As creative director and partner of this Brooklyn-based design and production studio, Kelli Miller must balance the creative and admin parts of the business.
Name: Kelli Miller
What Does And/Or do?
And/Or is a Brooklyn-based design and production studio. We believe that good culture makes good work, substance is just as important as style and everything’s a little better with a sense of humor.
Our specialties include design and branding, campaign development and show packaging, and film and TV titles for brands and entertainment networks.
What’s your job title?
What does that entail?
We’re a small studio so we all tend to have our hands in everything. On the creative directing side of things this means I am leading and directing all of our projects with the help of my partner Kendra Eash. Sometimes I do double or triple time as designer and art director, depending on the project. I also direct our live-action work, so that means I’m doing treatments, storyboards, on-set directing the shoot, editorial direction, etc. — which I love.
On the partner side it’s making sure we’re managing our cash flow, doing new business outreach and meeting prospective clients as well as maintaining relationships with existing clients. It also means managing our creative team and freelancers, meeting new talent and collaborators. So yeah, a little bit of everything!
What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
Well what surprised me the most about owning a studio is the amount of work that goes into running the business from an admin perspective. It seems obvious but when you’re actually confronted with choosing healthcare plans, cash flow management and IT upkeep it’s all very… surprising.
What have you learned over the years about running a business?
Too much to distill into words! It’s incredibly hard. Much harder than I could have imagined. The biggest take away is the ups are epic and the downs are even more epic. Running a business is very dramatic. Therefore, it’s really important to learn how to deal properly with stress and riding the wave of the flow of work without reaching peak panic when things shift. It’s something I’m still working on, but I think I’m getting better at it!
A lot of it must be about trying to keep employees and clients happy. How do you balance that?
That is true! I think being a leader anywhere becomes a lot about diplomacy. Being a good and attentive listener is very important, and being empathetic to the positions of both clients and employees is so important.
It’s also important to be able to communicate the needs of the client in a positive way to the team so they don’t become deflated and unmotivated when the creative shifts or the client is looking for something that isn’t quite there yet. Balancing that with confidently presenting creative ideas and work is the special magical power of a great creative director. I think hearing challenging input from clients is all about practicing the fine art of “yes, and…” to persuade them that you hear them and there are creative solutions available.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Working with so many talented and smart people. It’s really inspiring and exciting to see projects come together that started as little seeds of ideas thanks to the hard work of our staff and collaborators. I also love being a part of the excitement, hustle and team work on set as well.
What’s your least favorite?
Probably the overwhelming stress and responsibility of running a business. Did I mention it’s hard? (laughs)
What is your most productive time of day?
I’m definitely a morning person. I wake up stupidly early for “me time,” so I would say between 6:30am and 3pm. However, I often find I need to do “the work” after meetings and reviews have happened, so I’ve been trained to be productive in pretty much any spare second I can find. I tap out when I get hungry and crabby though!
If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I think I would be working in the film industry in some capacity. I always love working with the production design and art departments. I also find in-camera visual effects fascinating; I could watch those process videos all day long.
Can you name some recent clients?
Spotify, MTV, Adnan (the client is Disarming Films) and Amazon Prime Video.
Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
The internet, my laptop and my Wacom tablet.