the illuminators



Our Illuminator this week has crafted the voice some of The World's biggest brands utilising words, insightful thinking and a keen creative eye. 

Holly Kielty (Creative Director of Brand Language at Design Bridge London), explains why sometimes to get right idea, you first need to get things wrong. 

Holly Kielty - image via 

Briefly describe your creative process and how you generate ideas?
If it’s a copy brief I tend to have a notebook that I will jot all of my instinctive reactions to a brief into, but then sometimes I simply get typing as I really find that ‘doing’ is what cracks a brief rather than over-intellectualizing things. I get a lot of ideas from getting things wrong – sometimes you have to just throw ideas at a page and hope one sticks. The crafting can come later, once you’ve worked out what’s working.

If it’s a bigger branding project I love to go for an inspiration trawl, see what’s out there in the same market, get under the skin of what’s going on, talk to consumers, get those essential nuggets of info that could spark something really exciting. I really love interrogating the client, analyzing the brief and getting to grips with the challenge as sometimes it’s a lot simpler, or more complicated, than it first appears. I hate taking a brief at face value – it’s my job to ask ‘What If?’.

Then I’m a big fan of moodboards – getting a catalogue of inspiration together to really hone how something could start to feel visually and attitudinally. From there I’ll work with designers to shape that into a look and style for the brand. If we’ve got the first bit right this should feel really instinctive and natural, and above all, enjoyable. Plus if you’ve brought the client on that same journey, everyone is on the same page, which really is essential.

Fortnum & Mason Chocolates - Creating the language of a 300 year old brand

What does your workspace look like?
Well, I sit on the third floor of Design Bridge’s London Studio, with our Creative Directors. It’s a great space, full of books and nick-nacks, where we can really exchange ideas and talk shop to our hearts content, and I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful vintage desk I can spread out on! However my New Year’s Resolution this year was to avoid being too anchored to my desk as I tend to use it as a comfort blanket, so I’m making an effort to move around and sit elsewhere- cafés, other parts of the studio, pubs even.  So it can be a busy, noisy space or deathly quiet depending on where I’ve wandered to. The change of scene often prompts whole new trains of thought, which has proved vital in this dark and depressing UK January!

Design Bridge London - images via 

What/who/where do you take inspiration from?
I think people are my number one inspiration. Stories are what make me tick. So I’m a huge fan of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, and any documentary, biography or decent podcast to be honest. And I’m a real eavesdropper; the conversations I’ve overheard in shops or public transport have sometimes proven pivotal to my work! Because I’m a wordsmith I love hearing people’s dialogues, the words they invent, the arguments they make.

I’m also incredibly visual so I still love a trip to the National Portrait Gallery or the V&A, I love magazines, and I adore the visceral nature of books. Plus in London we are very lucky to be surrounded by incredible department stores and independent niche boutiques, so a shopping trip is really exciting to me – you can see trends emerging, what’s breaking the mould when it comes to packaging and what’s coming into fashion on these streets and it’s utterly inspiring.

The V&A, London - Image via Time Out London

What tools do you use to capture your ideas?
First off, a notebook and pen! Post-its feature quite heavily too. I’m also a really big Pinterest user, setting up and sharing boards left, right and centre.


'Fluffiness' & other inspirational boards can be found on Holly's Pinterest here

What is your favourite creative tool?
I think it has to be the moodboard as I’ve seen how hugely effective they can be in capturing how you think. Creating a good moodboard takes discipline, it makes you edit your thinking and verbalise it. Clients respond really positively to a moodboard when it’s communicated well, and if the client is sold on your thinking, they’re then your permission slip to get on and create.

What is your favourite piece of work?
Fortnum & Mason’s packaging is something I’m hugely proud of. Collaborating with illustrators that I’ve always admired, on an immensely prestigious brand, has been a real pleasure. Working alongside brilliant people is what makes this job the joy it is, and I have to say on Fortnum & Mason I’ve worked with the World’s very best.

Reimagining a classic British brand - Fortnum & Mason

In addition to that, working on the Guinness brand book was an absolute dream come true. Guinness was the brand that really got me interested in this line of work from a young age, so to get that brief was a true career highlight. From the moment we got news that we’d be pitching for the account I was on an absolute high and it totally shaped my career path. Guinness really is good for you – I am living proof!

Making more of Guinness


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