The more the gratitude, the more the love

[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

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Comments (8)

  1. Posted by Cynthia Hernandez on 11.18.10 at 5:40 pm

    Wow, what a lovely post! One of the things I am thankful for in 2010 is meeting you, Rich. You are a genuine delight!

  2. Posted by Valerie Gengras on 11.18.10 at 6:39 pm

    I am grateful that I have had wonderful people in my life who took the time to teach me. I was taught to send thank you notes for the kindness that is shown to me. It is a gesture that should be handed down to all generations. Showing gratitude is what perpetuates goodness.

  3. Posted by Pam Williams on 11.18.10 at 7:50 pm

    I can still remember opening up a note you sent to me years ago. It was a timecard. On the front you had stamped the date and time of our meeting. I’ll never forget that because it was so unique. Gratitude can be expressed in many ways, and the ones that have an authentic personal touch are ones I remember and cherish.

  4. Posted by Linda Wright on 11.18.10 at 8:15 pm

    THANKS for your article. Both inspiring and interesting, it encourages me to continue giving thanks for all the big AND little things that happen in my life. Giving thanks DOES matter, even after Thanksgiving when giving thanks is “timely” and “the thing to do.” I often tell my kids that giving thanks doesn’t take a lot of money or even a lot of words. Flowers, chocolates, hand-written notes.. they are all lovely… but hearing a heartfelt “thanks” can mean the world to the giver. On a side note, I just received two tips from a client, one was $20, and one was $200. They were gratuities given for two different services, one significantly greater in cost than the other, but they made me feel the same. It was receiving an unexpected “thanks for a great job, well done” gift that made me feel appreciated and valued.

  5. Posted by Patti Murphy on 11.19.10 at 1:49 pm

    This is a thoughtful & touching post! Thanks for this article Richard! Personal touches/details and saying thanks are the things that are remembered most. I a a firm believer in sending personal thank you’s through the mail, it is the such a great feeling to get something you can hold in your hand and look at. This is why Print will never die! thanks again : )

  6. Posted by Lee Moody on 11.21.10 at 12:05 pm

    Rich ~ you touched me in every way ! I was flooded with memories from my grandmother’s fireplace mantle…overflowing to the point of lining up on the Picture Window sill…. with thank you or well wishes cards ~ all with long messages that went from the side to the back ! Manners and thoughtfulness ? I wonder if one can LEARN that ? hmmm….maybe this generation trys to sneak by with an email thanks? Love all your stories and photos of giving you back some love ! It inspired us all to just take a gosh darn minute….and do things RIGHT…just like we were brought up to do it ! A super article, Rich , just at the right time of year to remind us all how much your article should be taken to heart ! Thank You for all you do for all of us….( now I have to write THAT in a thank you note with sparkling lights and cut up co:lab posters that blink and sparkle ….ahhhh !!!

  7. Posted by Gladys Noel on 11.23.10 at 11:14 am

    A very touching, inspiring, thoughtful and timely article. I am a card collector: wishes, thank you, etc. I still have a card YOU DESIGNED for my birthday 59 years ago.
    One of the best things I am thankful for is to give birth to you. To quote it in French: “Mes enfants sont mes oeuvres d’art abouties”.

  8. Posted by Caelyn on 03.2.14 at 12:23 pm

    This arlctie is a home run, pure and simple!

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