How does design impact social change and how can designers get paid for their expertise?

These are just two of the answers provided by Berenice Smith of Hello Lovely in her Ask the Expert session with Drive members …

A photo of Berenice Smith
Berenice Smith

Berenice Smith Hello everyone! I’m a graphic designer with experience in agencies and publishing, working on branding, books, magazines and marketing material. I am also a picture researcher, project manager for books and buy/create illustrations. I have a Masters degree in graphic design and typography and speak about design. I love to encourage the next generation of students. During my MA I became interested in design for social change and worked with the Dyspraxia foundation on a project called Everyday Hero. I used my Masters degree to launch a site called Walk In Our Shoes which features stories from people around childlessness not by choice, something that impacted on my life after miscarriage and failed IVF. I speak at events and businesses about equality and awareness in this field. You’re welcome to ask me about this too!

Ann Hawkins Money aside, what sort of work would you prefer to do over all others? 🙂

Berenice Smith Design overall saved my sanity in tough times so it’s my happy place but I love to pick up a pencil or a paint brush and go back to basics.  Inspiring others who have been through loss to take up a plan B and giving them the confidence to do that. I’d love to do more about grief, inspiration and art therapy but mindful of focus for my magpie mind!

I’m very lucky to enjoy the balance I’ve found and have amazing clients so it’ll be something for another time in my life perhaps. The mental health training may draw all this together in time.

I also completely appreciate that the more personal stuff isn’t easy to ask about so what I’ll say is that going through failed fertility treatment has undoubtedly shaped who I am and naturally I’m living a life I didn’t actually expect to do, so sharing why I’m a designer and going for it I hope will help others to see that there are other opportunities out there. It’s also taken me on a journey in mental health training too. Never thought I’d do that!

Andy Boothman As a fellow designer, I’m interested to learn more about your design development processes. We’re increasingly told that we will work direct on to a screen through what ever apps and tech is available. Personally I prefer good old pencil and paper – for me it’s the ultimate freedom to create and conceptualise things. I wondered what were your go to routes when working on a design project?

Berenice Smith I’m with you, pen and paper. It’s flexible, it can be shaped and there’s no wrong marks. I spent way too much time at the Mac. I sketch most days too. I’m terrible at writing a diary!

Helen Lindop As a complete amateur who is struggling to be creative on a computer this is reassuring. I thought it was because I associate computers with logical tasks and creative activities with paper, pens, fabric, wool etc but maybe digital is less creative medium for most people? (I also have a Wacom tablet but it feels like drawing in the sand with a stick).

Andy Boothman Wacom tablets are interesting, to be honest I’m quicker with a mouse, but I put that down to the amount of time I’ve put in learning to control the tools this way. I’ve taught others to use Wacom tablets for Illustrator and Photoshop work. I’m sure the tech will continue to improve but I’m even more sure that you’ll never beat the simplicity and speed with which you can scribble out ideas and concepts on paper. For me, the Mac or PC is just a means to an end, it puts the professional polish on a idea/concept it seldom helps you create that thought from scratch.

Eliza Adams Was there a particular piece of design work or art which made you think this would be the kind of career you wanted?

Berenice Smith I was doing my GCSEs and my parents were somewhat in despair and wanted me to work at the OS with maps. But I saw this video in a careers lesson on a commercial artist and it was like a light bulb moment

Eliza Adams So it was commercial art that sparked your interest, rather than art for arts sake?

Berenice Smith I love art but there wasn’t many career choices. So commercial art finally offered a way to make a living. Ironically I would probably loved map drawing with the OS now, I love drawing maps!

Andy Boothman Who inspires you? Artists, designers etc.

Berenice Smith How long have we got?! Erik Spiekermann, David Jury, Beatrice Warde for her sheer cheek, Auston Kleon, John Dreyfuss whose work I am exploring and the late John Peters who was the subject of my dissertation and an incredible man – both proper craftsmen.

And students too, I’ve met loads who just get it and I love their enthusiasm!

Oh and Marian Bantjes, love her work too. I also spent way too long at the Fitz getting a bit emotional at the wonders!

Eliza Adams What’s your pet hate working with people who don’t understand what you do? (I say this as a writer who has her work edited into nonsense by customers!)

Berenice Smith I think anyone who undervalues design. That whole £10 logo thing and the race to the bottom! And I understand your frustration, it’s a lack of respect too.

Eliza Adams Isn’t it! Agreed that pricing and people wanting work for free/a pittance shows how little understanding they have of what designers/creatives actually do!

Andy Boothman I can empathise with you their Eliza, it doesn’t happen to me very often these days, but I learnt a long time ago that the clients who do that aren’t worth having, they just don’t understand what you’re doing for them. It’s really frustrating, there are a few who you can take on a joinery and show them how good things can be without their interference, but not many. These days if that starts to happen I tend to ask why they’ve asked me to work with them – in the nicest possible way of course 😆

At the risk of sounding slightly ranty I’m going to add this. A lot of the craft has gone. I’ve had numerous occasions over the past few years where I’ve rejected artwork as the type was simply cut and pasted into layouts with no interest in legibility, line breaks or any of the other craft associated with design. To the point last week where I had to run a workshop with one agency about what ‘widows’ were and how to long/short text. Don’t get me started on ligatures 🤣

Eliza Adams The first proper advice I got was “put your prices up”. I’d been pushed into lower and lower fees trying to keep clients and tempt new ones, and was working crazy hours for no money. I didn’t believe that anyone would pay as much as was suggested – but the decent clients pay the decent money, and those who pick by price alone get what they pay for!

Berenice Smith Absolutely agree Eliza, the race to the bottom is one we can all fall into when we start out if we’re not careful. Free pitching is my other pet hate. Nobody would go into a cafe, order five meals and pay for the one they liked the most.

Andy Boothman Haven’t done it for over 6 years now. I always felt it was immoral and 99% of the time the work was already going to someone else before the client ever saw any of the work you’d busted a gut to deliver. Wrong on so many levels.

Berenice Smith Erik says this “Clients come in and they discuss working with you, so of course you have to show them something. But a lot of clients, they want us to make some sketches to show what it could look like. That’s already the work we do. That’s the meal. We’ll discuss the menu with clients but once they sit down and eat the first bite, it’s chargeable. I’m not giving away any creative work for free. Once we know what the project is, we’ll tell you how much it’s going to cost. But we won’t deliver any ideas for free. We deliver a proposal that describes the work and the timing.”

He also says ‘Design will save the world. Just after Rock & Roll does’. I have that a letterpress of this in a frame!

Get in touch with Berenice on Twitter @HiHelloLovely or at