Creative Lives — Don’t accept average: Greenspace creative director Lee Deverill

Posted 02 May 2018 Interview by Arielle Bier

Graduating with a visual communication degree from Ravensbourne in 1998, Lee Deverill found his way to creative agency Imagination, where he worked as a designer for eight years before advancing to a creative director position at Greenspace. Developing democratic working systems based on trust, sustainability and challenging opportunities are lessons Lee holds dear, and actively applies in his role. He lays out his approach and thought processes, and offers heartening advice for making a daunting job work for you, “If you know you’re not that good at something, you can still have a really successful career. You just have to pretend you are. Everybody else is.”

Lee Deverill

Job Title

Creative Director, Greenspace (2008–present)

Based

London

Previous Employment

Junior to Senior Designer, Imagination (2000–2008)

Education

BA Visual Communication, Ravensbourne (1996–1998)

Social Media

Lee at work

Day-to-Day

How would you describe your job?
My primary responsibility is making sure the work looks good, is aligned to strategy and has some sense of longevity. The goal is to design in a way that’s appropriate and timeless, giving brands purpose and ideas that are self-sustaining.

What does a typical working day look like?
The first part of the morning is spent getting things up and running, making sure everybody is clear on what to do and checking deadlines. Personally, I prefer to trust the team and give them time and space to figure things out before getting too involved in a project. Then, I’m usually involved in client meetings or take on a project, or parts of it, myself. It’s important to keep the team as flat as possible and make sure everybody has a balance of doing nice things and everyday stuff.

How did you land your current job?                        
I knew Adrian [Caddy, founder and CEO] well and a bunch of other people who’d left Imagination and joined Greenspace. It was becoming too comfortable and I wanted the responsibility that comes with working for something smaller. It’s easy to hide and be protected from real decisions at a larger studio.

“I wanted the responsibility that comes with working for something smaller. It’s easy to hide from real decisions at a larger studio.”

Inside Greenspace

Inside Greenspace

How collaborative is your role?
To do good work you need to work with good people. We work with some great filmmakers like Max Cutting and digital designers such as Made by Cloud. I prefer working with people who push back and teach you things along the way.

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Winning and starting work on creating a new destination at The Old War Office on Whitehall in London has been really exciting, and going to Kenya last year and directing a series of films [for Kibo] was special. 

What skills are essential to your job?
Increasingly, I’m much more interested in writing and filmmaking, so that’s something I want to develop further. Staying calm and being both cynical and positive in equal measure is something I aspire to, but doesn’t always happen. The most important skills are leaning on your experience, defining your points of reference and knowing what will work and what won’t.

What tools do you use most for your work? 
My brain. A pen.

Work for Zaha Hadid Architects

Work for Zaha Hadid Architects

Work for Zaha Hadid Architects

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up?
Like many graphic designers, I wanted to be an architect. I took physics and maths at A-level and soon realised I didn’t have the patience or the brains for it. Having now worked with a lot of architects professionally, I am so glad it never happened, they have a tolerance and relentlessness, which I cannot even fathom.

Was there a particular person or move that helped your development at the start of your career? 
Once I was at Imagination, there were so many people to be inspired by and learn from. I really think it was, and still is, very underrated as a design agency. Back in 2000, we had a large graphic design department which was overflowing with talent, people who’ve since gone on to create brilliant work – Paul from Studio Blackburn, Martin Brown from Paul Belford Ltd and Marcus from Keller Maurer Design – but it was the collective as a whole that inspired me most. I worked with architects, writers, filmmakers and interior and digital designers every day. It really rubbed off on me. Another thing was the democracy of it all. I led huge projects I wasn’t ready for. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the quickest way to learn.

“Whatever you do, don’t accept average. If it doesn’t feel right, get out.”

Lee’s creative direction for Kibo, 2017

Lee’s creative direction for Kibo, 2017

Shooting in Kenya

What’s been your biggest challenge?
Once I took a job somewhere, but within a week, I found everything about the place totally average from top to bottom. It’s a terrible feeling. I quit, and luckily enough my old employer took me back. Whatever you do, don’t accept average. If it doesn’t feel right, get out. 

The second and biggest mistake was thinking that work, or rather proving myself at work, is the most important thing in the world. Needless to say, it’s not.

Is your job what you thought it would be?  
When you’re at university or starting out on your career, you literally have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going to end up. Looking back over the past twenty years, I feel quietly content with what I’ve achieved so far. The most welcomed surprise has been travelling and working on projects in incredible places like Nairobi, Detroit, Abu Dhabi and Beijing. Moving away from working with typical Western clients and mindsets is one thing I’ve found really inspiring. I’d like to do more of it.

Greenspace’s work showreel, 2018

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
Make the most of every opportunity. Soak things up. If you’re not great at presenting work, steal pointers from someone who can. Points of reference are key. I’ve employed people because they were interesting and smart over whether they were brilliant at designing stuff. If you know you’re not that good at something, you can still have a really successful career. You just have to pretend you are. Everybody else is.

Value what you do. You cannot put a price on a good idea and the impact it can have. Most of all, have a point of view and a purpose.


In March 2018, Greenspace became a Lecture in Progress agency patron. Their support helps us keep what we do possible.

Posted 02 May 2018 Interview by Arielle Bier
Photography: Andy Donohoe
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Design
Mentions: Greenspace, Lee Deverill, Toyota, Heineken
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