Cat How — How&How
Cat How is founder and creative director of How&How, a digital desgin and branding agency based in London and …
I don't have a story where I could honestly say that I knew I wanted to be a designer since I was eight years old or something. I just gradually became more interested in visual culture throughout my teens, starting with fashion and music, and eventually graphic design as it was the only arts class at my school when I was 16 or 17. I wouldn't say I was immediately good or naturally creative, but I was better at it than the more 'academic' subjects.
By the time it came to deciding what to study at university, fashion was my first choice initially – but my lack of experience and the high barrier to entry quickly put that idea to rest, and I set out to study graphic design. It's turned out to be a decision I'm very pleased with. In part due to the experiences of my partner Layla (and co-owner of The Brand Identity). She studied fashion and initially pursued a career in the industry, but found it so difficult to progress due to the expectation to work 1-2 years of unpaid internships – which was next to impossible for us. I'm not sure if that's still the case for the fashion industry now, I hope not.
We usually wake up at 6 am, go downstairs to have a cup of coffee or matcha, and start the day without any stress. I'm historically not a morning person at all, or a routine person, but I've been working on it a lot over the last year or so and it's finally starting to stick. Once we're up and feeling awake, we take our dog – Reggie the French Bulldog – for a long walk, before settling in to start working at around 8 am.
The following four hours until midday are when I'll try to get my most important work of the day done. Working from home, headphones on, and no calls, Slack or emails if I can avoid them. It isn't always possible, but I still stick to it most days. During this time, I'll typically work on tasks that can move us forward as a business and require creative thinking – new products, site updates, planning – things like that.
At midday, Layla and I will break for two hours to have lunch and hit the gym, before heading to our office – which is about 10 minutes drive away from home. This is where email and Slack are finally opened, and I'll have calls and work with the team on everything we have going on in the present. I'll also see to a few recurring tasks that I do on a weekly basis to ensure the content for our site and social media is on track. Our team is very good at managing all of this, however, there are a few stages of the process that require my attention. These include: approving the content submissions sent to Layla via email by studios, type foundries and brands; reviewing the articles written by our writers Harry and Poppy; and giving everything a final check over once it's been prepared and scheduled by Oli.
And finally, somewhere between 5 and 6 pm, we'll head back home, have dinner and generally chill out! We'll usually watch something on TV – currently enjoying Succession and The Last of Us – and/or play some Playstation – currently Jedi Survivor and Fortnite are getting a lot of hours haha.
We're super lucky that we receive several hundreds of submissions for features every week, so I get to see lots of new branding, typefaces, print work and websites without having to look very far. As a result, I feel quite aware of what's going on in the industry and am able to speak to lots of creative people in the process.
I try to keep up to date and inspired by other creative disciplines too, but that's less intentional and normally by chance. I discovered a bit of a hack on Twitter recently, in that we don't follow anyone on our @TweetsbyTBI account, so the homepage just shows tweets that it thinks are relevant. It's worked out pretty well in giving me a constant flow of stuff from new people, which I'm regularly screengrabbing and saving for future reference.
If digital products count, I've been absolutely loving Arc browser over the last few months!
I don't take much time to reflect, to be honest, but I think I do feel proud of everything we've built so far. That being said, it's hard to look past our books as my favourites. It's just cool to have them on my desk and in our office, and know that people actually buy them. I don't know if that will ever sink in?
Probably the fact that social media is such an important part of our work, yet social media is always changing out of our control. We constantly having to think about how we can evolve or change our approach to maximise interest, engagement, clickthroughs – all the buzz words. Our passion is for design and curation – that's why we started and we don't want to lose that. We're not social media experts by any means, we've of course learnt a lot over the years, but it's for sure a challenge to always be thinking about it.
Be patient about realising your goals. I started The Brand Identity in 2016 but didn't go full-time with it until 2020. I don't think that you can get good overnight working in a creative field, it really takes time and real-life experience. And consistency is key. We've shown up literally every single day for 7 or 8 years, and have gradually, and organically, built an audience as a result. There's no special sauce, just hard work, smart work, and being pretty nice to people :)
We released a new book fairly recently, The Process Four, so please check that out! And we're working on lots of new stuff for our site, so keep your eyes on the-brandidentity.com and @thebrandidentity on Instagram!