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Rachel Smith: A Graphic Designer’s Take on F1 Teams, Agencies, and Career Advice

This January, The Race Media Awards crowned Pace Six Four as their International Agency of the Year. We sat down with one of the women instrumental in the agency’s renowned work across Formula 1, ABB FIA Formula E, and GT series: Head of Design Rachel Smith

For Rachel Smith, it all started with a certain motoring programme.

“Growing up, my biggest passion was Top Gear,” she tells Females in Motorsport. “I used to watch it obsessively. And I still do, to be honest.”

This childhood love of Top Gear gave Rachel more than entertainment. It gave her a “love of the automotive” and “rough knowledge of F1” — the two forces behind her initial interest in the motorsport industry. In turn, that interest gave her the drive to apply for her first industry role: Graphic Designer at Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 Team

Rachel joined Mercedes on an 18-month maternity cover contract — right at the time of the team’s 1-2 finish at the 2017 Canadian Grand Prix, she notes. With a desk at their Brackley Headquarters, she focused predominantly on their digital and social media designs. While her most frequent projects included “birthday graphics, social headers, race posters, and all design requests for internal communications”, her repertoire also boasted ad-hoc campaigns, annual car launches, and special livery reveals. 

Once her contract ended in late 2018, Rachel moved on to Silverstone Circuit as a Multimedia Graphic Designer. Working in-house from 2019 to 2020, she expanded her repertoire beyond F1. MotoGP and British superbike races, corporate sales and corporate hospitality events, presentations and track-day programs, and signage and flags were among the many, many projects Rachel produced designs for. 

“It was exciting — and non-stop  — with the amount of work they have going on there,” she says. 

Now, Rachel considers her year at Silverstone memorable for two distinct reasons. One, for pushing her to her technical limits. Two, for first introducing her to the idea of working agency-side. 

“I remember one of the managers at Silverstone asking me if I'd ever considered working with an agency,” she says. “I said, ‘No, I like being in-house. I like being part of a big team that all works towards the same goal.’ And he found it surprising. He said, ‘I can see you in an agency.’” 

While Rachel “didn’t really think anything more of” that conversation (“at the time, at least”), it wasn’t long before Ben Cowley, a former Mercedes colleague, tapped her up to work agency-side at his newly-founded 64th & Social. And when mulling over the offer, she found herself “quite intrigued”. 

“There were a lot of little bonuses,” she says. “Ben was one, because I’d liked working with him so much before. I liked the ethos behind the company. I liked that it was a small company. I liked the idea of working more F1-side again — of doing more projects with teams.

“And really, the time was right for a bit of a change with where I was at in life.” 

In early 2020, Rachel joined 64th & Social as its fourth employee — and only Graphic Designer. The transition from in-house to agency, she says, was, in fact, enjoyable. 

“Immediately, having a small team where you get to know everyone on a personal level was really, really nice,” she says. “Anytime something needed to happen, it took all of us… Anyone could put forward their own ideas, and we’d all be super open to it.” 

Though both Rachel and the agency have changed quite a bit — with her graduating to Head of Design in 2022, and 64th & Social merging with James Robinson’s PACE to become Pace Six Four in 2023 — she strives to uphold the collaborative and creative atmosphere she fell in love with. 

“I’ve stepped away from day-to-day design,” she says. “Now, I’ve got a team of five designers and my day-to-day is making sure that they have everything they need to do their job and that they are happy. I don’t want them to worry about the administrative side of their role. They can be creative, and I can do the chasing for them.

“So, in terms of the big picture, I’m always trying to make sure that my team is working on projects that are relevant to their goals. I want everyone to be doing what they want to do, learning what they want to learn, and enjoying what they’re doing.” 

Though the nature of those projects changes alongside changing clients and their changing visions, Rachel maintains that her team follows a relatively similar schedule for every season. She cites one of Pace Six Four’s clients — Aston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team, which she’s worked with since its days as BWT Racing Point F1 Team — as an example. 

“What we tend to do at the beginning of each season are quote cards, result graphics, schedules, and timetable graphics,” she says. “Then, we’ve got partner assets — like ‘AvaTrade explains’ and ‘AvaTrade presents’ — and social assets, which go out every race. And for the rest of the season, we’ll go on to campaigns. Aston Martin in particular does a lot of fan-focused campaigns, venue-specific campaigns, and wider campaigns with local artists, local photographers that we design assets around.” 

When asked to lend any words of wisdom to aspiring graphic designers, Rachel pauses. 

“You know, F1 is always the pinnacle,” she says. “It’s where everyone wants to be, which is totally understandable. But I always think exploring other options — like working on the event-side, working for smaller teams in endurance racing, GT, or motorbike championships — provides you with so much relevant experience. You’ll be creating race assets, posters, partner content — and it’s all totally transferable.

“Often, there can be a lot more opportunity in those other options. Because when you get to F1, everything’s a lot more polished — everything revolves around big campaigns. Whereas if you’re in a smaller racing series, you get to experiment to an extent that you wouldn’t necessarily get to in F1.” 

Rachel points out that she herself did not start in F1 — or any sports, even. Her pre-Mercedes background includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Film Making from SAE Institute Oxford, one year in the fitness industry, and four years in Oxford Bus Company’s marketing department. But it was that final stint in public transport that introduced her to a love of graphic design, and trained her in the Adobe Creative Suite. She's found both to be beyond essential in her past seven years in motorsport. 

“So, I’d say that even if F1 is where you want to end up — and where you can end up — there's so much you can do with other sports or other industries that will translate to your future work,” she says. “And after that, it's just waiting for the opportunity that you want to come along.”

Of course, during that waiting, she encourages designers to produce and post graphics that showcase their creativity.

“When you produce work as a fan, you’re not bound by any brand guidelines,” she says. “So, be creative. Make a photo manipulation for your favourite team, or your favourite driver. Make a Lewis Hamilton poster in whatever style you want. Do anything, because you never know who’s going to see your work.” 

But what Rachel does know is her commitment to her current line of work, team, and Pace Six Four. 

“I can't imagine being anywhere else,” she says. “It’s such a young business, and I'm quite excited to see where the company goes. Even though I've been here for four years, it really doesn't feel that long — it feels like only a year has gone by. So, at the moment, I see myself very much growing in this role.”

Having grown significantly in 2023, Pace Six Four aims to focus on two objectives this year. The first is building the culture that has been a key pillar of its success to date. The second is establishing its own marketing strategy and brand identity — something that has, somewhat ironically, taken a back seat thus far in the company’s journey.

And as Head of Design, Rachel and her team will be key to establishing the agency as an instantly recognisable name in the industry. 

“There's so much more that we can accomplish,” Rachel says. “And there’s nothing more I want than to be on that journey.”

All images are credited to Rachel Smith and Pace Six Four. 


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