If anyone were to consider a career in design, it would be wise to follow the words and methodology of Lee Selsick, the Chief Executive and Creative Director of Next Brand. One thing, “You never stop learning,” says Selsick, referring to a vision he started in 1995, as Next Brand is a specialized company that focuses on corporate, retail and packaging design. For the director, it’s all about the variety, a new challenge every day that makes this line of work rewarding, at least that’s what Selsick claims he enjoys most about the field. Makes sense, considering the realm of design is an ever-evolving superhighway of social trends and expression.
Originating in South Africa and relocating to Australia later, the graphics guru pays homage to where he began and where he ended up, by acknowledging how both localities played impacting roles on his creative journey. For example, “The South African environment stimulated a high degree of creativity and risk taking, the Australian environment is very professional and is a more mature industry,” he says. The designer’s path was not always straightforward; when asked how designing presented itself as a career, Selsick admits: “Initially I was motivated to move into advertising. The course I undertook incorporated about a 40% component, and this interested me more and changed my outlook.” Soon, Selsick tells us, “I decided to study again several years after initially graduating and spent a year at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Without doubt, this was a game changer for me.”
When the founder of Next Brand isn’t acting as his own worst critic, looking at every project for what he could have done better, Selsick seeks alternative outlets by way of photography, football (think: EU), and cricket. Such athletic comradery fits the character, it seems, considering Selsick’s motto: “Never take your eye of the ball.” He correlates the expression with focus and understanding how to stay creative under pressure; to add, the founder of Next Brand maintains a simple and straightforward approach to design: “Concept is king and the execution should be both appropriate to the idea and uncompromising,” he states. In such an evolving industry, it is crucial to stay informed on the latest design trends. To do so Selsick follows “the internet and the British Design Council,” adding that— “they are both strong influences.”
Once the inspiration presents itself, what steps lead to the creative process? According to the designer: “They differ from project to project, but essentially, they all start with idea creation (breadth), then focus on the concept [followed by] fine-tuning the execution.” What happens when the process of execution results in a client’s aversion to the project? “Depends on the delivery,” he says. “If it is respectful and harsh, I acknowledge our weaknesses and work with them to address the problem. If it is disrespectful, I tend to disassociate, and the client will not last long with us.” Understandable, but what about convincing a client to trust the better judgement of a longstanding professional, like Selsick? “That is a very open question to someone who has been in the industry as long as I have. I see every project as a collaboration and if the client does not trust my judgement, I see it only as a starting point of a discussion. We have a high degree of confidence in our work and the outcomes they provide, so we find it a very comfortable conversation to address,” the designer says.
When asked about his proudest piece to date, the designer took a humble approach to an honest question. He said— “There is never one. I am always disappointed with every piece and look forward to improving next time!” With a mindset to always push harder, we want to know what we can expect from Selsick, and Next Brand, in the upcoming future. On his personal and professional goals, the designer states, “My focus is very much on team building. Getting our business to be a hotbed of great designers producing meaningful work.” As past winners of the 2019 Indigo Awards competition they are already well on their way. Regarding the experience, Selsick claims, “I have become fond of the Indigo awards. You run a very professional operation and think the standard of entry is very high. We value our awards, as do our clients (with whom we have the awards) and they have certainly had a positive impact on our business.” We can’t argue with that!