Interviews |

Fulfilling your passion with Hollie Arnett

From Wellington New Zealand, Hollie Arnett is a design student already working towards fulfilling her passion.

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Hollie on campus

You have a range of print and web projects on your portfolio. Where does your heart lie?

I think about this a lot when I look at my portfolio because I want potential clients or employers to have a clear view of who I am as a designer, and I asked myself what I would want them to see the most. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t decide. I love print and web equally as much. They are so different but so similar at the same time which I think is why I can’t choose. I love how design can be used in so many different formats and mediums to portray similar content in various ways to provide a unique user experience, and I’m super interested in the way that print and web can work together in cool ways. It’s too hard to choose between them!

I think I’ve ended up this way because at university I’ve done such a mixture of print and web, often with projects requiring both elements to fulfil the brief and convey the message, so it’s allowed me to experiment in both. At my current job I work in web and mobile design so I’m focusing more of my university studies and spare time on print material so that I can continue with the spread of both!


What have you learnt from freelancing, that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to learn in the classroom?

University has taught me countless amounts of stuff about design, both practical and theoretical and I’m so thankful for all of that, it’s amazing and I honestly love it! However, I think one of the major things that they miss out on, that freelancing has almost forced me to learn, is all of the business and marketing stuff. I never ever knew about creating invoices, documenting payments, receipting clients or any of the business aspects that you need to organise before you can be a functioning designer in the real world. Obviously if you work for an agency or a bigger company you probably won’t have to deal with those, but even things like how to talk to a client professionally and more practical, real world skills that you need outside of your design skills, they haven’t been taught in my degree, well not yet anyway.

Luckily, I’ve been freelancing since I was in high school so I’ve slowly started to figure this stuff out, and it’s helped me so much. With each client I learn more and more, figuring out what I did well and what I could do better, but I’m still not perfect at all. I listen to podcasts and read books constantly to help me be the best designer that I can be, in all aspects; be it the actual work, the business side, or the marketing side. It’s a complete package and freelancing showed me that.


As a design student about to enter your final year, what advice would you have for a high school student who will be starting their first year of design school next year?

I’ve known I wanted to be a designer since I first did design back in year 10 at high school and it’s been my passion ever since. If you’re doing design school, then I’m assuming that you love it too. Never forget that. University will get difficult and stressful at times, but if it’s really what you want to do then you’ll get through that, no problem. Just keep reminding yourself why you’re there and how much it will be worth it in the end, which it will. Seeing those great grades roll in, the beautiful portfolio pieces loading up, the interest from employers, and the knowledge growing, makes all the hard work feel like nothing.

Oh, and use a diary. Seriously it’ll save your life. Get it all out of your head and onto paper. Plan what you need to do each day to stay on track and do it. Organisation is key!


Where do you get your inspiration for your lettering pieces?

I don’t do half as much lettering as I would like to because I really do love it! Since I spend most of my design life on the computer, taking out a pencil and paper and doing some good old fashioned drawing is the best. I don’t do a lot of completed lettering pieces at the moment because I just like to practice little bits to improve my skills before I create full pieces of art. I did a series last year in which I drew one character from the alphabet every day, and this was an example of just that. Doing one letter helped me to concentrate on the practice of drawing, and not get too carried away. It was also a cool opportunity to try lots of styles because each letter was completely different from the last. I’m actually planning on digitising those designs, but I might have to do some of the first ones again, they got a lot better towards the end thanks to the practice!

If I do decide to be a bit more adventurous and attempt a full piece, which I have done a few of on my instagram, I usually use song lyrics or bible verses. They’re already set into small phrases which is helpful and the words are always so beautiful and inspirational so it makes it fun to letter.


Collaborating with others can be a challenge. Given that you have to work on group projects at university, do you have any tips on how to work with others effectively?

Snacks always help. Hanger (hungry anger) will never.

But seriously, the thing I’ve found to be the most important when collaborating is not to compare yourself to the people you’re working with. Comparing yourself makes you bitter about your own work and your contribution to the group, as well as towards the people working with you, which doesn’t help anybody. Whether you’re in a group of two or twenty, everybody is different and has completely different skills and opinions to offer, and even if someone’s opinion isn’t the right direction for your group, it’s still valid and you still need to listen. Remember to treat others how you want to be treated and that this is a team; you need to work with each other, not for each other or against each other. As an old friend of mine would say, ‘teamwork makes the dream work.’

What piece of work are you most proud of and why?

My most recent piece of work was a huge achievement for me and I couldn’t be more proud. I designed and produced a typographic book about the Mt Erebus plane crash in 1979 and the controversies around it for a university paper in information design. Creating the piece for the assignment was a mission enough but I also chose to enter it into the student assessments for ISTD (The International Society for Typographic Design) which meant even more time spent and hard work put into it to make it as perfect as possible.

This was the most stressed I’ve ever been at university and it took a lot of strength and that passion I talked about earlier to get me through it but I’m so glad I didn’t give up! Not only did I get an A+, but the work gained me entry into ISTD and was given a merit award which is amazing! I guess I’m so proud of it because I just worked so unbelievably hard and I wanted it to be so perfect and all the hustle paid off in the end!


What will you be working on over the holidays?

I’m working at my UX/UI Design job full time over the holidays but in my spare time I’m actually working on my own stuff at the moment which is a fun challenge! I’m rebranding myself, creating a new portfolio website and also attempting to start a blog. I’ve discovered it’s quite hard to design for yourself, I feel like I have too many options because I can do literally anything I want to so I’m enjoying the challenge that it’s presented, it’ll definitely keep my holidays busy!


Get in touch with Hollie through her portfolio site, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


Femke is a Digital Designer and lover of side projects. As a co-host on the design podcast Design Life, Femke enjoys talking about issues freelancers face as young creatives.