Holly Hollon

BFA, Graphic Design 2008
Birmingham, AL


What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work? I am not really sure how these are feeding into my work, I am sure they are though, but these are a few of my current design obsessions: chinoiserie, watercolor, children's books, and french blue.

“In college, I came across this quote by Ellen Lupton: 'Think more, design less.' That simple statement has had a huge impact on the way I design.”

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking? In college, I came across this quote by Ellen Lupton: "Think more, design less." That simple statement has had a huge impact on the way I design. For one thing, I do a vast amount of research before starting a project. This helps me spend plenty of time thinking and planning (sometimes a couple of weeks worth) before I start to actually design. By the time I sit down to design, I am amazed by how much I have already worked out because of the time I spent researching, thinking and planning. I believe my subconscious begins to work out the design while I am still "thinking" about design solutions for a project. In the end, the time invested in thinking pays off into an easier and more productive process than simply digging my pencil straight into the design for hours. 

What project or design problem have you faced (in the past or recently) that seemed to be a “failure” but was perhaps an extremely valuable learning experience? A year into running my own business I was drowning in work. I did not keep a calendar, I had more projects than I knew what to do with and I was beginning to get behind. This was an extremely stressful period for both me and my family. I was miserable and burnt out. Through this stage of my design career, I learned the importance of business organization. My husband, to whom organization comes more naturally, helped me get out of this vicious cycle by working with me to utilize a calendar for workflow/scheduling. Additionally, we worked to raise my prices to allow my to take fewer projects. I also feel like I am able to design at my best with having a balanced amount of work. I now have a realistic perspective on how much work I can take on and how to charge clients for work. My business runs so much more smoothly today because of these hard lessons I had to learn. Learning these lessons and implementing them have paid off. This has been my business' most successful year; I have a great work-life balance and was even able to take a two week vacation this summer (without taking work along).

How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet? To me success is having a business that works for me and helps me achieve my personal goals instead of me working for the business and life revolving around the business. I do believe I have found this type of success. It has been a hard journey to getting there, but as I prepare to be a mother this year I am so thankful I had learned to balance business with family so that my family can come first and the business be a blessing, not a burden, to them.

You have developed a successful design business. Did you learn the skills to running your own business from working at previous design firms? Yes, I most definitely did! I do not think my business would be where it is today without having worked in the design field. At my first job at Lewis Communications, I was always included in client meetings which helped me learn a lot about how to present my work to, and communicate with, a client. Learning how to sell your work and show you are confident in what you create are extremely valuable skills. Additionally, I learned a lot about print production from a lady named LeighAnn. She knew her stuff and taught me so much about paper, ink and printing as she brought me along on press checks. The design on computer to printed product can be really different, therefore, LeighAnn's mentoring really helped me learn about production, a skill I use today to get the final printed project to look like it does on the computer.  To anyone who wants to start their own business, I would recommend that they first work for someone else. There is so much to learn from those more experienced than us.

“I think what it takes to be successful is that you offer something unique.”

Do you believe that it is harder for women to become successful in the design field?  No, I do not. I think what it takes to be successful is that you offer something unique. Design can be a competitive field, as can the wedding industry in which I work a lot. I feel like anytime I am hired for a job it is because the client believes I have something no one else does. For a while I would compare myself to other designers out there and the things that were trending. I would feel as thought I was not good enough because my style at the time may have not been the most popular. I finally realized that instead of comparing myself to other designers or the latest trends, I need to be true to what I create and who I am. I find that people do seek me out to be Holly Hollon and not some other designer. 

Is there a difference between working in design with women or with men? Have you ever been treated differently because you are female? No, I have never been treated differently because of being a woman, however, I have been treated differently for being young. 

Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job or run your business more efficiently? Yes! I think having good business practices really help me be able to design at my best and avoid the stress that saps my creativity. One very important practice I have is to make a contract with each job I do. These contracts contain schedule to which he client signs off. This helps ensure that everyone knows what to expect before the project begins. A second helpful practice I adopted is a weekly or bi-monthly "traffic" meeting with my husband so we can make sure I am staying on top of things and not getting behind or forgetting something. Thirdly, having a good support system when running your own business is really valuable. Personally, having my husband on board and supportive has been very important. Professionally, I use a lawyer and an accountant and would recommend anyone starting their own business to do the same. Fourthly, I believe we need to maintain "margin" in life. Having margin is probably the hardest discipline for me, but it always pays off. Life can be unexpected and I have never regretted having extra time on a project or having a little free time to rejuvenate. One final important habit I have adopted to help fun my business is learning to say "no."

What should a young designer avoid doing when applying for jobs in the design field? I would recommend that designers avoid stereotyping jobs and opportunities. When I was first out of school I only wanted to work for "such and such" firm and I was being very snobbish. However, I got an interview at a firm which I was not very interested in, after which came a second and a third. It was actually the third interview that sold me. I became so excited to work for a firm I had previously written off. I really enjoyed my time there and grew so much as a designer working with some of the most talented people I know. They gave me great opportunities to be creative. Therefore, I would recommend designers take every interview opportunity. You never know where it might lead.

Design Samples

Designer responded to questions in 2016 via email.