Women In Design feat. Hannah Strickland

We had an interesting chat with Hannah Strickland, Design Director at Halo as part of our ‘Women In Design’ content series.

The purpose of article series ‘Women In Design’ is to feature, showcase and share the reality of being a woman in design. We gather and showcase stories, career journeys, as well as advice and wisdom.

=Could you please introduce yourself as well as your background?

I have the absolute pleasure of holding the position of Design Director at Halo, a brand-first creative agency in Bristol. I started out a decade ago (that hurt to type out) with a Degree in Graphic Communication, and got taken in by the thrill of London, working at two brilliant creative agencies. This was when my love of all things ‘brand’ kicked in.

After 6 years, I suddenly realised that London wasn’t the only place with incredible creative talent, so I packed myself up and moved to Bristol. Here, I took what felt like a very bold step away from agency life and took a maternity cover contract leading the in-house design team at a company that hosts global Art Fairs. That finished during our favourite ‘P’ word, the Pandemic, so I shakily ventured into the world of freelance, and had an absolute blast working across re-brands, album covers, movie posters and a photoshoot where I asked if I could paint the models purple (the client said ‘yes’).

During my time as a freelance designer, Halo brought me in for a couple of weeks and it was then that I became completely enamoured by the team, the clients and the company’s ethos, so when they asked me to stick about permanently, my answer could only be yes.

In an attempt to capture some of the Wisdom you’ve gained as a woman in the design sector so far, what are 5 “stand-out things” you’ve learned that you’d like to pass on to your peers as well as the future generation of talent within your sector?

1. People, unsurprisingly, do their best work when they’re excited and when they feel supported. I’ve met very few people who can do brilliant things when they’re stressed, overwhelmed, or lacking in confidence, (and if you meet someone who can, stop and give them a hug). This is worth bearing in mind when looking for somewhere to work, when it comes to working in a team, and when it comes to leading a team.

2. When working in a team, your peers’ wins are also your wins and, maybe most importantly, their losses are yours too. Designers seem to be natural glory hunters, but if I had a pound for every time an idea of mine was improved by a colleague, I probably could have afforded to turn my heating on last winter.

3. Stay curious and work hard to make opportunities for yourself. Never stop asking questions; take time to find out about the people you work with and their experiences; get comfortable asking for the support you need in getting better at your job, and learn about aspects of your work that you might not necessarily be involved in (it’ll only enrich your output). The worst that can happen, is someone says ‘no’.

4. Find strength in your own voice, your own self-expression, and your own approach to design. I’ve been called out for being too emotional, too enthusiastic, and too nurturing, and then spent time trying to squash those natural instincts, but now see those as strengths of mine. Do of course listen to advice and guidance, but communication is a key part of what designers do, so don’t allow others to define what that is for you. I called my freelance company ‘Relentless Enthusiasm’ as a mild middle finger to those that had criticised my enthusiasm before and felt very chuffed with myself.

5. Make time to help others. You learn a great deal that way, and you never know when you might need help yourself. I once put a brilliant freelance designer friend of mine forward for a brief, and then 5 months later found myself venturing into the world of freelance. The tips and guidance she gave me were invaluable and weren’t solely the result of me nudging work her way, yet it made me feel less of a nuisance asking for her help. In general, just be a nice human being. One of our guiding principles at Halo is ‘Don’t be a dick’, and we take it very seriously.

What is your take on the importance of role models?

I believe role models are valuable in showing you both ‘what to do’, as well as ‘what not to do’. If you’re looking for a role model, I’d suggest having more than one, look beyond your industry alone, and find someone that you could actually have a conversation with. Gandhi was amazing, but you can’t drop him a message on LinkedIn to ask for some advice.

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