five in five* with anita holman, executive creative director and brand strategist

At work, she’s conquering creative for the building materials industry. At home, she's eschewing instruction manuals and going with the flow. Our executive creative director and brand strategist Anita Holman is the latest subject of the Five in Five*, our interview series where we ask our team members five questions in five minutes in order to get to know them outside the office hustle.

We know you to be a straight-shooting, very thorough person in your day job. How does that translate outside the office?

Every time I tell people this, they don’t believe me, but my personality at home is not the super planner. Home is the place I let things flow versus controlling everything. What drives me at work is making sure we are constantly delivering amazing, thoughtful and purposeful creative. At home, it’s about family time and helping my kids succeed. There’s a lower stress level because the weight of what I have to accomplish there is different.

How did you get your start in design?

My design sense started early, really without even knowing it. When I was little, I would watch TV commercials and say to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so bad, how would I make that better?’ without having any idea what that was or why I felt I could make bad commercials better.

I ended up going to Bowling Green State University and majoring in art education. But, my sophomore year of college, during the first week of school, I went into a classroom to do an art session with what were probably elementary kids. That single, chaotic arts and crafts session was a decision point that art education wasn’t for me.

Since the semester had already started, the only art class I could still get into was Introduction to Graphic Design. I had no idea what graphic design was, but it came really easily to me and I got straight A’s on all my projects. After that class, I switched my major and the rest is history.

What is the thing you wish more brands understood about the creative process?

Too many times people are putting the emphasis on the wrong things in a brand development process. Take for example a naming project. A company name is not the brand. A brand is the essence that surrounds it, the positioning you put in place, how your sales team talks about the product and the perception in the market. Often people get hung up on a name or a logo, and what they should be thinking about is the brand experience they want to create. Almost any name could work if you take the time to understand your audience and address their needs. A good rule of thumb: create a killer experience and you’re probably going to succeed.

Your daughter is a competitive gymnast. What are you like as a parent in the stands?

There are parents who are really loud, then there are parents who will go under the bleachers because they can’t watch. I skew more toward the “hide my eyes” parent because it’s so stressful. I also have extreme empathy if something goes wrong with a routine. But I tell myself the failures help build character and resilience, which is really my way of talking myself out of going onto the floor to give her a hug.

What is something that would surprise people about you?

I am not a follow-the-instructions type of person. If I can’t look at something and intuitively figure out how it goes together, I throw in the towel. It’s also why I don’t bake. The precision it takes to successfully bake doesn’t align with my experimental way of cooking. Instead, I’ve become my daughter’s sous chef. I get ingredients out and clean up, as she precisely bakes the perfect dessert.

*It may have taken us (way) longer than five minutes to have this conversation. But it shouldn’t take you longer than five minutes to read it, so we think it still counts.