Where: London, United Kingdom
Website: The Church of London Design
We like him because…Hello! I am Danny Miller, and I make magazines and design things, and write lots of emails and talk lots of bullshit, and some sense too. My history is very mag-centric, and it's hard to talk about it without repeating the word magazine over and over, so I'll try not to. In short, I designed my school mag, did an art foundation course, went to Newcastle Northumbria to study graphic design but didn't like the course there so I spent all my time designing the university magazine instead. I also fell in love with a publication called Adrenalin (a beautiful surf, skate and snow mag) and did work experience there a bunch of times and got really lucky and was offered a job, then moved to London (in 2002) to be junior designer.
For my final project, in the third year at university, I made a movie mag called Little White Lies (LWLies). I got content for it from my friend Matt, who'd been writing for our university mag, and made the whole thing – it was a good idea, though pretty badly executed. So anyway, I came to London to work at Adrenalin and Little White Lies issue 0 sat on my shelf for a few years. While I was at Adrenalin, I decided that I wanted to make LWLies for real, so I spent a long time conducting espionage, seeing how the sales, subscriptions, marketing department, etc operated – figuring out print costs, production issues, how to distribute, all that kind of thing. And just as I was getting an idea of how I might make my own mag, the company we were working for went bust and I just thought 'Fuck it, I'll give it a try'. I had a little money saved and a credit card. We just made LWLies 01 (in Jan 2005), got it printed (about 3000 copies) and I got it into Borders, Virgin and maybe a few other places. And that was that. It's just grown, very, very slowly and painfully so ever since.
In his spare time…Well, when I started LWLies there was me, Matt Bochenski (to edit the mag), Paul Willoughby and Rob Longworth (to design the mag) and we cracked on and made four or five issues, staying up late at night and being poor and doing all that clichéd stuff that people do when they make magazines. And then we decided to re-launch Adrenalin, and did so as Huck magazine. Huck did really well and made a little money. We made six of each a year, scheduled alternately. As we moved out of my kitchen and into a small office (and then a slightly bigger office) we got more people around us, excellent people (I know everyone says that, but hey) and started to get our act together a bit. What we found was that, thankfully, people responded really well to both mags, and would ask us to write and design things, and sometimes make magazines for them. Wwe did all of those things and turned ourselves into a little design/creative/publishing agency, which slowly evolved into who we are now, which is The Church Of London – a creative agency. So, what I'm doing now is running this agency. And in my spare time, I'm mostly thinking about running this agency. . .
How he knows what he knows…I learnt very little about what I do now through formal education. I just learned from looking at other magazines (really carefully) and reading books about them, and studying them. I've been obsessed with mags forever – I'm one of those mega-lucky people who's always known what they want to do with their life.
As a young one…I was an incredibly normal and average child/teenager who enjoyed doing exceedingly normal things like playing computer games and footy and being lame with girls. I haven't changed much at all. Seriously, I'm exactly the same.
Where'd he get his confidence…I don't think that I'm arrogant but I've always been totally confident going into things. Kind of obliviously confident, I guess. I always thought I had a good understanding of magazines and could make one of my own. I thought I understood what made them work properly and what people connected with in them. And then when we started trying to turn our hands to design for other clients and brands even though I knew it'd take a long time to get good at it and understand it (and even though I know that we're still a long way away from where we want to be as group of creative people trying to do good work) I felt and feel really confident that we're going somewhere good and that we'll be successful. So, yeah, what made me think I'd be good was an in-built sense of naive confidence.
Right now…Lots of side projects, most of which stem from LWLies. We're making a TV programme, organising a three-day festival and launching another magazine, all sorts of things. Many of them probably won't ever happen but I enjoy thinking about them and I recognise that there's lots to learn from exploring all options. I'd say that we're very enthusiastic about doing new things without kidding ourselves that any old pipe dream we have is going to happen. Someone once said to me that big ideas were the scourge of my generation. I disagree!
The ups and downs…I like working with nice people, who feel exactly as I do about publishing and design, and life in general. I dislike that my job has turned into a largely administrative role. I dislike that we all still earn no money and are also often only able to pay our contributors very little money.
Early life…I grew up in Chester, which is a mostly nice enough place. Did it affect my life choices? Chester didn't but my upbringing did, I guess. My parents ran their own business, pretty successfully, so maybe that's where my in-built sense of comfort in doing something of my own comes from?
