Lucie Cooper, creative director (graphic design)

 28 May 2013

Lucie drew on years of experience in publications, marketing and design to launch her own agency. She works solely with charities, doing branding, campaigns and merchandise for print and online.

Lucie saw a gap in the market for a charity-focused design agency.
Lucie saw a gap in the market for a charity-focused design agency.


I grew up in Hong Kong, but I now live and work in London.

What job do you do?

Knowing I've done good creative work for a client is the best thing about my job.

I'm the creative director for small+co, a design agency which I founded.

You could refer to me as many things, including graphic designer, illustrator and copywriter, depending on what projects I've got going on.

How did you get started in design?

I took the long route in. After university I worked in production for Gorgeous, an agency which makes music videos and adverts.

I soon moved into role as an assistant to the commissioning editor for Phaidon, which publishes books on art and design. I was lucky to be working with Alan Fletcher, a hugely famous designer at the top of his game.

After a while, I realised I wanted a creative career with a social objective. I took a job in marketing for the Institute of Psychiatry, which involved things like designing booklets and posters. My next job was as a publications officer for The Royal British Legion, and I tried to emphasise the design aspects of the role.

It became clear to me that setting up my own design business was a long-term goal. So when I had annual leave I started doing work experience for design agencies to get more insight.

I landed a job with Victim Support as a designer and then as a design and and publications manager, which was a big step up. After a couple of years I felt ready to launch small+co.

What qualifications do you have?

I read History at the University of Oxford. I also did Foundation Art and Design at Camberwell and studied a Postgraduate Diploma in Book Arts.

I've done plenty of professional development courses over the years, in areas such as web design, e-newsletters, InDesign and Flash.

What do you do at work?

My work is focused on delivering briefs for clients. On the creative side, my work includes: 

Don't burn any bridges! The industry is all about people helping each other out.

  • writing copy
  • laying out pages
  • illustration
  • infographics
  • web development.

On the business side, I also have to do admin, accounts, development and client facing.

At this stage in running my own business, I have to work all the time to keep it going! Having a business partner would have made my position much easier.

My clients are all charities, as I like to work with organisations whose ethos I feel I can share. I also saw a gap in the market for charity-only design agencies, so I'm trying to fill that.

What's the best thing about your job?

Knowing I've done good creative work, which was exactly what the client wanted and truly achieves something.

And the worst thing about your job?

At the moment, the money side is difficult for me. If I underestimate how long a job will take when giving a quote to a client, then I can end up taking on much more work that I'm being paid for.

Creative work is quite an intangible thing to project costs for.

How do I get into design?

My advice for getting into design is:

1. It's never too late to do work experience

I squeezed in placements during my holiday leave, even when I was working full-time. I would encourage doing week-long placements whenever you can. However, be clear what want to get out of work experience before you commit. This will help you make the most of a short time.

2. Pursue other interests

If you only focus on design then your horizons are narrowed. Innovation comes from seemingly unconnected places, and you have to be a user to understand the user experience.

3. Get experience of working in-house, agency and freelance

This will help you know the kind of organisation you want to end up working for.

4. Don't ever burn any bridges!

The industry is all about people helping each other out, so foster good working relationships. I'm still in touch with plenty of people from work experience placements and previous jobs. I draw on them for work opportunities and advice.

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