April 15, 2019

Lucy Jennings on capturing fun, flashbacks and femininity through design

The graphic designer talks to MOO about her top tips for emerging graduates, why she centers femininity in her work, and nostalgia in design.

Lucy Jennings is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Hackney, East London. Originally from Southend-on-Sea in Essex, she studied at the London College of Communication, before gaining a degree in graphic and media design from the University of the Arts, London.

Lucy’s colorful cartoon artwork blends a nostalgic aesthetic with bright, feminine palettes, bold typography and an upbeat message, attracting youth brands such as Skinnydip and Dorothy Perkins.

When her recycled cotton Business Cards featured on MOO’s Instagram page, the response was phenomenal – so we caught up with Lucy to find out more about the inspiration behind her lively designs.

Tell us how your unique aesthetic came about

I like to think it sits in this groovy, feminine, cheeky-yet-chilled-out space. Nostalgia plays a big role in my work, and I pull a lot of inspiration from the 70s, 80s and 90s. I want my work to embody the carefree spirit of being 10 years old, with a popsicle in one hand and a VHS copy of the Spice World movie in the other.

As well as nostalgia, I’m inspired by packaging, drag queens, Dr Seuss, food, The Simpsons, skater culture, Lizzo, and Hubba Bubba. I think artists’ visual styles tend to extend into how they present themselves to the world – my personal style has evolved with my work over time, and I love bright colors, bold print and anything that makes me feel like a kid again.

You often work with a feminine palette and on female-centric themes. What led you down this path?

When I was a teenager, I rejected my femininity, because I thought being ‘girly’ meant being shallow, catty, conceited, fake – every lame stereotype that’s been attached to women since the dawn of time.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more comfortable with my authentic self, and have been trying to reclaim and celebrate my femininity. I really value my female friendships, and when I make something to empower women and femme-identifying people, I feel like I’m lifting up a friend. I just want to spread some positivity with my work.

How did you approach starting your freelance career and building a client list?

When I left university, I went straight into an in-house job, as I still needed guidance and structure. I started doing odd projects for friends and family in my spare time – logos, retouching, even tattoos – and quickly realized I enjoyed taking on solo work I wouldn’t be able to in my 9-5.

Since then, I’ve been focusing on my portfolio and my brand, and making content for social platforms – Instagram has definitely been my most valuable tool for promoting my work.

If you have a unique style, demonstrating it in your portfolio helps potential clients know what they’ll get from working with you. My branding is groovy, fun and feminine, and as a result I get asked to make things in a similar vein – which is great, because that’s what I love to do.

What advice would you give fresh design graduates hoping to land their first studio job or freelance brief?

My advice for landing your first in-house job would be: do your research. Find out about the company, their values and the kind of work they do, and consider them all when putting together your application. Showing a willingness to learn can go a long way. And don’t be late!

Working in-house gives you valuable experience you can apply to a freelance career. As well as developing your design skills, learning things like email etiquette, how to present concepts and managing time are all transferable skills.

What’s been your favorite project to date?

I love self-initiated projects – having the freedom to create whatever I like without worrying about meeting a deadline or a brief is a nice break from my day-to-day work.

I really enjoyed creating window displays and other large-scale work while I was working at Skinnydip London, and seeing how my artwork translated onto shop fronts. And my Business Card redesign was purely a passion project – it’s definitely a firm favorite.

What inspired the Juice project that led to the creation of your Business Cards?

I wanted my business cards to be lighthearted, amusing and memorable. When I designed them in 2016, I drew inspiration from the drinks of my childhood – Sunny D, Capri Sun and Slush Puppies – and my nickname, Juicy Lucy, which was given to me by my mum.

Two years later, my style had changed so rapidly, I decided they needed a refresh. I wanted to do something completely different, and tried various motifs such as hot-sauce bottles and motel keys. But they all lacked that connection to me and my name – so after a lot of trial and error, I decided to upgrade my original concept.

As I’m trying to be more conscious of my impact on the environment, there was no question I’d choose to print my designs on recycled cotton. They’re made from old t-shirt offcuts, and have a textured finish. I always get complimented on my choice of paper.

MOO’s Printfinity option allows you print each Business Card with a different image. As a designer, have you found this useful?

Printfinity gives you so much more real estate to play with. With the chance to add up to 50 unique backs to my Business Cards, I’d have drawn a whole supermarket if I’d had the time! Printfinity gave me room to explore different colors, styles and ideas – sometimes you can’t fit your whole personality into one card.

The reaction has been great, and I’ve even had people asking if they can take the full set of five juicy flavors! It’s been rewarding to see an idea that’s lived in my head for so many months finally out there, in people’s hands.

If you could deliver some advice to yourself as you set out on your career, what would it be?

Don’t put pressure on yourself to know everything, especially when you’re looking for your first job – there’s still so much to learn. When you’re in a junior position you’re there to be a sponge, and be guided by your seniors.

They won’t expect you to turn up on the first day and know it all, so don’t be afraid to ask for help, make mistakes, or receive (and act on!) critique. Be willing to learn, adapt, and try your best. That’s all anyone can ask.

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