What it's like to collaborate with legendary hand-letterer, Helen from Light of Leni
I’d been following @lightofleni (aka, Helen) for some time and just like all of her followers, I had fallen in love with her magical lettering, her fun and very real IG Stories and the good vibes of her captions. It was like hearing from an old friend who always left you in a good mood and shared the very best stories.
Helen is a superstar who has worked with some major brands including MAC, T2, Myer, Mont Blanc, L’occitane and Mecca Maxima. Her resume is a crazy list of graphic design experiences with notable international brands, sprinkled with detailed and jaw-dropping work for lucky brides and grooms on their big day. Helen has built her own brand under the name Light of Leni and her website is pure joy.
She’s a talented woman who knows her stuff and has a keen eye for detail and creative ideas.
We’ve just launched our first collaboration together and I could not be more excited. We’ve both been working so hard on perfecting these delightful gifts just for you, and now we’re sharing them with the world.
But what about behind the scenes? What is a collaboration like and how did it work with Helen? Is she just a great marketer who’s discovered a fun voice for IG? Did it all come together easily or did we butt heads? Well, dear reader, I have some stories and lessons to share and hopefully she approves!
So here it is, the good, the bad and the ugly of my first collaboration.
Those who don’t ask, will never receive
Helen has worked with some pretty huge brands and has built a fabulous reputation and a legion of followers who adore her work. I’d been thinking about messaging her to see if there was chance of a collaboration and I’d drafted the message to myself in my head. One night, while I was feeling particularly gutsy, I slid in her DMs to lay out my perfectly prepared speech. I was ready to be left on read, or worse. To my great delight, she was excited about what I’d pitched to her and wanted to work together. I was ecstatic.
Maybe the timing was right, or we were just destined to work on something together at some stage - but ooh boy am I glad I reached out to her.
Opportunities don’t knock at your door. You need to ask for them and work towards them, or be prepared to remain stagnant.
Two heads are better than one
The idea I pitched to Helen seemed great. I had an idea of how it would look and what Helen’s contributions would be. In true creative fashion, she has fabulous ideas of her own and the gorgeous range we ended up creating is nothing like what I first pitched.
Valentine’s Day was a main component of my pitch, so my head was spinning when Helen suggested we also create something for Galentine’s Day. I’m a single gal, so how on EARTH had I not considered my best girlfriends for Galentine’s Day? I always celebrate the day with my girlfriends and am on the lookout for creative and personal gifts for my gals. Now finally, I have something to offer to you for your best gals too.
We all have great ideas but when you work with someone else, you’re bound to make those ideas even better. Ask for help, ask for advice and feedback and most importantly - LISTEN TO IT! If people are taking the time to talk to you about your business, your brand or your work, you can return the courtesy by listening and weighing up the ideas or advice.
There is no my way or the highway
One of the best things about running your own business is that you get to make all the decisions. What does your business do? What does it stand for? How do you help people? and other important decisions like what kind of colours make up my brand, fonts, design elements. These choices are easy to make when you only have one approving body. Add in another human and suddenly your choices look different. Why couldn’t we use pink glasses for Valentine’s Day? Why not source gorgeous white labels to show off Helen’s work? Could we source pink ribbon to finish off the gifts with some pizazz?
Decision making with another person is almost certainly more time-consuming. But perhaps the highlight is that different choices lead to a different result. So while my initial concepts for this collab twisted and turned, and the decisions weren’t always my first idea, I’m so happy that we both made different choices, trusted eachothers expertise and tested and learned some new things.
Show your working out
This is a term I learned a few years ago and the lesson was learned once more on this collab (sometimes life lessons take a few times to stick with me!).
When multiple people are working together and roles are different but intertwined, it is SO important to bring the other person along on the journey that your work is taking you.
This is important for a few reasons:
It can prevent problems before they happen. If you’re chatting as close to real time as possible, potential problems can be identified and sorted before they even happen. Their experience is now accessible to you and they may spot upcoming issues.
It ensures that problem solving happens ASAP. With two brains on one problem, you’re more likely to come up with the solution much quicker.
Open communication while working on a project keeps everyone accountable and this is particularly important when time is of the essence. Helen and I both made good use of chat in our DMs to stay up to date on what was happening with each of our roles for the collaboration. With a huge to-do list for both of us, we could share experiences and progress as it happened. Knowing the other person is on top of their list can help your anxiety too!
Work with people who will not compromise on quality
Luckily for me, Helen has the same commitment to detail that I do. At one pretty stressful point in the collab, we hadn’t sorted the production of the labels. All the options we tried weren’t working for different reasons and the solution was not clear.
Honestly, the label situation was probably my biggest challenge. At one point we were ready to can the whole project because we couldn’t find durable labels which looked how we wanted them to and were accessible quickly. Helen had my back and was completely on board with us refusing to launch any candles with substandard details.
I’m so thankful that some creative thinking did solve that issue, but it only bolstered my respect for Helen that she was prepared to give the project away because the prototype didn’t meet our standards. We resolved the problem and found a way to source quality labels that show off Helen’s handiwork in the most fabulous way.
Being open and honest gets you everywhere. Work with other people for the lessons you’ll learn and the ideas you’ll take away. Listen to the people you work with when they’re giving you advice and take it on board. Communicate regularly and refuse to compromise on quality.