able to draw distinction from the familiar. While we had other ideas of how to do this, the button is what resonated with us, the client and their staff. The success was in it’s adaptability, allowing us to play up the business' accessibility or exclusivity depending on the manner of implementation, something that became useful across the many applications that they required.
What are your favourite pieces of recent branding work from around the world?
What did you think of the interview?