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10 Questions for New Associate Creative Director: Holly Leach

Get to know what drives Holly as a new creative leader on our team.

We are proud to share two important milestones: Holly Leach has been promoted to Associate Creative Director and received the first inaugural Glantz BANDS Award. 

Holly Leach joined Glantz Design one and a half years ago and in just a short time, has made an indelible impact on our work and team. Her level of strategic thinking, combined with her caliber of work helped catapult her to the next level in our studio acting as Associate Creative Director.

Her dedication to the team, our clients, and learning made her the easy choice for our most revered award tied to our values. We invite you to learn a little bit more about this multi-faceted creative in: Ten Questions for Holly

1. When you were young, what did you want to be? How did you eventually choose design?

There were three things I wanted to be as a kid: an Impressionist painter, a novelist, or the first woman to play Major League Baseball. As I grew older I began to favor writing, which led me to pursue journalism. I always thought I’d be a reporter, but as I learned more about newspapers I developed a passion for the behind-the-scenes production tasks like copy editing and page layout. I shifted my career to focus on newspaper design, which stirred my love for art. As I started to learn more about editorial design, I realized that art and writing didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. In design, you work with a combination of language and image.

2. You have been both a writer and a graphic artist.  What do you consider yourself now?

“Communication design” might be the best way to describe what I do. My work is a blend of message and aesthetics—again, art and words don’t have to be mutually exclusive—and I believe that every design decision should support an overarching narrative. The communication aspect is also important to me: I’m driven by a desire to provide people information so they can make better decisions in their lives. That’s why I chose journalism over, say, creative writing. That desire still powers my design work today.

3. In your free time, what sorts of books do you like to read? What’s your favorite book you’ve read this year?

I’ve always been a big reader, especially of fiction. Lately I’ve been enjoying going back and reading classics—the best book I read this year was Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye—which I started doing with my book club. We usually read about seven books a year because we break up anything over 400 pages into two sessions. We have broad tastes and the sessions can get somewhat nerdy: While reading The Master and the Margarita, we phoned a friend who has a Ph. D. in theology to walk us through some of the religious imagery.

4. Have you always been a great listener or is that something you have consciously worked to develop?

I’ve always been a bit shy, so listening is my default state. Becoming a good listener, though, takes practice. My time as a newspaper reporter helped me develop the skill. Interviewing requires a variety of listening techniques. When working on a story about a major real estate development project, I employed reflective tactics and stated back to my source what I’d heard. When I was covering a memorial for a local university student who died, I adopted an empathetic approach and provided an outlet for mourners’s emotions. I think it’s important to customize how you listen to the person speaking and the topic at hand.

5. What work are you most proud of this year and why?

I’m most proud of the website redesign and development we did for Unity Hospice and Palliative Care, a regional healthcare provider. The service Unity provides its clients is close to my heart, as my mother was caregiver for my grandparents for seven years. I was grateful for the nurses who helped them as they transitioned to end-of-life care. 

The website also presented an interesting user experience challenge: How do we speak to two audiences—patients or loved ones and medical professionals—that have very different needs? I’m proud of our solution and the team who got us there.

6. When you hit a creative roadblock, what are some “hacks” you employ to get over the hurdle?

When I hit a wall on a specific project, the first thing I do is take a break. Any sort of break helps: whether its taking a walk around the block or down the hall for a glass of water, stepping away helps me gain perspective. Sleeping on it is even better. I’ll often have a new idea when I pick the project up again, or at the very least renewed energy to tackle the problem.

It’s also helpful to talk to someone about what you’re stuck on. A lot of times these conversations start with, “This doesn’t feel right, but I don’t know why.” This prompt pushes us to verbalize the uncertainty and thus define what isn’t working.

7. You and your fiancé are inveterate travelers; how do you choose where you will go next? What do you look forward to most in a new destination?

Picking a new destination is a combination of fantasy and convenience. Take this summer’s trip to France, for example. I’d been dreaming of going to Provence, a region in southwest France, since reading the book A Year in Provence. When my fiancé found he’d be traveling near there for work, we decided to seize the opportunity to turn it into a vacation. We did the same thing when we went to Portugal (I’d been wanting to see the azulejo tiles) and Mexico City (he’d been itching to experience the street food). We’ve also turned invitations to destination weddings into vacations; that’s how we toured Greece and Italy.

When we’re planning, it’s important to us to find places that have a mix of history and culture, like the tiles, and activity, such as hiking. On longer trips, we’ll definitely try to spend time in an urban area as well as a smaller town or the countryside. No matter what, unique and tasty food is a must.

8. You are a constant learner. What are you working on right now?

I’m in the middle of an introductory front-end development course where I’m learning basic HTML, CSS, and Javascript skills. I think (or I hope) it’s been helpful in my day-to-day collabs with developers, since I’m gaining a better understanding of how the web works. On a personal level, it’s been rewarding to see how I could bring the websites I design to life.

I also recently bought a set of paints to teach myself to watercolor. I’ve always loved the organic nature and texture of watercolor, so I’m excited to explore the medium.

9. In your new role as Associate Creative Director, what excites you most?

I enjoy the additional interaction with our clients, especially as we kick off new projects. Being able to have live conversations and interview stakeholders always yields stronger products, which is why the research and discovery phases are so important to our work. Looking ahead, I’m excited to push myself as a design leader within our team and to become a better mentor and advocate for our designers.

10. What advice do you have for young designers today?

Push yourself to have interests and hobbies that are not explicitly design-related. The perspective that you bring to your work is a product of your experiences. Inspiration can come from a hike, a concert, a book of poems, a murder mystery party, a comic book, a comedy show, or even just a stroll through a new neighborhood. Expanding your reference points to include worlds beyond graphic or product design will make you a better creative.


Would you like to learn more about Holly? Find fun facts and fascinating tidbits in her bio, or read her blog post on How to Make and Use a Sitemap.

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