Designer Talks Podcast: A conversation with graphic designer Vicki Lovegrove MCSD

The Chartered Society of Designer’s (CSD) Designer Talks podcast asks designers, how they do it, why they do it, what makes them tick and most importantly, what design means to them. The design podcast is hosted and produced by Lefteris Heretakis aCSDf.

In our latest episode, we had a conversation with graphic designer and creative coach Vicki Lovegrove MCSD.  Please find the episode show notes below and be sure to listen to the full episode here.

About Vicki Lovegrove MCSD

Based in Staffordshire, UK, Vicki Lovegrove is a graphic designer and creative confidence coach.

She has worked in the creative industries for over 30 years, 18 of which have been in her home-based design consultancy. Vicki is a Member of the Chartered Society of Designers.

Her design clients range from small businesses to global brands, and she has guest lectured in universities as far afield as Dehli.

Vicki successfully works her design and coaching business around her family, husband and two children, and Rocky, the studio dog.

Why graphic design?

From a love of Lego to pens and pencils, Vicki’s childhood had all the hallmarks of a designer. However, it wasn’t until taking part in a logo design competition at school that Vicki realised she wanted to become a designer.

Initially, Vicki was interested in art and textiles. However, after her teachers saw her drawings and unique style, they suggested she pursue graphic design. Vicki recalls having to look for work experience at around 14-years-old and finding a trade directory firm with a design department. After carrying out work experience with them, she went on to spend summer holidays working there and at another local advertising and design agency.

Vicki explains she was ‘just a bit obsessed’ with design at the time and had a laser focus when it came to her dream of becoming a graphic designer.

Overcoming challenges as a graphic designer

Following her dream hasn’t always been easy. Vicki explains that even though she was extremely driven, the educational system wasn’t always supportive. She notes that during a careers’ talk, she was told to become a secretary rather than pursue graphic design.

Vicki notes that this was likely due to her being a woman, going on to explain that other women she has met have had similar conversations ‘being told by school, they couldn’t be graphic designers’.

Aside from societal challenges, Vicki notes that during her career one of the biggest mistakes she made was working with a supplier that was not insured.

While Vicki has always had Professional Indemnity (IP) insurance, something that CSD strongly advises and which is compulsory for Chartered Designer status, the third-party supplier she was working with did not. Vicki explains that she was collaborating with a web developer to build websites at the time, creating visuals for clients and using the web developer to build the websites. It was working well until one day the developer’s websites all went down and all their backups were corrupted.

Vicki says it was ‘a proper pit of the stomach sick feeling’ when she realised they weren’t insured. Ever since Vicki has decided to work directly with clients and not alongside web developers. As a professional designer she believes it’s important to have full control of work for her clients, so while she’ll recommend web developers, she won’t work alongside them anymore.

Rewarding experiences as a graphic designer

When considering her most rewarding projects as a graphic designer, Vicki explains she’s been very fortunate to work on several projects where she has been given free rein.

Vicki recalls one stand-out project for a merger between two companies; one based in Ireland and the other in the Netherlands explaining that they needed a complete rebrand, everything from a new name to a whole new visual identity.

Although it was a challenging project for Vicki – who at the time was teaching at a local college and raising a toddler and a puppy – she remembers it being one of the best projects she has ever worked on.

Values as a graphic designer

Vicki considers integrity to be extremely important, she tries to only work with clients whose values align with her own. She notes that over the years she has learnt to ‘trust her gut’ when it comes to working with new people.

As a freelance graphic designer, Vicki recognises that there are times when you’re a little quieter and need work, when she would agree to work with people, even if her gut is telling her that it’s not a good idea. She reflects that every time she’s done this, gone against her instincts, something has gone wrong on the project.

Now when Vicki speaks with a potential client and she doesn’t feel that they’re a good match she will recommend the work to someone else, letting them know that while it’s not an opportunity for her, it’s something they may be interested in.

When considering moral values in respect of design work, Vicki explains that she will not work with companies that get people into debt or sell cigarettes, vapes and similar paraphernalia.

Ongoing CPD as a designer

Vicki firmly believes as a designer, you’ve got to keep yourself abreast of what’s going on, even if you’re not directly involved in it. She’s subscribed to Campaign and is always reading about advertising and design and whilst she doesn’t work in advertising, it’s something she finds interesting, consuming a lot of media to keep informed and inspired. 

To underpin her work as a creative coach, Vicki has undergone plenty of training. Last year she trained in a touch technique called ‘Havening’, she was inspired after visiting a coach herself and experiencing the technique, explaining that she felt the experience completely unlocked her mind. Vicki notes that this technique is used to help people to overcome trauma or bullying.

Design in everyday life

When asked how design affects her everyday life, Vicki responds by stating that “it’s just always there”. Vicki is constantly spotting design and rearranging design-related thoughts in her mind; she explains that it just comes naturally to her.

She reflects on her relationship with design, as pre-pandemic, she was contemplating moving away from design and focusing on coaching full time. However, after her design work started to dwindle during the pandemic, she realised that she needs design as a creative outlet adding that she couldn’t imagine doing a job that didn’t involve design and needing to do something visually creative every day.

Advice for other graphic designers and clients

Vicki’s biggest piece of advice is not to make design all about the software programmes you use. She explains that carrying a notebook and using pen and paper is so important for designers, noting that analogue methods are so useful, as you can physically refer back to ideas.

She also urges designers to get out and visit places if they have time, explaining that absorbing culture is key when it comes to keeping your ideas fresh. She loves to visit museums and exhibitions when she can, noting that almost everything has been done before, so it’s inspiring and important to view historic design in order to progress as a designer.  

Vicki says that exploring new cities or even other disciplines is equally important as visiting museums and exhibitions noting that if you stay stuck in the world of graphic design and video animation alone, you’ll become very boring. It’s important to draw inspiration where you can, as becoming boring is ‘the kiss of death’ for designers.

When it comes to advice for clients, Vicki muses that clients should explain their problems rather than asking for specific design changes. Similarly, she also urges clients to provide tangible feedback to designers, saying that you “don’t like something” isn’t useful guidance – be specific and don’t worry about hurting feelings. She laughs, explaining one of her biggest bugbears is being asked to make something ‘funky’, she notes that to her ‘funky’ means flares and purple – what’s ‘funky’ to Vicki, may not be ‘funky’ to you! 

As the conversation draws to a close, Vicki ends by considering the importance of collaboration for designers. She explains that building a network of other designers and experts has really enhanced her freelance business allowing her to offer her clients an even better service.