London Lives Series: Mill Co.'s Collective Creativity

Mill Co. not only produces some of the freshest work in design and branding, but it has one of the most innovative approaches to organizing its talent around clients. Its diverse roster of multidisciplinary professionals form a dynamic community deployed to find unique, compelling solutions for clients’ creative needs. We continue our London Lives Series by speaking with Claire Martin, Mill Co.’s creative director, about its mission, team, and the collaborative process.

Why did you start Mill Co.?
We started Mill Co. because we saw a gap in the market for a consultancy that worked purely with freelancers. Our project management services mean we are more like a traditional agency in that sense, but with a much larger offer in terms of our creative network. We also know that often creative freelancers don’t like or aren’t very good at self promotion, so we do it for them, whilst managing budget, timing, and the rest, leaving them free to get on with doing what they do best.

In your estimation, why is collaboration important in the creative process? Why do you think this is particularly appropriate today?
Companies have to be more creative with their budgets. Our service is modular so enrolling exactly the right person for each aspect of their brief is paramount, enabling us to be as conscientious and creative as possible. In a traditional agency the client is often stuck with the team that the agency has, not leaving much room for collaboration and possibly resulting in an output that isn’t quite right. Collaboration also allows the team to be fresh and exciting every time, which will show in the results. We are doing work for JD Sports at the moment and they have many brands under their umbrella, each aimed at a slightly different market. If the team we worked with was exactly the same for each project, we wouldn’t feel that we were providing the best service. We also feel that by not having many overheads, like a big West End office, we can be more realistic with our fees.

What are its benefits and caveats?
The benefits are endless for our clients, who love having the freedom of choice and diversity of creatives that Mill Co. can offer. And we love working for ourselves and being fully in control of who we represent and work with. Caveats? None as yet, really!

Who are some of the current members? What’s the selection process like?

  • Kevin Cummins: photographer of iconic Joy Division images
  • Colin O’Toole: filmmaker/director who works with Ian Brown and Adidas
  • Lisa Stannard: emerging fashion illustrator
  • Si Scott: illustrator who has worked with many brands such as Orange and Adidas
  • Daren Newman: illustrator who is doing incredibly well in New York and is about to break in the UK
  • Patternity: very hot east London graphic design duo
  • We Are Laura: graphic designers who have worked with Modular Records, Antipodium, and the BBC

Why do you think clients are attracted to your strength-in-numbers concept?
We want our clients to feel special, and by offering them their own bespoke team we hand pick the designer, photographer, and web designer that is right for them.

Tell us some of the projects you are working on? How are you applying your collectivism concept to this initiative?
We are working with JD, as previously mentioned, and we have just won a pitch to re-design the Oasis magazine, O’Collections, which we are very excited about. That project will really demonstrate the full Mill Co. offer. We have done an identity for a brand-new wind-to-energy company called Blue Energy Co. We have also been asked to pitch to the creative identity and live visuals for a very exciting new band which you’ll hear about very soon. We are also doing a Glug on Thursday, May 20 at Cargo with Patternity–it’s an honour to be asked to do one of those. Lots of other stuff too!

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