Posted 02 March 2021
Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Introduction by Siham Ali

Experimentation is the most valuable skill you can have: Designer Lucy Harmony Grimes

Designer Lucy Harmony Grimes found herself in the deep end after quitting her full-time job to go freelance. After spending two years at creative studio, The Digital Fairy, and amid a lockdown, she began to formulate a business plan, listing her dream clients and goals. Today, Lucy works across graphic design, animation, UX and UI for the likes of MTV, Slowe Club, plus many more. Here, we speak to Lucy about her ‘whimsical’ and ‘thoughtful’ practice, the realities of going freelance during a pandemic, and subverting the status quo within design.

Lucy Harmony Grimes

Lucy Harmony Grimes

Job Title

Freelance designer



Selected Clients

Slowe Club, Everyone’s Invited, MTV, Irish Cream

Previous Employment

Junior Designer, The Digital Fairy (2018–2020)


BA Graphic Design, Manchester School of Art (2015–2018)


Social Media

What I do

How would you describe what you do?
I’ve begun describing my practice as ‘making whimsical worlds and thoughtful identities’.

A ‘world’ refers to anything to do with the visual communication of the brand or client, like identity work, web, or animation. I like to involve lots of thinking and concepts, hence the ‘thoughtful’, and the ‘whimsical’ refers to my imperfect, maximal, and decorative design style.

Other than that, I’ve been freelancing for about four months now! Every day is different but I’ve been lucky to have had a few varied projects since. I’ve been designing the branding for a new antique and woodwork shop, a few websites, and most recently, animations for MTV. When I’m not designing, I’m usually found making posters for my online shop, sending emails, doing admin, or sorting out my portfolio.

If you could sum up your job in a meme what would it be?

Meme chosen by Lucy

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
Nature plays a big part in inspiring my work; the more ‘whimsical’ and flowery illustrations are certainly down to my Mum taking us out on beautiful walks and teaching us names of different flowers. I’ve always found a lot of solace in nature and I’m instinctively drawn to including it in my work.

In terms of design, I’ve always been interested in subverting the masculine feel of modernist design. When I started university, and as I entered the design world, I realised there was a bit of a ‘boys club’. All of the celebrated designers were men, and I found that the landscape of design even in the contemporary and current space was dominated by men.

Feeling slightly left out because my work didn’t seem to fit any of the design categories we were taught, and being someone who has a rebellious yet competitive streak, I started making work which was the antithesis of this. I did this in my extremely maximal, messy and unapologetically feminine way – and was determined to make a career out of it.

“When I started university, and as I entered the design world, I realised there was a bit of a ‘boys club’.”

What’s been your favourite project to work on, from the past year, and why?
Now I’ve gone freelance, I’m enjoying getting to spend more time thoroughly conceptualising branding and identity work. I recently worked on the identity for an artisan woodwork and antique shop called Irish Cream. It was interesting to think about the physicality of the ‘object’ - creating a mark with edges, a nondescript symbol that could represent the top of a table or the edges of a handmade candle. Ultimately creating a logo that represents Irish Cream for what it is – a store selling beautiful objects.

Working with my clients means I can decide how much time I’m allowed to spend on concepts, and getting to creatively direct the whole project is amazing! It also massively helps when the client’s vision aligns with yours.


Work for Irish Cream


Work for Irish Cream


Work for Irish Cream

How I got here

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
In a lecture I gave to design students recently, one of my main points was about experimentation. Regardless of higher education, I think experimentation is the most valuable skill you can have. It’s important to allow yourself to make random posters, using every single tool, or effect, or colour in the paintbox, just for fun. That enabled me to grow my knowledge and to achieve an outcome quickly, as I began to understand what the tools could do. It also inevitably develops your design eye, so when working on a ‘real’ project, all of your experimentation is incredibly valuable.

Also, something that university taught me was the value of concepts, and how much it can elevate design work. The thinking behind design is something you get from being in an educational environment, through studying with other designers, talking about, and critiquing your work. University gives you time and space for that.

