Lydia Thornley (greyscale profile photograph)


I’m an East London based designer, creative director, reportage sketcher and workshop presenter. I work solo and in collaboration, with clients in enterprise, education, charities, NGOs and the public sector, and on my own projects.

I bring enthusiasm, integrity, knowledge, organisation and a love of things that are well-crafted. Everything I do is driven by a spirit of enquiry.

Come to me for brand identity, art direction or communication design and we’ll start with a chat to find out more about the jobs that you need design to do. I’m keen to find out what staff will need. And if I understand your values, I can reflect them in every creative and production choice.

Get me in for reportage sketching and we’ll start by talking through what you’d like to get out of the commission. Then we can tailor the approach and the medium to your story or event. At a physical event, I can complement your photographer’s work, checking in with each other as we go.

Hire me for a workshop or talk and I’ll ask what you’d like its character to be, what it’s for and how long you’ve got. Then I can put in the research, prep and rehearsal that add value and help people to see the world differently.

My long-term clients treat me as a design partner. My experience makes me a handy spare brain for an overview. I know how long things take. I’m there for the “How do we do that?” questions.

My collaborators are like-minded creative, technical and communications specialists.

And my own projects? They follow up lines of thought, exploration and experimentation. They’re challenging, they’re fun, they keep thinking fresh – and that’s good for all of the work.

I’m a member of D&AD (Design & Art Direction) and 26.


Born to an ad man and a singer, I started drawing before I could walk. I did Foundation and BA(Hons) graphic design at Canterbury College of Art (now UCA) and graduated with a 1st and an RSA bursary.

For the next 10 years, I worked at London design practices. At Derek Forsyth Partnership, I worked on projects for Liberty and retail graphics. At Pentagram, working for David Hillman, I worked on the pilot and first three issues of Business magazine. At Lewis Moberly, I worked on consumer packaging and co-ordinated a D&AD annual. And at Crescent Lodge, I worked on projects for Arjo Wiggins.

I went freelance in 1991. I’ve worked with fascinating clients, including explorers, physicists, beekeepers, social entrepreneurs, chefs, a gallery, a sustainable fashion label, an education authority, two City livery companies, a family Trust, one of the Queen’s chaplains, a common good land use organisation, a college in India, online effectiveness experts, a street of independent retailers and a project team building genius.

My sketching work happened by accident: as I produced a studio book about drawing as part of my design practice, I was challenged to do a drawing a day until it had to go to press. That turned into my prolific Instagram feed @lydiathornley and that has led to two exhibitions, commissions and requests for workshops.

I discovered my showing-off gene quite late. I’ve done sessional and workshop tutoring and show and tell talks for Ravensbourne, UCA Epsom and Ideas Foundation. I spoke at Kochi Design Week in 2019. And I was the first graphic designer to take to a comedy stage for Nerd Nite London.

I’ve stayed independent, for the choice that offers in taking on an interesting array of work. Growth, for me, is all about knowledge, networks and creative adventures.