Could you please introduce yourself?
My name’s Lucy Little-Groom, I’m 34, and I’m Partner and Creative Director at a design studio called Imagist.
What’s something people would never guess about you?
I have a phobia of buttons.
Who did you want to be as a kid?
I wanted to be a lot of different people when I was younger. I liked trying out different personas whilst I figured out who the hell I was. I had a phase of wanting to be Jennifer Anniston, but I’m pretty sure that’s because I had a huge crush on her. I also went through a phase of wanting to be England goalkeeper David Seaman, going as far as gelling my hair back into a tight ponytail and wearing the full canary yellow goalkeeper’s kit.
On a more serious note, being the youngest in the family meant there were plenty of people around me that had the confidence that comes from knowing yourself. This only exasperated my own internal battles. Knowing from a very young age that I was gay meant that all I really wanted to be was myself.
What is your biggest driver?
My team are like family to me, and seeing them every day gives me such energy. Watching them do things that I can’t and smashing project after project makes me feel enormously proud.
There are also these special moments you can have as a designer. When you’re with a client, and they have a visceral reaction to the work and the ideas. It’s then that you realise you’ve been a part of something special. You’ve helped a business or a brand to flourish. Seeing a happy group of people in front of you at that moment is quite the dopamine hit.
Could you share a highlight in your career?
One of the highlights of my young career was working with Dominic Lippa on the London Design Festival Identity whilst at Pentagram. I was fresh out of university, so it was a privilege to be involved in something that is such a big part of the design community. I had the confidence of youth back then, so I remember just throwing myself headfirst into things, and I’m really proud of how much I achieved at such a young age.
That period of my life was a real baptism of fire. But by putting myself in an uncomfortable position, it meant I was always learning, always growing. Now, whenever I feel uncomfortable or nervous, I know I’m exactly where I need to be because someone or something is pushing me to be better.
Who are the women that have inspired you the most?
To be honest, it’s the women that are closest to me that do the best job here. There are so many of them as well. My mother, my wife, my friends and, of course, the women on my team. What a group of formidable women and all in very different ways. They test me, push me, console me and listen to me. Send those women into battle, and you’d win for sure.
I can’t move on without mentioning Paula Scher, my design hero. No surprises there, as she’s one of the most celebrated designers out there. For me, it’s the energy I see in all her designs. A zest for life that roots her work so firmly in people’s minds and connects it so vividly to the spaces and places it inhabits. She’s bold, and she’s brave, something I always try hard to be. There’s a beautiful balance in her work that comes from hitting a sweet spot between the ‘problem-solving designer’ and a ‘free-thinking artist’.
What is good about being a woman in the creative industry?
I can’t speak for all women in the creative industries; there’s a lot of different types of studios out there and companies that behave in different ways. But for me, I’d say it’s the freedom I feel to be open, to show my emotions. It encourages others to be more open with me, which in turn makes us feel so much more connected.
Have you faced any challenges?
Sometimes it can feel like you’re not taken seriously as a woman in any industry. A man once told me to calm down when I mentioned I was a creative director. No matter how prepared you are for moments like that, it always takes you by surprise, and in that moment, you feel very small. Ultimately though, you have to just keep going and remind yourself of who you are, what you’ve achieved and how you make a difference, big or small.
What change in the creative industry would you like to see?
I’d love to see more women at the top. Statistically, there aren’t many women in the creative industries and even less so at the top. Don’t quote me on the number, but I think less than 20% of Creative Directors are women.
What advice would you give your younger self starting out in the creative industry?
A lyric that always comes to mind is, “sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind… the race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself.” It’s from Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)’. I’d always find myself listening to it when the complicated things I was feeling needed a simple answer.
Other than that, I’d probably grab myself by the shoulders and say… there will be plenty of times when you don’t know how to do something and that’s ok, just ask for help. You’ll have lots of moments where your confidence and anxiety get the better of you, but just know it passes, and you will come out the other side.
Remember to listen as much, if not more, than you speak.