Finding Inspiration

As a graphic designer, I draw a lot of my inspiration from places you’d expect, like social media, books or magazines. However, I love being inspired in less obvious places. I sometimes like to spend an afternoon strolling through a home store. I soak up so many ideas from the wall decor, the furniture colors, the fabric prints, and even from small things like journal covers and writing accessories they display in the office aisle. It’s a great way to light up my creativity. Where do you go for unusual inspiration?

Meeting Clients

Today I’m feeling thankful for the opportunities I have to meet the amazing individuals I call my clients. I have to admit that in this digital world, most of my communications with clients are via email. Sometimes we text each other, and other times we call. A few of them will meet me for coffee now and again. Still, more than half of my client list I’ve only met once, if at all. But no matter how often we see each other, and even if we’ve never actually met face to face, I feel so grateful to work with such fantastic people!

New Tech Gadgets

I’m the kind of person who would rather buy a new tech gadget over jewelry, clothes or makeup. That’s not to say I don’t like shiny bling, new outfits or a fresh lipstick… but I just LOVE playing with new tech toys!

My latest purchase is the Qwertywriter S Keyboard, and I think it’s my favorite of them all! I am enjoying it so much that I think I’m going to send my old keyboard on a very long (probably permanent) vacation to storage island.

Here’s something that might surprise you… I actually had a typewriting class in middle school—I’m not that old, but I’m not kidding! The teacher used to play us audio clips of a man instructing us to press each key followed by the word “clack” after each letter. So it would be something like “A clack, S clack, D clack…” and it was absolutely hilarious at 13 years old. But eventually, my friends and I were typing at warp speed with covers over our hands so we could work without looking at the keys. And that’s why I knew I’d love the Qwertywriter!

It’s the best of both worlds. It feels like a real typewriter and it even has a working return bar. But it also has all the features we are used to from Bluetooth keyboards like controlling volume and brightness and using shortcuts. My favorite feature is that with a click of two keys I can switch from using it on my computer to using it on my iPad or on my phone. I’m not an affilate partner nor am I getting paid to adverstise it, I’m just a happy customer.

What tech gadget have you been playing with lately? I’d love to know!

Visiting Steve Tyson’s Art Studio

This past weekend was the 11th Annual On and Off Fredericksburg Road Studio Tour and one of their featured artists was none other than my good client, and great friend, Steve Tyson. I visited his studio on Saturday to show my support — and to stake my claim on the amazing teal painting he created for me last year, which was also on display.

I had such a good time admiring all the unique and vibrant paintings that were showcased. I enjoyed meeting and chatting with other friends of Steve that were also there to support him. It was so interesting to listen to Steve talk with the many art enthusiasts that visited his studio for the event about his style and the different mediums he used.

At the end of my visit, Steve and I discussed a book we both recently read, Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, which briefly talks about unity in one’s work. Kleon suggests we “don’t worry about unity from piece to piece — what unifies all of your work is the fact that you made it.” And I definitely think, that no matter how Steve’s art has evolved and changed throughout the years, you can surely see his own mark in each of his paintings!

So if you’re looking for a beautiful new piece of art, be sure to visit — but don’t forget, the teal one is mine!

Through the Waterfall – A Painting by Steve Tyson

Last fall, I received an incredible surprise. My very talented friend, Steve Tyson, offered to create a custom, one-of-a-kind painting for me! I could hardly wait to see what his creativity conjured up. He asked for my input, and my only direction to him was that I liked teal and perhaps red as an accent color. I have never owned custom art, so I didn’t know what to expect. However, having seen other beautiful masterpieces that Steve has painted, I was confident that I would love mine. And I was right!

I received my painting in January, and a few months later I am still captivated by it. Just the other day, I noticed how right before sunset, the sunlight bathes over its surface reflecting a greenish blue hue all around the room. It’s lovely! It hangs on a wall right outside my home office, so I get to enjoy it daily.

I also had the pleasure of giving it a name. I titled it “Through the Waterfall” because it reminds me of a waterfall over a cave. Whether you’re staring at it from the outside, or from the inside of the cave, you can look through the pouring streams and see a glimmer of what’s on the other side.

If you don’t know who Steve Tyson is, then please visit his website at as soon as you finish this article! He creates unique, vibrant and colorful abstract paintings. You can see some of his amazing work on his site or you can commission him to create one for you too!

Steve also gifted me these awesome greeting cards with the painting on them!

Interviewed by a Graphic Design Student


The other day, I was pleasantly surprised by an email I received from a student requesting to interview me. Nicole Jimenez is a graphic design student who will graduate next month from Full Sail University. One of her final school assignments was to interview a local graphic designer. Nicole selected me and I was happy to participate! She had some great questions, so I wanted to share the interview online in case it helps guide or motivate other design students.

Interview with Barbara Holland

by Nicole Jimenez

What originally made you want to become a graphic designer?

I always liked drawing and doing art type projects as a kid. Doodling and playing on my computer was also a favorite pastime of mine. As I got older and contemplated a career, it was a no-brainer for me that it had to be in a creative field and using computers. Graphic Design was the career path that was the most appealing to me, and the idea of having a job where I could create something new every day really excited me.

How would you describe your approach to design?

I like being organized and methodical. I live and work by my “to-do” lists and my calendar. So, for me the design process starts with having all the content, goals and timeline well defined. Then, and only then, will I start searching for inspiration, brainstorming and drafting a design layout.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

My clients. As my company grows, there have been clients that have helped shape and define my business style and services.

What would you say is your strongest skill?

Probably being organized and responsible with my time. You’d think my strongest skill would be design, but in a world where everything is due yesterday, my clients always rave about being able to get the work done fast and efficiently.

What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?

Lately, I’ve been obsessing over finding unique and cool handwritten style fonts. I’ve purchased quite a few in the past couple months and I’ve been creating more design layouts around the typefaces I want to use, rather than about the graphics.

What are you passionate about besides your work?

Reading. I really enjoy reading fiction novels. I can spend hours getting lost in a good story.

Do you have any self-imposed rules that you live by?

I’m sure I have a few, but only one comes to mind at the moment regarding work. I am always completely honest to my clients about what I can and cannot do. I hate doing a sales pitch that overpromises results, so one of my rules is to be completely clear and transparent about my abilities and limitations.

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard?

Customer service is the best advertising tool. If you provide great customer service, those customers will get you more. And to this day, that’s worked for me. The majority of my clients are referrals.

What’s your personal motto?

Not sure I have one.

Which part of the design process do you enjoy the most?

When I’m looking for inspiration on what others have done before me. I’m always in awe of the amazing design work I find, and how that sparks ideas for me on how to better my own work.

How many projects do you touch on an average day?

About 5-7. I always have 1-2 big projects and about 3-5 small ones.

What are some common mistakes you see in portfolios?

The biggest mistake, in my opinion, is including everything and anything you’ve ever done. I think curating your work is very important. And also, including work in areas you’ve enjoyed and would like to continue to work in. For example, don’t include editorial design work, if you don’t want to end up in an editorial design job.

Would you rather see a website or a printed portfolio (or both)?

It depends. In most cases, I prefer a website portfolio. If the portfolio will showcase website design or artwork best visible on screen, such as logos, then a website portfolio is best. But if most of the portfolio showcases print work, like brochures, posters or flyers, then a printed portfolio is best.

And that’s the end of the interview… Thank you to Nicole Jimenez for inviting me to participate in her assignment! And, thank you to everyone who took the time to read this!

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