Encouraging homefront…I never told my family I was making LWLies until the first issue was printed, just in case it never happened. They seem to like it and other stuff we've done too. But, to be honest it's not something they can massively engage with. As for friends, they're the people I work with, pretty much, and we've all encouraged each other along the way. Everything we do now – everything we've done – it's all down to a core group of people, best friends really, who've brought energy and enthusiasm and bill-paying-skills to everything we've done. We're dedicated. And there's nothing more encouraging to me than working hard, while knowing for a fact that everyone around me is working just as hard and cares just as much as I do about the quality of what they're doing.
The power of family…My family is awesome and super-chilled. As I mentioned earlier, my folks ran their own business and, though they didn't exactly get rich off it, they did well – it afforded me a comfortable upbringing. I believe very much in people being a product of their environment and I guess I'm a clinical case of that. As for my creative decisions, I dunno, I think they all just come from me, to be honest.
Hurdles, hoops and rings of fire…This is a really boring and obvious answer but it just has to be money. I've earned nothing for five years – just nothing. I'm crippled by debt and I ain't getting rich anytime soon. It's difficult not to get angry about it sometimes. This route that we've taken has been extremely costly for many of us who were earning more money before we began our own endeavours. This really does go for all of us. We don't talk or moan about it (even though we talk and moan about everything else from time to time) very much – we just get on with it. In summation, I'll work all day on Saturday if needs be but when I leave the office at 7pm to head home, contemplating the fact that I basically won't be recompensed for it in any way, I am displeased.
The most amazing lesson…Honestly, I think the most important thing I've learnt about myself and my creativity is that I'm not an amazing designer but I do have a good intuitive feel for this business so I should just leave that work to the people in our team who know it best. What I'm saying is that I've learnt to really focus on what I definitely am good at, and not what I'm not good at. I must always be realistic about it because when you have someone doing a job that they're born to do, they'll progress 100 times quicker than someone else who's heart isn't really in it or who's talent isn't really up to it. As an example, we've had various members of our team shoe-horned into a distribution role since we started out and we've all done a fairly poor job at it. Recently we took on someone who wanted to do nothing else but to help us distribute our magazines and who was damn good at it too. The results have been amazing. She's done more in four months than I did in four years because this is the job for her.
The best advice he's received…My first boss told me that if you put two people in a room, you'll get office politics. That wasn't advice exactly, but it's stuck with me.
Does he collect stuff…
I don't collect anything anymore. I'm a non-consumer. I buy nothing apart from food and drink.
When he's uninspired…I look at old copies of amazing magazines. And I go to the cinema or watch films that I love. I'm inspired by other people's talent more than anything, so just to immerse myself in it for a while is enough to get my brain kick-started again.
A few of his favourite things…London, New York and The Lake District, Radiohead and films rather than books. I love Paul Thomas Anderson. Something that would make me so happy is if I found out that Thom Yorke and PTA read LWLies. Oh, and that Barack Obama read Huck. That would be amazing. I totally reckon he does as well, on the loo in Air Force One.
And a few of his favourite websites…Other than our own, I read Jeremy Leslie's magCulture and, erm, Creative Review's blog and the MediaGuardian annnnd… that's it.
To relax he likes…Watching films, chilling with me missus, eating scratty food in cafés 'round Old street and running, believe it or not. There are lots of nice places to run in London, even though it mostly smells terrible.
If he could turn back the hands of time…Oh, man, don't ask me that. I'd rip up the credit card mentioned in question 1 of this interview for starters. Other than that, there's not an awful lot I'd do differently. We've always learnt and grown stronger from making lots of mistakes, so I guess I wouldn't want to just go back and start eliminating them.
Inspiring folks…I'm going over old ground a bit again here but it'd have to be Thom Yorke and Paul Thomas Anderson just for being exceptionally talented and creative people who are absolutely the best at what they do. In my opinion anyway.
Immediate future…Our plans are to keep thinking of more exciting projects and trying to make them happen, while ensuring that we're sensible and can run a good, solid business at the same time. We're very serious about keeping afloat, doing things by the book and progressing as a company, which is all rather boring, but absolutely essential.
His dream life…Sickeningly, I'm kind of doing what I always wanted to do already. In my dream world, our company would grow from 15 people to something big, but not huge – say 50 or 60 people – and make more magazines, do more design work, be respected and we'd all continue to be excited about things. My personal dream is to run a small independent cinema from which Little White Lies is made I'll just hang out there, watching films and propping up the bar (there'll be a bar).
Advice to aspiring designer-publishers…I would advise them to find a place, or places they want to work, and aggressively (but nicely) pester the relevant people there until they let you come do work experience. Then go there and work hard, and hope that something comes of it. I'd also advise people to do their own thing, to show the world that you're serious about what you want to do. Make something of your own, and get it out into the world somehow. Continue reading...