“Experimentation is the most valuable skill you can have. Allow yourself to make random posters, using every single tool or colour in the paintbox, just for fun.”

Experimental motion work by Lucy

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
I had briefly interned at [creative studio] The Digital Fairy during university, so once I graduated I applied for a design assistant role there. For me, the process of getting my first design job was luckily quite quick. Forming that relationship whilst studying was the gateway into my first job.

At an agency, you’re working to tight deadlines which makes you find your feet quite quickly! I think this is a very valuable skill as it forces you to not overthink. It was imperative to my journey because I learnt about agency processes like client relationships, budgets, and working with creatives and art directors. It also taught me a lot about different areas within the creative industry like social media marketing and production. All of this will be beneficial if you ever go freelance. Being self-employed is still a whole new world to me, but I’m enjoying the newness of it all.

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
@fbeinghumbleldn is a great resource for a bit of encouragement when you’re feeling weird about promoting your work.

@wherearetheblackdesigners is a great account that’s helping to diversify my knowledge and following of POC creatives. It’s teaching me about the racial inequalities within the design industry. Essential reading, listening and learning.

Lastly, I love Fonts in Use because I wouldn’t say typography is my strongest point, and I was never sure how to source typefaces, but this is a great place to start.

Lucy’s online shop

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
I was living in a difficult house-share, going through a break-up, and being in lockdown meaning I couldn’t go and see friends – all whilst deciding to quit my job and start my own business with only two years of industry experience. I’d say those few months were extremely challenging. Not only emotionally but mentally as well.

To keep myself from losing it I would get up at seven, and go for a walk along the Hackney canal, and get myself a nice coffee so I had some fresh air and thinking time in the mornings. I would also work on my website and portfolio before starting work – when you’re in a situation where you’ve just quit your job with no clients lined up, it does force you to get up early!

Also, for total transparency, I had lots of lie-ins and cups of tea in bed. All equally as important.

“Follow people because you like their work; strike up a conversation if you’re interested in something they’ve done.”

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
Social media has been essential to my career so far. I’m a fairly sociable person so it comes naturally to want to form new and interesting authentic relationships in all kinds of fields. I also love talking about design and meeting other designers.

I think it’s important to be genuine, so follow people because you like their work, strike up a conversation because you’re interested in something they’ve done, or compliment their work if you see something you love! I think this is how you organically create a network of genuine connections. Doing this myself has meant that I’ve felt comfortable politely approaching the connections I’ve made – whether that’s for collaboration, seeing if the company they work for take on freelancers, or just for some advice.

Now I’m freelance, my Instagram is like a shop front: I curate and consider what I put out there, even though it might not seem like it. I think having a casual tone of voice and element to your work, like uploading work in progress or process videos, helps people to resonate with it. I try not to take myself too seriously and always have a lol at my captions.


Svanen Konditori identity by Lucy


Svanen Konditori identity by Lucy

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I think one of my biggest (and hardest) learnings so far has been to not undersell myself. I have found that the clients who try to knock you down on price from the start are often the ones who don’t value or respect the process. Price appropriately, send a contract, ask for half up-front, and stand strong!

“I have found that clients who try to knock you down on price from the start are often the ones who don’t value or respect the process.”

How did you go about landing your first clients?
Since knowing I wanted to go freelance I’ve had a list of people and places I wanted to work with, big and small! Initially, I put time and thought into emailing or messaging a few of them individually and it’s gone very positively so far. I did a launch of my website which got a few peoples’ attention on Instagram too.

My advice

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
I started by making a very rough business plan, including small and big goals, dream clients, and business strategy. This will help you to visualise where you want to take your business, and how you’ll get there.

When I was doing this, I made sure my website and portfolio were looking lovely, so you have a space that represents you and that you can easily direct people to. I also have multiple portfolios for different kinds of clients; Google slides is a really easy way of mixing and matching portfolio pages. Then I prepared by saving some wages and making sure I could cover rent. I asked a few different freelancers for advice too.

When you have everything in place… go for it! It’s the best and most freeing decision ever.

Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Introduction by Siham Ali