We started the Becoming interview series after reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming in our book club a few years ago. We wanted to hear from women in different walks of life and how they were approaching creativity, mothering, career goals, and more. It’s been amazing to conduct these interviews and get a “behind the scenes” look at so many inspirational women!
This week we interviewed the amazing, talented Olivia Herrick. I recently discovered Olivia’s work and have to say, I was completely taken with it! Her sense for color and composition are amazing, not to mention her fresh originality. Introducing Olivia Herrick!
Please write a short, 3rd-person bio about yourself.
Olivia Herrick is a graphic designer based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota,
best known for her playful, vibrant, and positive artwork. Though you will often find her glued to her computer at her studio, Olivia finds her greatest inspiration in the great outdoors.
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?
I consider myself a graphic designer!
Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?
I grew up in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Our house was adjacent to a bunch of wooded land and a pond, and we spent nearly every second of every day outdoors. It was so blissful. I have extremely fond memories of my childhood and it deeply impacted the way that I interact with nature today. My mom was an art director/graphic designer before becoming a stay-at-home parent, and her love of color and general aesthetic sensibilities also influenced me greatly.
What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?
By the time I was about 13/14 years old, I knew I wanted to be graphic designer! I got the bug pretty early. But before that I think I went through an interior decorator phase and also the quintessential veterinarian phase as well.
Is there a person who has been influential in your chosen career path?
My parents. My mom was an art director/graphic designer and taught me from a very early age to see life through a creative lens. She’d point out beautiful colors or save type from magazines that she loved. My dad was an inventor and has an incredibly creative mind. Not in the same type of “technical” creative way that my mom is creative, but he really instilled this deep desire in me to think outside of the box and problem solve. I sometimes refer to myself as an “idea woman” and my dad is the original idea man. He is also one of the hardest workers I know and set a great example of what it means to give something your all.
What sparked your interest in art/design?
I went to a small school that placed a heavy emphasis on the arts, so from 5th to 12th grade I was exposed to a wide variety of mediums and spent a lot of time in choir, theater, photography, painting, drawing, ceramics – you name it. I came to have a deep love of the arts and expressing myself creatively.
What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?
One project that I am especially proud of is my upcoming children’s book and first word flashcards products – they are currently scheduled to release this fall! I made both for our daughter, and then worked with my publisher to bring them to a broader market, and they are just two pieces that I am extremely proud of and feel are quite personal to me given their origin story.
What is your design process like?
It really depends on the project–my work is different every day, which I love. I might be working on a visual branding project, or a brochure, or food packaging, or a product for retail. It keeps me on my toes! Almost everything starts with sketching of some sort, followed by an exploration of ideas. I try to get a wide variety of concepts out of my head and onto paper/the computer and then move into refinement.
Where do you find inspiration for new creations?
I try as hard as I can to stay off Pinterest and social media when looking for inspiration and really try to ground myself in the real world. I love the library, I love design books, I love clippings from magazines, old packaging.
What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?
I am fortunate to be surrounded by a community of incredible artists – one perk of social media is being able to connect and build relationships with people that I have never even met in real life! Lately I have been especially fond of following artists in other disciplines – a current favorite is Madison Holler of @rubinskiworks, who does the most stunning beadwork.
What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?
The library is one of my favorite places in the entire world – I have 3–5 books checked out at all times! Right now I am reading The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck. TV-wise, I love easy-going shows. We just rewatched The Office and Parks and Rec. I have found that I don’t have a lot of emotional bandwidth for dramatic television anymore after becoming a parent! Music-wise, Ben Rector has a great new album out called The Joy of Music. I highly, highly recommend!
What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was from my 11th grade history teacher. Her mom passed away and when she eventually came back to class she could tell that we all wanted to say something but didn’t really know where to start. She stood at the front of the classroom and told us that all you really have to say is “I’m sorry.” You can start small. But you should always find the courage to speak up, always find the courage to connect.
It has impacted my life in many ways – I think we all have moments where we want to reach out to someone / offer condolences / connect / check in, but we don’t really know what to say or how to say it, or if we should even say anything at all. But ever since that day in 11th grade I have made a point to always reach out. And I have never regretted it.
How do your surroundings influence your work?
I would consider myself someone who can work well almost anywhere! But I definitely feel the best in a relatively neat, simple space. I work out of my studio which is a small but mighty space a few miles from our home. It is perfect for what I need!
What is a typical day like for you?
Right now I am working from 8 AM – 2 PM each day – these are the hours we have childcare at the present moment! Motherhood has deeply impacted my ability to go with the flow over the past three years. I used to work from 7 AM – 4 PM every day. Now I get twice as much done in half the time. It’s incredible! I typically wake up at 6, journal and have coffee, spend time with my daughter, and then head to work.
At work I typically try to kick off the day with what I call my “daily design practice” – it’s a 5–20 minute creative warm-up prior to beginning client projects. I tackle emails, and then I generally try to have 2–3 major things I am focusing on each day. I try my best to pack my lunch (and about 100 snacks) each day as well, but am not always perfect when it comes to that! My productivity has really improved in the past year and I find that I am able to stay on task significantly more than I was able to in the past.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?
Don’t be afraid of being terrible at first! It’s a journey, and it takes time. It’s going to take some blood, sweat, and tears, and creative pursuits are no different. I recently took up playing the piano for fun and it has been such a good reminder that improving at anything takes deliberate practice and a humble heart!
Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?
I play competitive amateur golf! It is a huge part of my life and something I have been doing for the past 20 years. I play around 8–10 tournaments annually on both a local and national level, and train with my coach year-round. It is such a wonderful sport and has had a profound impact on my life.
Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business?
Yes! I am a huge advocate for running lean. Prior to this year, I would outsource a fair amount of work to designers I hired, but it consistently left me feeling stressed and overwhelmed. In 2021 I decided to try something different and take on less work, charge a bit more, and do it all myself. I had my best year yet by every measurement, and was able to allocate those funds to hiring in other categories of my life (childcare, mental health, etc.)
Generally, I would also say do not be afraid to acknowledge that you want to make money. Do I love graphic design? Absolutely. Do I believe it is truly my calling in life? 100%. But… I am still running a business. I think that there is just a general expectation that women need to be led by their heart rather than a desire to generate revenue. In my experience both of those things can be true. Yes, I love my work. And yes, I want to make a living.
Is there anything more you would like to “become?”
More at peace, more content, more grateful, and more present.
What is your long-term goal? or What do you hope to accomplish within the next 10 years?
I am someone who is hesitant to map out too many concrete dreams for the extended future, only because time and time again the most wonderful (and terrible!) things that have happened in my life and business have been way outside of anything that I could have ever imagined for myself. But I think I can safely say that in the next 10 years I hope to keep creating, to continue to solve visual problems for my clients, to say yes to new challenges, and to be a present, patient, and joyful wife, mother, and friend.
You can read more of our Becoming interviews here.
Photos by Clara Jones Photography