Grace Abell, Abell Design
Grace runs Abell Design; a brand and communications studio based in York. I wanted to have a coffee with Grace and find out a little bit more about her and her work. And I think you’ll enjoy reading this interview just as much as I did!
I met Grace via a Facebook group – I think it was the Being Freelance community (a fantastic group that I’d highly recommend joining). Grace is always really helpful and ready to offer advice, both design and non design related. I’ve followed her on Instagram for a while and really love her work. Especially the recent project she did for the Royal Mail charity Rowland Hill Fund.
What coffee do you like to drink?
Americano with milk, please.
Tell me about the work you do
I’m Grace – a runner and a mother of one. I’m also brand and communications designer. Designing logos genuinely excites me. My background is in magazine publishing, therefore I also create print and digital editorial design for organisations.
Finish this sentence. Great design should be...
…profitable for the company it represents. Of course it should be functional and aesthetically engaging, and those things will bolster the bottom line. But as I’m a commercial designer, I care about my client’s return on investment. My work should be a part of my clients’ success.
Finish this sentence. Great design elevates your brand by...
…attracting the right clients. Clients will recognise that your offering is worth paying a premium for via your brand. We live in a generation which is so switched on to design, having a logo isn’t enough. You need a brand which makes a greater impact than your competitors.
When lockdown eases, the first project I would like to design would be... because…
While I can work from home or my studio, there are loads of companies I dream of getting through the doors of. Marks & Spencer being at one end of the spectrum and the Hard Rock Café at the opposite. I don’t specialise working for a particular industry — just brands which have the highest standards of consumer experience.
What piece of design do you wish you’d created?
Sir Peter Blake was a huge influence in my formative years, especially his Sgt. Pepper’s album cover. Visual creativity for music has developed since then. If the brief of The Beatles re-inventing themselves landed on my desk today, there’s so much more that could be done.
What do you think makes someone a great designer?
A great designer listens to the client. It often is like being a therapist. What are they thinking about, which they don’t have the language to express? Projects fail if the brief has been misread.
Regarding skills, a great designer is someone who isn’t scared of trying something new. Which is why freelancers are often the best designers. Every week we’re working for a new brand and take what we’ve learned to the next project.
For a few years I was scared of logo design. My strengths were in editorial. But once a client asked me to design a logo. I was surprised at how good the result was, so I kept going. Brand design makes up at least half of my work now, and is my favourite part of the job.
If you weren't doing design, what would you be doing?
Let’s speak a little philosophically; the thing you are supposed to be doing in life, is the thing where you can take the pain more than anyone else. I can handle the stress of the creative process. I can get past the rubbish ideas and onto the great ones. I can justify my ideas. Some people can’t do that, because they don’t know what’s possible if you keep going
My other strength lies in writing, and I’ve been fortunate enough to write for several magazines. However to write all day, every day, would be the pain I couldn’t take.
Running a business single-handedly draws on a variety of skills, from finance to marketing, admin and negotiation. I am working several roles already. As long as I’m creating excellent design, everything else takes care of itself.
And finally, can you tell me about 3 other freelance designers or small biz owners whose work you admire
Sarah’s a book cover designer who is a visual chameleon. She doesn’t have one aesthetic, but works around the publisher’s needs. There is nothing which she isn’t good at