[Richard Hollant] As a first-generation immigrant from Haiti, a sense of gratitude is hardwired in me. Growing up, gratitude meant handmade cards and gifts for the simplest of considerations. In my adult life, gratitude is the starting point to how I interact with the world around me — it’s my portal to love. I’ve found the more I give, the more I see the beauty and wonderment around me.
When I first started my business almost 25 years ago, I was blown away by the generosity and enthusiasm I encountered around the idea of collaboration. In retrospect, I think that’s why so much of the work I designed at the time was related to thankfulness. I had developed these quirky little thank-you follow-up cards I would send out within hours of a meeting. These notes were made of found elements (an off-the-shelf timecard from Staples), delicate engraving and silver corrugated stock. I loved the assembly process — it slowed me down to consider the time I was offered by someone who hardly knew me and how fortunate I am to do things all day long that are meaningful to me.
When my family came to this country, we arrived with nothing but a few suitcases. In our early years in Flushing, New York, my mother would collect S&H Green Stamps, paste them in a book and later redeem the book for household items. As a kid, I thought it was an exciting idea: It helped develop my appreciation for process through the commitment to continuity. It was like getting a thank you with every encounter. I wanted to share that experience with everyone I knew, so I developed a coupon-collecting program of my own and included my clients and colleagues in the kitschy fun. There was a catalog of groovy swag that could be redeemed with coupons acquired for all kinds of thanks — they were sent with invoices, with comps, with checks — gosh — with just about every correspondence. I can’t describe the joy of bundling up and shipping out laser-shooting robots, Goodyear Blimp banks, X-ray glasses and the original ’60s Batman movie. There is no better work-break known to man.
I’m constantly surprised by the incredible thoughtfulness of folks determined to express the fullness of their gratitude. On the sidewalk in New York, I bought an large, unwieldy painting from a student. We completed our transaction and parted ways. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this young guy, Ernest Rosenberg, spent half his afternoon darting through the streets of SoHo looking for me to offer me a gift of two smaller paintings. Gratitude.
Boston photographer John Soares volunteered to help me out with a tricky shot for the Connecticut Art Directors Club. When we were done, he sent me a beautifully framed print of the image. And he was helping me!
Designers John and Lisa Gibson are particularly grateful and gracious people. They were so inspired by an invitation to my wedding, they responded with a zany stitched piece of artwork on the reply card, reflective of the design of the invitation itself. They could have simply checked “yes.” Years later, after a thought-provoking meal, we drove by a carnival poster. I casually mentioned that the letterforms brought some cheeriness to a cold and wet evening. They went back and pried the poster off the pole and surprised me with it on my birthday the following year.
I had a fascinating conversation with prop maker Rick Turek about monkeys. Days later, he sent me an illustration commemorating our talk. He said he enjoyed our meeting. He couldn’t have been clearer.
Today, when a guest visits our office, we send them home with a Clinc glass. Letterpress printed, foil labeled and glass etched, the package says thank you the way we know best.
I believe: the more the gratitude, the more the love. Thank you.
Every day, Rich Hollant sets out to defy commoditization and impersonalization in his work and in his personal life, which often intersect. The founder of co:lab collaborates with his team of writers, thinkers and designers to help companies going through or anticipating change to redefine themselves. He is president of the Connecticut chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design.
Photos by Lanny Nagler