Designer at home in Timaru

DEEP CREATIVE: Graphic designer Nik Sweeney shows off a wine box he designed.
DEEP CREATIVE: Graphic designer Nik Sweeney shows off a wine box he designed.

Business reporter Emma Bailey talks to graphic designer Deep Creative's Nik Sweeney about his journey to South Canterbury.

How did you get into design and brand work?

I have been working in the industry for about 20 years. I did a fine arts degree at an Australian university and ended up moving into graphic design after I was contracted to do designs for Disney. Then I went overseas and worked.

I had been thinking about coming back to New Zealand; I was living in Edinburgh and got sick of waiting for the sun to come out in Scotland and then I got offered a job in Auckland.

I quickly realised working in New Zealand was very different to working in the UK or Australia.

I had lived in Auckland until I was 13 years old and in the 20 years I had been away, nothing seemed to have really changed, so I took another job I had been offered in Queenstown.

I was working with a really talented team and got to work with really interesting clients, including Destination Queenstown.

I got offered another job in Dunedin and was told it was a bit like Edinburgh so I moved there and met my fiancee.

How did Deep Creative come about?

It started in Dunedin; contacts and clients were coming to me asking me to do work for them and it got to the point where I couldn't do it alongside the work I was already doing, so something had to give. I had always wanted to set up my own company and knew I wanted to use the name Deep.

How did you end up working from Timaru?

My fiancee got offered a good job in Timaru. To be honest, we had never really thought about living here, although one day we had stopped here for fish and chips on the way from Christchurch to Dunedin and couldn't believe how friendly and helpful everyone was.

Even when we moved here everyone was so keen to help. I've never lived somewhere where everyone seems to be so happy with their lot. That was partly how I ended up working on the Tell A Friend campaign (with ADBT), as we had such a positive experience.

How would you describe your work?

I come up with the ideas behind the idea, the story behind the pretty picture. Using concepts, writing, design, websites, illustration to get the message across.

The work can be pretty broad, but my strength is creative direction, coming up with the idea. I tend to do a lot of packaging work.

Actually a vineyard I work with, Mondillo from Central Otago, won gold for the label I designed at the Pride In Print Awards.

What have been the challenges?

The old recession has been a bit of a challenge. A lot of time when a business needs to cut costs, the first thing that goes is the marketing spend.

I had my frustrations getting used to working in New Zealand. Australia is quite a visual culture and they like pretty pictures and lots of bright colours. [In] the UK [they] use a lot more words. New Zealand likes it straight down the line. You can be too clever sometimes.

There is a real No 8 wire mentality. A business owner may think: ‘I have Microsoft Publisher, I can make do myself rather than pay a creative to do it'.

Running your own business, cashflow is always an issue. Also when it's minus five outside you do want to stay in bed until the sun comes up.

How many staff do you employ?

It is just me but I work with people, I have a group of guys I can trust. I work with a web designer in Queenstown, I design the website and he builds it and we both deal with the same web host in Christchurch. He has proved very reliable; even during the earthquakes he still didn't miss a beat. I also work with a guy in Invercargill who does a lot of formatting for me. I also work with a writer and photographer based in Dunedin and last year we put together a coffee table book on Dunedin history.

Because all my work is reputation-based, I have to work with people I trust.

How many hours a week do you work?

It varies. I used to work up to 80 hours a week but now I am trying to keep it down to between 40 and 50 hours and I am a bit more selective with the work I take on.

Age? 39

Where did you grow up? All over the place, the South Island, the North Island and in Melbourne and country Victoria in Australia.

What is your favourite food? I like cooking so I will eat pretty much anything.

What is your favourite song? It tends to change but anything by The Police.

If the world ended tomorrow, what in your life would you be proudest of? Making my fiancee smile; that is pretty important.

The Timaru Herald