Chicago Change Location


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Day in the Life: Nick Lipton

Creativity is the only constant in the ever-changing day of this creative director and photographer.

Nick Lipton is wearing dark sunglasses in a dimly lit subway car, leaning his head against the glass pane because he knows it’ll be a better angle. For once, he is the subject of the photo and not behind its lens. Even so, he can’t resist lifting the camera hanging from his own neck to capture the moment for himself.

On paper, Nick is a creative director at Leo Burnett Chicago. In person, he’s a writer, a photographer, a self-publisher, a storyteller, a talker and a change-maker who can be found in a different place or time zone on any given day. He embodies what it means to be an advertising creative in an industry characterized by constant digital disruption and rapid cultural change.

Between traveling, client work and his plethora of passion projects, there is no normal day in Nick’s life. Instead, there are snapshots from many days – because, regardless of where he is, Nick always has a camera in hand.

From driving diversity initiatives to capturing lowriders in Detroit, follow along today on Instagram as we share the highlights from the inconstant days of Nick’s life. And learn more about Nick and his many adventures below from the man himself.

Creativity is a constant, not a characteristic.

I really don’t like the phrase, “I’m a creative.” Like it’s a job title. Creativity is something you live and breathe. It’s something everyone has, but few have the right mix of brain chemistry and rebellious spirit to truly tap into it. It’s a muscle, a skill, a talent, that if exercised rigorously and stressed just right, has limitless potential. To be creative is to problem solve, and we’re in a wildly disruptive time.

It might not look like it, but I do a lot of real work here. My clients like me a lot.

When I first started at Leo Burnett, my mentor told me, “Stick with us, and we’ll show you the world.” It wasn’t a lie. I’ve been lucky enough to take trips to 40-something states and four continents. From shooting motorcycles racing around volcanos in Bali, to learning farming techniques in Kentucky, this is often what work looks like for me. I believe that being well-traveled is essential to great work. It builds that bag of random knowledge.

I document all of my trips, and as I work with the images later, I’ll craft and create ideas for clients. It’s a cycle, something that works for me, my clients and the agency as a whole.

Becoming a publisher.

Half sure it would be a failure, I created a book, doing all of the bits and pieces a full team usually works on: type, design, layout, writing. Publishing is a full-blown passion now. My first book, “White Knuckle,” is a 250-edition release that’s given me the courage to start my own publishing operation, Muerte Studio. Which is how published my latest zine, “Iron Pride.” I’m learning something new every day and, like almost everything else in life, it’s another thing that helps inform my creativity.

My photography.

This August, I’ll be three years sober. I’ve shot photos since college, but it wasn’t until I was sober that I really started to take it seriously. It was an outlet that I could find an exhilarating rush through. Because of that, my first book became about capturing my new point of view. Now, I throw all my extra income into photo projects, traveling as much as possible to capture storylines I find fascinating. As much as this is my fun time outside the agency, it’s also more experience, more of that stress and exercise for my creative muscle that I owe everything to.

Creating change, starting with Leo.

I’ve been with Leo Burnett for almost eight years. I’ve seen it change a lot, and more recently have decided to start driving some of that change myself.

Most of our internal cultural projects are formed from random folks rising up to share their voice and perspective, and with our new leadership, they’re getting the support they need to create the change they want to see. The first big push will come out this summer, but like every initiative brewing here, it has the potential to empower the whole damn industry.

For example, the Reset was born from a collection of creatives who all had the same idea: “What if we took control of the agency narrative?” We volunteered to help steer the ship during our building’s massive internal move by creating a visual and written identity for all communications and finding creative ways to move people and their objects. We figured out how to donate literal tons of school supplies to the Chicago Public School System and how to raise thousands of dollars for our charity partners. We transformed what could have been an unpleasant change into something uplifting.

Diversity is essential.

I’m really proud to be a part of an era that not only recognizes a need for change, but also is acting on it. Luckily, I’ve been surrounded by people who invite me to the table and allow me to help create the conversations, pipelines and opportunities that will make our future better than our past. Leo has given us the power and tools to start building a culture that works for everyone, and empowers more voices than ever to be heard.

Creative advice: Read more.

From understanding consumer and client needs to simply growing our bag of random knowledge, reading opens doors to new ways of thinking and approaching the work. Great creative thinking comes from the ability to connect random pieces of disparate knowledge together to form something fresh. The more you put in your bag, the more you have to pull from. Lately, I’ve been reading books about the journeys people take, which creates empathy, and empathy is the single greatest resource creative problem solvers have.

I can’t tell you what a normal day in my life looks like.

I don’t have a schedule. I wake up, brush my teeth, put on deodorant, find my pants and go to the office. I’m constantly on the move. Just this month, I’ve been to two countries and a dozen states. So, I really only have two consistent elements to my day: the train in the morning and opening my computer in front of my TV at night. Neither of those are very glamorous – but, hey, I’ve got to get around.

Check out more of Nick’s work at

June 28, 2018