Holly Gardner


What do you do?
In collaboration with my colleagues, I help an organization be successful through effective communication of its purpose and benefits. This means developing and implementing a strategy around branding, design, technology, and information.

What is your inspiration?
Literature. Philosophy. The ocean and the desert. The view out my window where the sky offers a rare and diaphanous diorama.

How do you work?
Curious questions, robust discussion, quiet thinking, confident action.

How did you come to Openform?
After early experience in economic research, I got an M.B.A. from Wharton then did management consulting in Europe and brand management in the NYC area. I have worked in marketing and strategy for 30 years in a variety of industries including consumer goods, automotive, and manufacturing and chaired the boards of several independent schools. I have an M.A. in English Literature and a parallel career as a writer and editor.

What are you reading?
I have [too many] books everywhere and usually have four or five going. Right now my stack includes Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Winter. I read Spring and Autumn and am beguiled by his relentless interest in the details of the world. Ali Smith has an analogous seasonal quartet, although hers are a modernist take on the rhythm of a year. All of these—I order the U.K. version because for some reason they are better-designed. Italo Calvino’s collection of stories Last Comes the Raven is in a new Mariner edition that is lovely on the outside and disturbingly beautiful inside. Rachel Cusk, Ruth Ozeki, Susan Choi, Sally Rooney, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Elif Batuman are all authors I can’t get enough of. Let this put them on notice to please write more.

Who do you admire?
Robert and Austin I commend for giving me the enormous benefit that comes from collaborating with those who see the world differently. My three sons Jack, Neeko, and Quinn, who are kind, loving, and hard working and my father who came out of depression-era poverty in West Virginia to become a global leader in helicopter aviation; they make me want to be a better person. Yayoi Kusama uses art to solve problems, and I agree. The serious humor of her art affects me in a manner similar to the paradoxical heaviness of a James Turrell installation: I feel simultaneously powerful and fragile. I derive pleasure from how each takes a simple idea and makes it persuasive by elimination of the extraneous. In a similar way, the photographs of Mona Kuhn and Sally Mann demonstrate the power of an obsessive focus, although I may love Mann’s work simply because it reminds me of my childhood in Virginia. Some of my favorite thinkers are humanist writers who have an idiosyncratic world view that is emphatically empathetic: James Wood who calls a spade a spade but politely, Adam Phillips who crosses branches of knowledge to understand existential issues, Katie Roiphe for her incendiary prose, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for the delicate way she states urgent truth.

Holly’s CV >

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