Why I draw

April 9th, 2019   •   No Comments   

“So is it a hobby?” I was asked about my drawing the other day. It’s a reasonable question – in a digital world, it seems at odds with design and creative direction. But no. It’s how I think and how I look. When I grab my sketchbook, I think about what made me want to draw that thing or those people or that view in the first place and what are the things about it that I want to record, often with little time. Recently, my drawing has become a thing in its own right but in its curious-mindedness, it’s also part of my work as a whole.

I like to stretch that thinking – so when illustrator, designer, artist, educator and activist Soofiya was in charge of a Friday Night Sketch, a monthly workshop at the Design Museum, I went along, prepared to look differently at its spaces and collections. The theme, mapping, is something I’ve used in my design work but for this, I wandered the space with an open mind, to see what I paused at.

Top left: looking at a display of classic shoes, I wondered how far someone might walk in them and in what way. Top right: a large 3D printer was making tiny, tiny journeys producing little baskets.
Above: I mapped my tentative journey in to the museum, a little early and not quite sure where I should be going.

More drawings on Instagram.

New view

March 16th, 2019   •   No Comments   

A Velodrome view! Who knew? Thanks to an out-of-the-blue opportunity, I’ve moved to new co-working space The Trampery on the Gantry, at former 2012 Olympics broadcast centre Here East. The space is packed with creativity, from design to music to drinks, on a campus buzzing with tech, museum, arts, university and media activity. It’s an exciting time to join the space and well-timed for a new broadening-out of activity at the studio.

Drawing, seeing, performance

January 23rd, 2019   •   No Comments   

Live drawing is about visual notes. There’s a tangible product of turning up, whether it’s a set of sketches or a graphic novel style visual and verbal record. But in asking me to draw at their 10th anniversary and 2019 kick off party, Autor architecture were as interested in the performative element of having me there drawing as in having a set of illustrations at the end of the evening. Guests appreciated having something different going on, came up to chat and were interested to see what was happening. And when speech time came, I appreciated having packed a black paper sketchpad as well as a white one… it was perfect for responding to “I was always wearing black”!

For more on my drawing life, follow @lydiathornley on Instagram and look out for a brand new studio website due later this year.

Seen in Stockholm

January 3rd, 2019   •   No Comments   

I’ve been off on my travels again, in a trip fuelled by the same the spirit of enquiry that drives the work. So what have I learned over the holidays?

A museum can invite people in and invite people to look out (these, pictures from the wonderful Fotografiska and the Moderna Museet).
Illustration can tell stories and shed actual light: the dual function of these painted biblical wallcloths was to tell the Christmas story and help make dark log dwellings feel lighter in short Winter days.
Chairs were once a status symbol. Stools were for everyday – display a chair and you showed that you were doing well.
If any reminder were needed, that arts and sciences go well together – this is test work by Olafur Eliasson in collaboration with a mathematician.
You can make a whole cityscape out of gingerbread – this, an entry in the joyous gingerbread house competition run by ArkDes, the architecture and design centre.
There was a lot of branding in shipbuilding – here, both to enemies and to the country’s own citizens (this is in the Vasamuseet).
Brick can be surprisingly delicate – this beautiful line work is in Stockholm’s cathedral.

Here’s to more discoveries in 2019!

A Christmas apostrophe

December 17th, 2018   •   No Comments   

The annual studio Christmas booklet always gets some nice responses. But this year, there’s been a response in type form at an independents’ lunch organised by fellow designer Mike Abrahams, where wooden type was distributed to all: this lovely letterform is a nod to Apostrophe, my extract from my Nerd Nite talk.

Santa’s little helper

December 10th, 2018   •   No Comments   

Above: a visual diary of the making of the Christmas window at Beaucatcher in Stoke Newington, the salon where I had my exhibition Hair Lines this Summer. A lot more went into it than you’d think: several stages of roughs, materials tests on glass, digital development and two stages of large scale drawing, pausing occasionally to wave at passing families. More on the project here.

LT in Love East

December 9th, 2018   •   No Comments   

Design life: here, it’s a lot more than ‘travel to computer, sit at computer, generate graphics’. My daily drawings on my commute have become a prolific Instagram feed, that has led to commissions and an exhibition and for fellow Eastenders, there’s a feature on them in Love East magazine.

A voyage of type nerdery

October 26th, 2018   •   No Comments   

The first graphic designer to speak at Nerd Nite London, I was back in November 2018 to talk about apostrophes. I never pass up an opportunity to research something in unnecessary detail so I had a lot of fun researching for my 20-minute hurtle through everything I didn’t know about this little glyph. If I was out and about, the chances were that I was on the trail of another fascinating fact…

Nerd Nite London is a pecha kucha night for charity at the Backyard Comedy Club, Bethnal Green. 

Just one thing

September 7th, 2018   •   No Comments   

In an industry where increasingly, everyone tries to do everything, it’s inspiring to spend some time with people who do just one thing, very well.

The title piece from my Hair Lines exhibition was scanned at Cultural Heritage Digitisation, which works with artists and heritage collections, scanning large originals. With a museum background, they understand and enjoy the pieces that they work with. There is enormous pride in being able to pick up the finest pencil line and for us, discovery in working with them.

Experts don’t just make quality better; people who know their stuff make the whole project better.

In praise of pencil shavings

August 21st, 2018   •   No Comments   

Technology is a wonderful thing. It does speed and precision, it crunches through data and it makes the geography of a project a mere detail. But come on: pencil shavings…

In the by-products of a manual process, there are moments of wonder that can change the direction of an idea, or spark a new idea.

It’s one of the many reasons why I’m in favour of designers exploring the creative world beyond their screens, whether that’s in hybrid process or portfolio careers.