Spotlight | Ross Urien, Creative Director at The Mill on career highlights, her artistic alias ‘Mina De la O’, and what inspires her to create

Thought September 3, 2020

How did you end up working at The Mill? Talk us through your role and what it involves.

I started at The Mill as a freelance artist in 2007, having previously worked as a 3D Designer. I remember seeing The Mill’s commercials 20 years ago and thinking that they were so well crafted and amazing and then, I was fortunate enough to end up working here. My role now as Creative Director is to add creative value to our projects from beginning to end. I primarily work in The Mill’s Design Studio, but I do cross over to the VFX and Art departments for certain jobs.

I am very much hands-on, I work on the conception of ideas and creating style frames. I also support the global print and stills division, a division I created in 2011 which we have had consistent demand for projects since.


What inspired you to pursue a career in the industry?

It was a natural progression for me, my background is in fine arts and painting, I also had an interest in early digital painting, 3D sculpting, and design. After a few years, post-production looked like a great place to learn all these skills and meet other artists.


If you had to choose 3 project highlights from your career, what would they be and why?

At The Mill, I have worked on lots of great projects. My first job was Audi ‘Lines’ with a trio director called Lynn Fox, I was the 3D Concept Designer for the job, and I was responsible for the look and feel (a car made out of spaghetti lines essentially) although at the time I was part of the VFX department, this job was very much what today we would consider a Design piece.

Other jobs I have enjoyed working on are Tate Modern ‘Picasso‘, as a co-director with Ivo Sousa, art directing and doing concepts for Chanel Gabrielle (Ringan Ledwidge) and recently leading the design for Three ‘Real 5G‘ (Ian Pons Jewell)

Where do you look for inspiration?

My sources of inspiration are very eclectic, I collect weird objects from my travels such as vintage illustration books and films. I have several books on classic painters, architecture, folklore art, manga, lighting, art installations, unusual illustrations, botanical books, insects, vintage antiques, pattens… Pretty much anything visually (and acoustically) interesting can bring me ideas and inspiration to create from.

Right now, I am trying to stay away from the internet’s typical paths as inspiration for my personal work, as I find that by looking at Instagram too much and the 3 or 4 pages that everyone is viewing online, you end up gravitating towards trends and not feeding your thoughts with new material to make innovative creative work.

How has it differed working in your role during lockdown, away from your colleagues?

I have lots of friends at work (The Mill is a wonderful place and everybody is really friendly), so I have missed the spontaneous lunches with colleagues and random chats in the communal areas. It’s also easier to chat with a person about a particular project if you are all in person.

On the other hand, lockdown has been good for me to put more focus on pitch work. In the beginning, I was finding it very hard to work in the same way as I normally did at the studio, through balancing work and homeschooling my son with my partner, the days are as long as 15 hours. After some weeks, we found a system that worked for us. During the day I was working, locking myself in a room alone, focusing on the task ahead and not getting distracted. I have turned into a pitching owl, with my son at home, It was easy for me to brainstorm stuff in the evening when it’s quiet and to do tasks like painting frames or calls during the day.


You were recently interviewed by Getty Images, can you tell us about Mina De la O?

Mina De la O is my nom de plume at Getty images where I have digital illustrations and photography work published. I have been contributing under this alias on the site for several years now. I’ve also been lucky enough to have my work published with them in their Creative in Focus magazine 3 years in a row, (a publication they use to talk about trend research) as well as exhibiting in the London Getty gallery as well. I was also interviewed by Creative Insights, an online platform founded by Getty that gives behind the lens access, artist interviews, and a curated glimpse of today’s visual trends.


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Ross Urien, Creative Director at The Mill