#WFH Diaries: Freelance Art Director Holly Schnackenberg

With the coronavirus pandemic surging anew, most folks are still working from home. We're continuing to check in with creatives to see how they're faring. Below, we chat with Holly Schnackenberg, a freelance art director based in Portland, Oregon.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

Freelance associate creative director/art director specializing in strategic social projects.

Where are you living right now, and who's with you?

Three years ago, my husband and I bought a little house in Portland, Oregon, that we've been fixing up ever since. It's just the two of us and our corgi Maddie.

What's your work situation like at the moment, and how is it evolving?

Oof, that's rough. My work life has been tumultuous all year. Many of the companies that I usually work with have brought most of their work in-house. I get it, they want to avoid layoffs, but it's left me with inconsistent work all year—usually far below what I usually charge.

Lately, I've been trying to use my skills to do more for the advertising community, specifically for the class of 2020 and junior creatives. I want it to be easier for more diverse voices to be successful in advertising, and part of that starts with making it easier to break into the industry. I launched a new portion of my website, Junior Creative Review, to give students and junior creatives access to submit their portfolios for review. I try to give each submission tangible feedback to make it better. I think there's a difference between criticizing and critiquing, and I always try to veer on the side of actionable pointers to make their work better. My goal is to give them feedback within a week, so that's been keeping me very busy right now.

When you do you expect to return to an office?

When we have a vaccine and not a day before. I don't love working from home, but with the many online resources available to us today, there is absolutely no reason for us to have to put ourselves and our loved ones at risk by going into an office. There's still so much we don't understand about this virus, and the best thing we can all do is stay home as much as possible to lower the risk of exposure.

Describe your socializing strategy.

I have a good friend who is an architect but is very passionate about dance. She's been giving dance classes via video conference to our group of friends about once a week. We call them Zoom-ba. Those are a great way to move your body, then have a sweaty catch-up afterward.

We also do some online video chat/game combos like Jackbox.tv or Codenames.io. I love seeing my friends, but sometimes everyone is tired of talking about the pandemic. Having a game to play is a great way to get everyone together but also talk about something else. 

I've also had two socially distant hang-outs in the past few weeks. I finally saw my parents for dinner about three weeks ago and did a BYO-everything picnic with some friends for a birthday a week later. It was so good to see everyone, but now that things have spiked again, I'm trying to space those kinds of things out a little more.

How are you dealing with childcare?

Our "child" is a 27-lb. dog whose greatest ambition is to murder the mail carrier and keep my husband and me in the same room at all times. We're mostly trying to figure out how to keep her from barking on Zoom calls.

What are you reading?

Like many white folx, I've been trying to educate myself about the systemic racism that props up America and my contribution to it. I've been listening to How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kindi on audiobook as part of that education.

Every night, I've been slowly working my way through The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I was a big fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, so I've been trying to get into this for a while, but the first book is over 1,200 pages …  it's a little intimidating to read.

What are you watching?

Grand Designs on Netflix. My husband and I love British reality shows and dream of building our own house some day. It's a relaxing way to unwind at the end of the day.

What are you listening to?

The Hamilton soundtrack. I was so excited to finally get to watch the full performance, I've been listening to the songs on repeat for days.

How are you staying fit?

Aside from Zoom-ba? I have a old rower and set of dumb bells in our basement, so I've been doing workouts through City Row that have been kicking my butt. I definitely feel like my upper body is a lot stronger, but I have Michelle Obama arm ambitions. I also try to take my bike out for fresh air a few times a week.

Have you taken up a hobby?

As a homeowner of a 92-year-old house, I don't know if I have a hobby or a never-ending to-do list. Since shelter-in-place took effect, I've taken on a LOT of yard and home projects that seem to take up any spare time I have. I've planted a garden, refinished some deck furniture, and am in the process of re-doing the front yard. 

If I did ever have a free weekend, I'd love to take our inflatable kayak out on a nearby river for a slow, relaxing paddle to see some wildlife.

An awkward moment since all this started.

My husband (a video editor) and I share an office and seem to always feature prominently in the background of each other's calls. Once, he was on a call and I was working at my desk and the creative team he was talking to started asking about what I was working on.

An aha! moment since all this started.

Realizing that I shouldn't be waiting around for a brief or a client to do something that I'm excited about.

What's your theory on how this is going to play out?

Fingers crossed for a vaccine in the next 12 months and a new president in four.

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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