Gary Holt

Graduated – 1990


After gradutaing Gary started work at what was then Robinson Lambie-Nairn. After several years Gary had risen to Executive Creative Director of Lambie-Nairn. He is currently one of the founding partners of design agency SomeOne.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

How and where did you secure your first job?
Junior design-hand at Carroll Dempsey and Thirkell as part of my placement, which was great. Hired by Martin Lambie-Nairn actually at my degree show way back in 1990. Loved the brand and TV mix. Set me up for the multi-media, user-experience, cross-channel, multi-faceted-brand-world-we-now-live-in really nicely.

Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Without a doubt. The fact that I keep bumping into successful Old Prestonians only adds to that belief (Pete Trivunovic has an agency opposite, if any of you know or remember him).

Preston was and is the heady mix of great design ethos, great tutoring, the placement concept and the fact that it was in Preston – local, focused (don’t want to say ‘real’ as that sounds naff, but its wasn’t too ‘poncy precious London’ – at least not too much too early).

How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
Thank God people are beginning to see that it’s not just about logos any more, on the top of a bloody letterhead. It’s about the experience. What a company or product does and says. The problem solving nature of great design is still there, but expressed in many ways. So rather than looking for that ‘one big idea’ often squeezed into a logo, the best solutions have loads of little ideas, that add up to be one big one.

Strategy. Positioning. Getting the brief right too, if you will. It’s the ultimate dark art of branding and design that is often less taught at design colleges – but is the backbone of what we do. Never realized when I started. I spend half my time building, crafting and delivering brand strategy, without a logo in sight. Sometimes in Powerpoint, which is shit.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
Ideas come from other people. Seriously. Surround yourself with frighteningly talented people, and try to keep up. One day you’re creatively directing, and crafting another’s great concept, the next you’re doing it yourself, with design talent biting at your heals.

It’s also the great design buzz you get when people you really respect and appreciate what you do/have just done. It’s part of self-worth. It keeps the day exciting; this industry is great and should be fun (otherwise you’re not doing it right).

What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
Strategy. Understand the need as much as the solution. That and told more people how important they were to me, and made me who I am (blame some too). It was, without doubt an exceptional time, with exceptional people. Talented, relentless, exciting, friendly, sexy, driven.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Everything. Today it’s the strategy I’m currently working on. Yesterday was a crazy debate about ligatures and kerning pairs. Tuesday was about user experience for a mobile application we’re building. Tomorrow is likely to be about some 3D glass animations we’re creating.

What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
Now, strategic understanding. Before, bloody hard work.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
Strategy and brand consultancy for the Royal Family. In brown shoes, for which I got ‘jolly well told off’ for by Prince Andrew. (‘Never brown in town’).

What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
Magic. Understanding. The ability to frighten me a little bit, creatively of course.

Any advice for students entering the industry?
Use the contacts you make, the people you meet and the places you go to their full extent. Your portfolio is of course the culmination of your talent, so if it’s not good enough, then it’s going to be tough. If it is good enough, then it’s still going to be tough. So make friends, know people. Know their connections. Who they know. Name drop if you have to. Be persistent. Be creative about approaching the industry.


Branding - BBC

Branding - Eurostar

Pictograms - 2012 Paralympics

Branding - Royal Opera House


Branding - O2