James Digby-Jones

Executive Creative Director

When did you join SB?

I joined in January 1998 as a Barco Creator Apprentice, under my now business partner and SB’s CEO, Chris, who was the studio’s first Retoucher.


The studio and team were revered as the true pioneers of digital retouching, and their work was astounding.  


With 22 years at Sadds, I’m something of a lifer and am proud to have grown the team, expertise and my role in the company ever since.


What inspired you to become a retoucher?

I’ve always been interested in art and design – from early on at school – through to trying my hand at an architecture degree, before landing in a Visual Communications Degree at KIAD.


In 1996, [while studying], Quantel ran an exhibition called Limitless Potential, showing the best work produced using the Quantel Graphic Paintbox image compositing workstation (*precursor to Photoshop), to celebrate their 10th anniversary – and it completely blew my mind.


It was like walking onto the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The artist didn’t just have a mouse, he had a joystick in one hand and several screens. It looked the nuts.


When I saw the level of stuff they were doing, it was out of this world. All the work was presented on transparencies on plinths that were around five-feet high. You could really see the beauty of these things – from the simple composites of a banana going into a fish to a gingham-dressed zebra.


It was the middle of my degree and I set my sights on to wanting to be involved in that world. I started to track down who were the key players in London at that time.


What were the early days of SB like?

SB’s co-founder Chas Saddington was a pivotal person in my life. He was one of the last hand retouchers in London. He was someone who’d look over my shoulder and help me interpret what the client was after. What I also learned from Chas was patience in approach. As artisans working by hand, they didn’t have their undos – it was measured, and about taking their time and getting it right.


The culture of the business is something Chas and Dick (Baynes) started and we carry on. It’s about valuing the quality of the work. Chas would quite happily tell an agency that we wouldn’t meet their deadline as the work wasn’t ready yet. He’d say, ‘You’ve come to us for a reason, and we feel that if we have one more day, you’re going to get the Saddington & Baynes quality standard.’


What drives you?

Picture perfection – we’re in the business of creating imagery to depict ideas and image realities (where actually possible or not), and making sure our art is perceived as convincing as possible. We need the eye to believe what the mind won’t.  Early on in my career I began developing my colour grading techniques and this led me to become the ‘Head of Crayons’/ECD.


What inspires you?

My inspiration comes from the team around me.


What's the culture like at SB?

Lee Iacocca, For Exec from the 60s, famously said, “I employ people smarter than me and I keep out of their way”


My role is to create an environment where people can grow, feel safe to innovate and find their inner magic.  I’m in the business of creating extraordinary work and that comes from incredible talent – we make sure that every voice is heard and make sure to keep an open door policy – our culture is our most treasured possession.


28 years on, what's the secret to SB's success?

It’s very much about reinventing yourself. It’s about keeping at the forefront. The drive by the founders was about being the best at what we do.


As pioneers of digital retouching in 1991 and one of the first print post-production studios to truly harness the potential of CGI in-house, Sadds has always been ahead of the curve and continues to stretch creative and technical boundaries.


We’re continuously innovating – both through our R&D work: SBLABS and new service Engagement Insights® - a world-first for a creative production studio and an entirely new way to measure the emotional impact of imagery.


Why is SBLABS so important to SB?

We’re strong believers that ideas can come from anywhere - this is where we set our artists free and see what worlds are conjured up.


SBLABS is where we explore mind-boggling impossibilities - this where we push ourselves, learn new skills, improve what we already do and create the work we want to attract from our clients.


Engagement Insights® is your baby – why has a production studio like SB decided to delve into Neuroscience?

We are on a mission to create emotionally engaging imagery,  as ECD, I rely on my gut instinct and aesthetic eye, to steer our creative. EI allows us to back up our intuition and measure the emotional impact of the creative decisions we make.


We know that humans are emotional – so in order to influence their behaviour we have to pull their emotional levers. EI allows us to decode the visual levers that drive emotion and help us compose sensational imagery that moves people and inspires brand devotion.


Plus it’s great fun muddling science and art together. 


Any advice for artists just starting out…

Draw inspiration from all around you.

Be your own best critic and incite critique

Innovate whenever you can

Honour your imagination.


In SB words… Collaborate, Take Pride and Be Courageous.


Favourite Project



Vector (4) My inspiration comes from the team around me.

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