Surya Prasetya — SPGD
Surya is the Art Director at SPGD, a graphic design and visual communication studio based in Melbourne.
I have always had a passion and admiration for visual storytelling. Growing up my family was always naturally skilled at the typical artistic endeavours (drawing, painting etc.) and it was something I always had an interest in but always struggled to find the medium to express my creativity. After travelling for a year after school, I became really interested in photography as I was continuously taking pictures when I was travelling. Then photography felt like a natural extension into moving into something like cinematography, which working in film has always been a dream of mine.
As time went on though, there seem to be more and more opportunities in the design field. So I decided to make the switch and found that the versatility of design and what you could do was really exciting. After some time in traditional graphic design I branched out into more digital as I saw it as this really interesting intersection of art + technology and what you could do seem to only be limited by your creativity. Working in digital created a lot of interesting opportunities to craft experiences where you could create really expressive small details to help build that visual storytelling. I have now been working mostly in the digital space for almost 10 years now.
I like to start my day early as it gives me a chance to relax, enjoy some coffee and plan out what I have to do that day. Working with different time zones, I usually jump into slack as early as I can to answer any messages that came in overnight. Then I block out 15-30 min every morning to just look at some inspiration in what's happening in the creative world, whether that's design, music, film, or fashion.
After that, I sync with the design team to check in on how other peoples' days are looking. The rest of the day is a balance between meetings and design work that needs to get done. I always try to get in a run after work, as I find it a great way to kind of process the day's events. I really enjoy cooking too, so I find it a relaxing task to unwind at the end of the day. I used to always work really, really late but these days trying to do that less and less, but it's a hard habit to break haha.
Inspiration is one of those nebulous things like creativity that you kind of never know where it's going to come from. So find it best to just be always open to anything and everything. New experiences like travel is probably the best place to start in my opinion. Beyond that though for me it's always been sort of this mix of film, art and fashion. They are just pure visual expressions and I find you can pull so much inspiration and context from them.
For me anything that lives in the abstraction (Like film or art) that you can derive meaning from is really profound and I find it this kind of endless well to pull ideas from. I find listening or reading from the people who work in those fields are really inspiring as well as you can pull some fresh ideas and not just kind of stay in the typical design bubble. From a technical digital standpoint I do check out the usual suspects to kind of get a feel of where things are at but I always try to seek out less conventional spaces to find interesting ideas.
Seeing the work in the international design community it’s almost impossible to select something as there is something incredible I see on almost a daily basis. So for me I think I would kind of go to something outside of typical “design” but something I find was beautifully put together. That is Jóhann Jóhannsson multimedia project Last and First Men. Its mix of visuals and sound in this kind of visual audiobook is stunning. It’s like an installation piece you can access at any time. Its use of the visuals of the memorial sculptures are always something I love to reference.
This year I had the opportunity to work on so many incredible things with so many incredible people. I would have to say the highlight for me was The Quarry House for Matthew Fisher. It was a project that was a year in the making and brought together every aspect of design and art direction. Also working with sound is something I try to incorporate whenever I can and having the opportunity to do it on that project was really special. I would also have to throw in the mix the work we did for Erin Wesley. She is such a talented cinematographer and her work really inspired me and the team to push ourselves to try to make something that would match how great her own work is.
I think the biggest challenge is always trying to recapture that spark and energy to carry you through the next project. I find after especially a long project whether it went good or bad to pick yourself back up and how you can avoid the same mistakes or how to recapture that magic again to replicate that success. It’s a challenging thought that keeps me up most nights haha.
I think my biggest piece of advice is never be afraid to step into the unknown, as cliché as it is to say. The trajectory I have been on was completely unexpected and without going outside my comfort zone I never would have got to where I am. For me another big piece (especially in the world of art direction) is learning to become a good storyteller. Giving meaningful context to what you are creating might be one of the best tools to use in my opinion. Finding that subtext is so helpful and it puts you in a place of empathy that is so valuable. Also find, curate and cultivate your style. When you find that space and do it really really well I think people take notice of that attention and care about the craft.
All the incredible and amazing people I work with at CUSP. They continue to inspire me and make me proud of the culture and work that have had the amazing opportunity to be a part of.