Ever wondered what it’s like to be a Creative Director? 

Jim reveals all in our second Day in the Life…

Rise and shine!
What’s your pre-work morning routine?

My alarm (which is currently Waterfall by Vök) goes off at 5:45 am, Monday to Saturday. As an avid marathon runner, I like to get up and out before Edinburgh has woken up. No matter the season, there’s simply nothing better than running around Arthur’s Seat as you watch the city come to life. This clears my head and sets me up for whatever the day throws at me.

Settling in for the day
How’s your WFH set up?

Well a year ago, I foolishly assumed we’d be working from home for a few weeks, a month max. So much so I left a fairly new, and now infamous bottle of salad cream in the fridge for my imminent return. Joking aside, I’m fortunate enough to have enough (what was once) spare rooms for my wife and I to have a studio each. That way we can continue to have, as much as possible, a ‘normal’ working pattern. We get set up for a 9am start, try to take a proper lunch break in the dining room away from the Macs and close the door behind us at the end of the day for the ‘commute’ downstairs. It’s kind of strange as I have now spent more time working from home than I have in the actual studio.


Out of office
What do you miss most about being in the office?

Not much really as I think as an agency we adapted really well. We were fortunate enough to have had the technology, software and foresight to allow a seamless WFH transition. We’ve now adapted so well we can pretty much offer our clients the same level of service from home, or anywhere in the world. In fact, I spent four weeks last year working from Athens. That being said, no Zoom chat will ever replace the impromptu water fountain dramas.

Background tunes
Do you listen to music while you work?

Spotify has literally been my crutch to get me through lockdown. A little dramatic I know, but I always have music playing – from the minute the alarm goes off at the crack of dawn.

What’s your favourite playlist right now?

I don’t have a favourite playlist as such, it all depends on the day ahead. If I have conceptual work I’ll normally go for some chilled vibes like Chapters by Vertigeux or Back into Daylight by Cantoma. However, if my schedule has a lot of heavy design development work for example annual report spreads, I’ll opt for a higher tempo like of Overtones by Frost or Breathe by CamelPhat & Cristoph to get me working faster.

An important one…
Coffee or tea?

100% coffee, which I take strong and black. Just like my typefaces.

Game plans
What does your average to-do list look like?

My to-do list is more of a running order list to ensure any projects required by lunchtime are tackled in the morning, and any that need to go by COP are handled after lunch. I’m also lucky enough to work with a great team of account managers that plan their projects to within an inch of their lives – which helps me no end.

Express yourself
What’s your most-used emoji?

I’d love to say the thumbs up, but if truth be told I wish I had a penny for everytime I’ve sent the eye roll emoji. Sometimes I roll my own eyes so far back I can see pre-Covid 🙄

Getting appy
Do you have a favourite workday app or tool?

That’s an easy one – it would have to be Pantone Studio. Developed by the undisputed gurus of colour, this digital swatch book contains over 10,000 colours including the Pantone Plus Series. You can use it to colour match hues from pictures, generate various colour palette options that you can automatically sync with your software. Genius.

Fizz Fridays
Imagine we’re in Rutland Square, what are you ordering from maclean’s fizz cart?

If I could order absolutely anything it would be a calorie-free gin and tonic. Failing that I’d have a large gin and slimline which I’d conveniently ‘forget’ to add to my food diary.

Highlight reel
Tell us your favourite project at maclean

My favourite projects at maclean are the ones that generate real traction for our clients. For example, a digital toolkit we created for Salvesen Mindroom Centre gained 11,600 views in its first year. Thus ensuring children and young people had easy access to the resources they needed, especially during lock down. For me this is the real difference from just creating pretty pictures and generating creative solutions that deliver results.

Tip-top advice
Any advice for anyone wanting to become a Creative Director?

My number one tip is to remember you’re a director not a dictator. Everyone in the team has the ability to generate good ideas and my role is to help bring THEIR ideas to fruition. That way, if we have 3 creatives working on a project we can present 3 individual routes to our client. Besides, I don’t see the point forcing the team to recreate diluted versions of my ideas – I can do that quite easily myself 😉

You’re in the waiting room…
How many Zoom meetings do you have on an average day?

Working in the creative services there’s no such thing as average. I could have anywhere between 3 (planned) and 10 (unplanned) zoom meetings all dependent on the workload of the studio, who’s working on which projects, imminent deadlines and which end of the month we are at. Needless to say by the weekend I’m not ashamed to say I’ve wished my wifi would go down just to avoid Family Quiz Night.

Spread the knowledge
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard?

“If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.”
Whether it’s a client seeing their new identity that raises a smile in the mind, or a colleague that just needs a right good belly laugh to help diffuse a stressed day. Now, more than ever, Dolly Parton’s words ring true….

Switching off
Any tips for keeping your workday and home life separate?

I’m a firm believer that segmentors are far more productive and receptive than their integrator counterparts. So I always encourage my team and I to set clear boundaries between work life and home life to ensure less conflict between the two. It can be as simple as muting Slack after 5:30 or having a mock commute where, instead of a 30 minute bus ride, you spend 30 mins with a book or catching up with the news.

Happy camper
Favourite thing about your job?

In short no two projects, clients or days are the same. Building an environment for the team to thrive, maintaining the creative philosophy and standard of output and ensuring clients briefs are not just met, but surpassed would be the whole story.

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