From their base in Melbourne, Tim Semple and his eponymous independent design practice create colourful, typographically vivid identities for businesses and start-ups across the globe. We caught up to him to find out more about his team of “practical, efficient problem-solvers,” as well as why he decided to leave agency life to start his own studio and the lessons he’s learnt along the way as a result.
The Brand Identity: Hey Tim, how’s 2021 going for you so far?
Tim Semple: Hey! Thank you for having me here in text today. 2021 has been fast, and slow, if that makes sense. We’re already in July and have been neck-deep in some of our wider-scoped projects. Overall, we’re kicking milestones and pushing our creative boundaries across the globe.
TBI: That’s great to hear. It sounds like it’s been a defining year for you. How have you found working through the pandemic?
TS: To be honest, amazingly. I found our success skyrocketed during the 2020 lockdowns as we saw many new enquiries – even to the point of having to forward briefs to other sources. It was overwhelming and certainly kept us sane and busy bees!
“It was overwhelming and certainly kept us sane and busy bees!”
TBI: Your website’s opening statement of “We’re not claiming to be the best at what we do” is quite the opposite of how most agencies talk about themselves. What made you take that stance?
TS: Ah yes, the very ‘soft,’ almost sitting back in the corner sort of introduction. In summary, we’re all about showing the visual identity of a brand we’re working with quite literally, as visual. It’s a great backbone that I personally adapted from my ex-role in a creative agency which is that of ‘show, don’t tell.’ We want the level of strategy, intellectual thought process and executions of our creative directions to do the heavy lifting and the talk – as we are a branding and creative direction based practice. We wanted to capture this verbally as a way of detailing our approach to projects through modest, reasoning and trusting personalities. Our ongoing client relationships (and new business) is about bringing them along on the journey and fleshing out their brand through a workshop and learning as we go.
Also, not to mention this ‘holding page’ is simply that… we’ve had a decent beta of our full website hosted through Netlify for some time, but I’ve since changed directions with this, which happens all too commonly, but I digress.
TBI: Scrolling down your Instagram page it feels like your work has become even more colourful in recent years. Would you agree?
TS: We’re very much typography and colour driven in our body of work. I think colour, and colour theory, holds a strong place in the communicative strength of a brand and the overall message it conveys. I also like us to try and stand out from the obvious monotones and real bare minimal identities that exist, everywhere.
“I started in my family’s living room drawing every night.”
TBI: Do you have a project you consider to be your best work?
TS: This is a tough one for us to say. I personally think every brand we’ve worked with has been unique and very rewarding, to say the least. We’ve met quite a few clients who show true passion and love for what they created, and what they believe in. I think this holds much power over the experience we have in a project’s entirety. So no, I don’t favour any of the projects individually!
TBI: Let’s go back to the beginning, how did you get into the profession of graphic design?
TS: To put this in a short and sweet story, I started in my family’s living room drawing every night which led to discovering Photoshop class at 15. I had only just learnt a career existed as Graphic Design and found myself dedicated to that path ever since.
TBI: What triggered you to start your own practice and stop working in agencies?
TS: Ultimately, I have always aspired to do my own thing, run my own show. I feel at home when I am leading/directing a visual task or project and feed off energies of other creatives and input. I think it plays like the olde saying “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Similarly, by working for agencies/employers you grasp that process and knowledge to take forward with you. I think experiencing this also played a part in my dreams to move forward, independently.
“Learn to fail as much as you succeed.”
TBI: What’s been the most memorable lesson you’ve learnt from working for yourself?
TS: Don’t undersell yourself and learn to fail as much as you succeed. Everyone is different, every client is different. One day you’re tying up a wicked creative direction for a pretty lowkey client, the next you’re pulling hair out because another doesn’t like the perfectly proportioned typefaces you’ve pitched. I also have learned to at times jump off the perfectionist bus and be humble to myself, that we are all human.
TBI: Who are your creative influences?
TS: Easy. A lot of typographic-led agencies like SP-GD, CD & Co. to name a couple. Always have been, always will be.
TBI: We love both of those studios too. Both Australian too. Do you think Australian design gets enough attention or credit on a global scale?
TS: I think, like a lot of global studios, it boils down to selling yourself and standing out from the bunch. This then grabs attention of huge brands etc. which then grabs further attention/recognition (credentials) on a global scale. I think what both of these practices do best is keep a strong style that flows in every piece they create whilst keeping each project new. Australia tends to not get as much attention as we’d hope in many avenues, probably cause we’re all the way down here, but I think that is all changing with the times.
“I get overwhelmed with so many different ideas.”
TBI: Do you ever get creative block? If so, how do you handle it?
TS: Yes, this happens a lot to me. I think being a very creative driven person I get overwhelmed with so many different ideas and personal hobbies that at times I can’t sit still. I don’t think all the late nights I spend working helps either, whoops.
TBI: Are you one for routine? What does a typical morning look like for you?
TS: I’m definitely a creature of habit. I tend to get up at the same time every morning, have a quick look through my phone (Mail, Instagram, Pinterest etc.) with breakfast whilst I lay out the schedule for the day. Once I am freshened up, it’s work-work until after 5 (most days).
TBI: What software and tools do you use to stay organised?
TS: I started with some Streamtime as that helped structure projects into blocks (good for day-to-day), but ultimately I keep tabs using Dropbox Paper and lists. I have for years now and don’t see us changing soon, especially as a small team.
“You learn that you are human and need to recharge.”
TBI: Do you manage to find a good balance between work and life?
TS: Ultimately, yes I do find a good balance. I used to struggle with this and would work too much as I was energetic and devoted to evolving. I still am, but I think with maturity and experience – as well as a medical condition – you learn that you are human and need to recharge. I find ways to stay focused and creative, but in enjoyable ‘off-the-clock’ sort of ways. I began learning the sheer basics of hip-hop music production to which making beats allows me to switch off, whilst still being creative.
TBI: What are you looking forward to?
TS: In general, for society to return to a sense of freedom and ‘normal.’ I think both professionally speaking and personally, this will help pave the future in TS.S success, and also in my own growth, creatively. I look forward to working with new international clients and seeing a few of our recent brands go live baby!