Out West: Interviews with WA Designers : Russell Springham
10th December, 2009
Sean McKay bring us a series of interviews with some of Western Australia's most renowned graphic designers.
Russell Springham has worked in the design industry for over 35 year. Originally from the UK he established Leaves Springham Design in 1979 and later Russell Springham Design. Currently he works as an independent brand consultant focused on providing business with effective brand and communications strategies. His aim is to establish a perfect balance between strategy and design, thinking and doing, analysis and creativity.
Why did you become a graphic designer?
I studied graphic design at Ware College in Hertfordshire, UK. Initially, I thought that I was enrolled in a fine art course but soon discovered it was a graphic design course when our very first assignment was to design a record sleeve. I had no idea what graphic design was, but I remember thinking at the time, ‘this is brilliant' and fell for it, hook, line and sinker.
Who were your influences earlier in your career?
Les Mason. Ken Cato advised us that Les had moved to Perth from Melbourne and that my partner Ray Leeves and I should contact him. I will never forget the first time we met him, he basically laid out our work on the floor and proceeded to verbally cut it to pieces. The great thing about Les, though, was that he always explained why it was bad, pointing out all the flaws. After that, I worked closely with Les for two years and he taught me to make a difference, a real contribution. For the very first time in my career I really felt passionate about design.Les also made a significant contribution to the promotion of graphic design in WA.
Where did you work?
Leeves Springham Design [January 1979 - December 1982]
In Perth in the late seventies there was no graphic design industry. Perth was an advertising town with some production houses to service agency needs. I met Ray Leeves working for one of these production houses. He was out from London like myself and from a graphic design background. We both discussed the situation and realised that there was a need for a true design offering and as a result opened the doors of Leeves Springham.
This resulted in two main initiatives. The first was to bring Ken Cato over from Melbourne to speak about graphic design at a publicised industry function. Ken had the highest profile of all graphic designers in Australia at that time, and had already built an international reputation.
The second initiative was to run a series of ads in the West Australian promoting the differences between working with an ad agency and a design house. This was a novel approach which led to a call from the head creatives at Ogilvy, who were impressed and invited us over for some drinks, discussion, and some of our first design commissions. Ironically, I would come to work closely with Ogilvy again some 20 years later in Asia.
What were some of your favourite projects that you worked on?
TVS Motor Company is India's third largest motorbike manufacturer. Following its separation from Suzuki Motors, after 19 years of partnership, the brand underwent a name change and a significant strategic shift from the recognised TVS Suzuki brand. As a result the challenge was to develop a new brand strategy and a visual communications system that would provide smooth transition and maintain consumer confidence in the Indian market.
The TVS factory is located in Bangalore and the brand is prominent in southern India. We therefore conducted an extensive audit in all major cities including the north, seeking internal and external viewpoints for a total India solution.
The new brand was launched at the India Motor Expo in New Delhi. We designed and project managed the exhibit working with the client to also integrate a TVC and showtime performance that reinforced the new brand strategy.
I highlight this program because it brings together all the project elements that excite me, working with a new culture, understanding the market, strategy, design and execution. During the making of this project I worked in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi. The exhibit was awarded a ‘Best Of Market Award' by Ogilvy in Asia.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
I have lived and worked in Australia and the Asia Pacific for over 15 years and enjoy the cultural immersion and diversity that this experience has brought. Understanding and insight is not something that can be achieved purely by research - I believe in exposure as a valuable tool for understanding the marketplace and integrating successful brand strategies.
Having worked in Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, India and Japan I have witnessed the cultural gap and acquired the life experiences that come from managing business in these countries, from Asia Pacific workshops for Hilton International in Sarawak to brand insight programs for TVS Motor Company in Bangalore.
What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
Establishing Springham Anderson Design, with full service offices situated in Perth and Singapore. Growing the business in terms of reputation and gaining strong recognition in the respective markets of Perth and South East Asia.
The acquisition of Springham Anderson Design by WPP in 2000 and establishing Enterprise IG - Global brand agency in Singapore as part of their expansion into the Asia Pacific region. Enterprise IG was ranked number 1 in Design Week UK's 2000, 01, 02 surveys of the top 100 Brand Agencies Worldwide.
The transition of a design communications offering to a strategic brand consultancy with the methodology, tools and knowledge of a recognised global brand agency such as Enterprise IG.
Raising the bar creatively, including award recognition from D&AD London and Ogilvy Best of Market BOM Design.
Positioning the Singapore office as one of the strongest in the Asia Pacific region.
Regional design workshops in Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Sydney and Ho Chi Min City.
How do you feel graphic design has changed in Australia since you began work?
I don't have a clear understanding of recent progression in Australia specifically because my focus has been in Asia. However, I believe that the creative standard across all states in Australia has come a long way and bears comparison with any of the best work you see today.
What are some of your professional goals for the future?
To continue to make a difference. To establish a perfect balance between strategy and design.
How do you see the direction of graphic design in Australia going?
Is there an Australian design style? I'm not sure that there has been a sense of this in the same way as the Swiss, Dutch or Japanese styles but I do believe that Australian design is adventurous, colourful, crafted and accomplished. One area that I do notice a distinctive style when overseas is the work produced for the wine industry. Australian wine labels are recognisable for their imagination, boldness and creativity, which reinforces the Australian philosophy in general. Likewise in drama and sports.
I don't know what future direction graphic design will take here, but I do think it has the same opportunity as the Australian film industry, in that its naturally brave and creative approach has made its mark on the world stage.
What do you feel Western Australia will contribute to Graphic Design?
Western Australia has made its mark on the national scene. As stated earlier, there was a time when graphic design outside of Melbourne and Sydney was noticeable by its absence. Since then there have been some progressive graphic design groups and bold designers who have converted potential into reality and registered a permanent footprint on the Australian design scene.
For this to continue I believe we should place greater emphasis on the quality of design education in Western Australia. There was a time when a wave of young designers came through the system and made a significant impact on the design scene here and nationally, it's no coincidence they arrived on such a strong wave, it was the result of teaching by committed educators with a real passion for the design process. These lecturers also had a national perspective and connections within the design industry.
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