Interview Holly Grundon- Creative Director

Image Holly GrundonHolly is the creative director here at Gorilla Web Studio. Holly started bhg in 1995 when she was between gigs after she moved to Brooklyn, NY. Initially, bhg was a place to park the occasional freelance design job between 1995-2000 when she worked at Scholastic Inc., both as Art Director and as Interim Creative Director for the Classroom Magazine division. For more information about Holly’s time at Scholastic, you can see her LinkedIn profile.

In 2000, Holly decided to jump in head first to launch bhg GRAPHIC DESIGN as a full-scale design house. Over the years, Holly has designed more than 300 books for the education market. In 2005, she partnered with Joan Novelli and formed On the Ball! Productions. Together they launched their first product, SmartPads!, a standards-based book line featuring fun learning activities for grades K-5.

By late 2006, Holly realized that the future growth of bhg GRAPHIC DESIGN was going to be in providing design and development services for the Web along with continuing the print design services bhg had been providing for the past 10 years. Like many business owners she had to adapt to the changing market and educate herself to insure the future growth and viability of her business.

BG: Hi, Holly. How are you?

Holly: I’m great, Bryan. How are you?

BG: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. So what are you currently working on?

Holly: Right now I am working on several new projects for Scholastic. One of the projects is a seven-book math series with Bob Krech. They are funny fill-in stories that provide a fun way for kids to practice and build their math skills. I also just wrapped up the re-design Web site for noted sex educator and author, Logan Levkoff. The site has gone to the production designer and should be ready to launch later this month. I’m really happy with the design and functionality we built into the site.

BG: Sounds like your pretty busy. Logan Levkoff, sex educator, sounds interesting! So what was your approach regarding the web site? When you design a site like Logan’s, how do you make decisions about how the site looks and functions?

Holly: When we start a project, our project manager get together with the client to gather all the information we will need to design the site. It’s helpful at this point if we can look a few sites the client likes or dislikes–it just helps everyone get on the same page. Also, current graphical material that the company uses is important, you know, “Does the company like the current look or are we looking for a new branding direction?”. All this information helps me to start making design decisions, decisions about content and functionality and then how it all weaves together. Then, I move to the sketch stage. Sketching, old-school pen and paper, helps me to quickly block out and visualize the site. After that, I usually create a color palette. Once I have these worked out I then start to comp the site with Illustrator and Photoshop. Sketches are really useful at this point to keep me focused.

BG: So do most of your clients come to you with a fully formed idea of how they want to use their site?

Holly: No. I would say most come to us with things like, “I saw this site and like . . .” or “I really like these colors . . .” But they don’t necessarily know what content to include or the best functionality/technology to help them get the most from their site. That’s where we come in. Understanding the client’s business/personal objectives helps us create that bridge between the client’s objectives and the final product.

BG: It seems like helping clients understand and learn about technology is a big part of your job as designer.

Holly: Well yes and no. Our project manager really helps our clients understand all the cool, new Web apps and which ones are right for them. Along with setting up his fair share of email accounts. [laughing] You’d be surprise how may people need help just to set up their email clients, but that’s just the business we are in.

BG: Last question. Obviously, you have to keep current on new trends and technologies with the work you do for clients. How to you keep your information and skills fresh?

Holly: YEAH . . . change is the lifeblood of the Web! You have to carve out the time to research trends and check out what others are doing. There’s a lot of information out there and my feedreader is jammed full of RSS feeds from all kinds of different sites. But when it comes to design, inspiration can sometimes come from the smallest thing, so I just try to stay open.


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