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The Creative Essentials of James Millers, Leo Burnett London Creative Director

How afternoon visits from dinosaurs and superheroes inspire him every day

Reality vs imagination—there is a wide division between the two for some. For others, like Leo Burnett Creative Director James Millers, where the two worlds collide is a source of daily inspiration.

For James, creative inspiration comes both in the form of his son’s imaginative interruptions throughout the day—one day he’ll be a superhero and other days a dinosaur— and also the grounding view of lovely London outside his home office window; both spark a new perspective on his work.

Unique perspective has been paramount in James’s inventive campaigns, such as the “Iconic Stacks” campaign for McDonald’s UK—illustrating the impact of minimalism in brand-free ads by leveraging typography and familiar colors.

We caught up with James to pick his brain about his “creative essentials”—the items, people and places that spark his creativity while working from home.

“Ok, so it’s not exactly an object and I certainly don’t own it—but it’s a brilliant city that I moved to around 15 years ago for my first job in advertising and I have a lot of love for it. Despite lockdown and other restrictions, I’m lucky enough to still be able to see the city every day from the desk I’m practically glued to. The old adage of looking out of the window for inspiration is pretty much a daily occurrence, well, at least on the days when the fog hasn’t set in anyway.”

“Or Batman, or a dinosaur, or a lion or some other made-up character my son doesn’t actually have a costume for. He’s a living, breathing reminder of the awesome imagination children have that we tend to lose a little as we get older. One of the benefits of working from home is getting to see a little bit more of him, and his imagination certainly rubs off on me. Of course, it’s not ideal when he runs into the room on a client call “blasting” everything—but hey, this is advertising, not global politics, after all.”

Note pad
“Yes, that little black book up on my desk is a Godsend. I have a memory of a goldfish, and if I didn’t have a notepad to write everything down I would be flapping around even more than I do now. I’ve been through more note pads in the past nine months than the previous nine years. This one I got free from a chemistry meeting years ago. Also, pens—I know most of us take the work stationary cupboard for granted. Never again! They’re like gold dust in my house.”

Apple Pencil
“Speaking of pens and pencils, I’m used to working with a Wacom tablet in the office. Not having it at home meant I had to get used to a trackpad for everything—that was until I discovered the Apple Pencil and Procreate. Procreate is a brilliant app and well worth the 999 pennies I spent on it. My scamps no longer look like they were drawn by the aforementioned child and belong nowhere other than a fridge door.”

“You can’t see it because I’m using it to take this picture. I have some other film cameras which I could have slipped in here to try and look ‘cool’, but I would be lying if I said I’d even picked them up since March. Photography though, is a big creative output for me, even in WFH life. However, these days, the ratios have slipped somewhat to be about 90% pictures of my son.”