Lydia Thornley (photographic portrait)


I’m a graphic designer, creative director and live illustrator. I make brand identities work. I design for print and for screen. I draw at events and on location. Clients come to me for my enquiring eye, organised process and decades of knowledge. I work solo and in collaboration, from a creative co-working space in East London.

The back-story

Born into 1960s adland, I started drawing before I could walk. I trained at Canterbury (now UCA) and graduated with a 1st class BA(Hons) in graphic design and an RSA Bursary. I spent a decade working for London design practices including Pentagram and Lewis Moberly before I set up as a practitioner in my own right.

Nosiness as a design skill

I do my best work when I can delve into the content and I love projects where I get to learn something along the way. I can just answer the brief. But the more I understand, the more value I can add.

One of the coolest bits of research I’ve done has been visiting the European Astronaut Centre with the Space to Earth Challenge team. Hearing from people who train astronauts enabled me to understand where space and sport connected. I’ve been to an immigration removal centre to join in with a workshop by Music In Detention – which was key to making its visual identity relevant. Crimestoppers invited me to its contact centre for real insight into what the organisation does. That enabled me to understand why its work is so important – and the challenge of editorial design for an organisation with anonymity at its heart. And co-creating the brief for Bowen Craggs & Co’s brand update with the consultancy’s founders and staff has made the difference between a cosmetic ‘refresh’ and a project that tackles all of the strategic and practical jobs that the company needs the brand identity to do.

From thinking on paper to reporting on iPad

I’m a prolific filler of sketchbooks. My quick, gestural drawings have become an Instagram feed, @lydiathornley – which has led to a studio book of illustrations, Catwalk Dogwalk Whistle, about fashion on the London commute; a bespoke exhibition, Hair Lines, at Beaucatcher salon in Hackney; and commissions. I’ve live sketched at events, at a factory, at all four of The Trampery’s co-working spaces for an Instagram takeover and at the two-day Bowen Craggs Conference in Berlin. There has been press coverage in LoveEast and Hackney magazine.

Talking design

I’ve been the first graphic designer to speak at Nerd Nite, a monthly night of short talks on a comedy stage. I’m a sessional tutor for Ravensbourne Foundation Design & Media, I’ve been a Media Trust speaker, I’ve done masterclasses for Fashion Awareness Direct and I’ve done ideas hacks with Ideas Foundation.

Say hello

Every good project, commission or assignment starts with a conversation. So if you’d like to get in touch, you can contact me here