Meet Elma, Highline’s Art Director!

Hi Elma! Where’re ya from, what do your parents do*?

I’m from South Africa. Yep. Some of my childhood is exactly what you’d expect – an old Land Rover rattling down dusty roads with lions and elephants. But most of it was pretty run of the mill kind of stuff; art, theatre, good friends, and an endless need to explore. I moved to the USA to complete a degree in graphic design at Kent State University. In my sophomore year I met a nice American who convinced me to stick around (and get hitched). He led me all the way to Montana. I don’t plan on leaving (ever). My mom’s a pianist (a really good one) and my dad’s a retired pastor. My stepdad is a computer something-or-other (I still don’t understand). And my stepmom makes really boss quilts.

How/why did you end up in this field?

Starting out at a pretty competitive Fine Arts school, I knew very soon after my first semester of dusty charcoal drawings, oil painting and strange zoomorphic sculptures that graphic design was my true calling. I tend to find my groove when creativity comes with restrictions, whether it’s a client’s needs, speaking to a specific target market audience, implementation or a deadline. I’m driven by functionality and (as trite as it sounds) making the world a better place. For me, graphic design is a tool to clarify and beautify communication in a world where we’re being buried by messaging.

What were some of your big accomplishments in 2016?

We finally got Highline rebranded and launched. My husband and I ran a small design studio called “George & Elma” for a few
years, but realized that we’d outgrown that name and brand. As our team and work mission grew, we needed a name which spoke for all our employees and partners. That and we’ve been raising a new, little person. She’s pretty amazing.

As 2017 begins, what are you looking to for inspiration?

Our town (Kalispell) and valley (Flathead Valley). Growing our local economy and community is probably my biggest inspiration. I’m also a firm believer in adventures. My inspiration very often comes from breaking the mold of day-to-day life routine. We plan on doing our annual work-from-the-road month in the camper and visiting clients and beautiful vistas all over the western United States. These trips are hugely inspirational.

Any design trends going into 2017 that you would love to see more of?

Designers are really starting to delve deep into the archives of the 80’s and 90’s with bold, energetic and dynamic graphics. The age of the hipster is coming to a close and everything doesn’t have to be hand-lettered, super detailed and textured. We’ll probably see more bold, geometric patterns and a return to simpler, cleaner design. However, as branding and design projects go, the trick is to not put all your eggs in a basket that’ll go out of style in five years.

If you could sum up 2016 with one song, what would it be?

Time to Move On by Tom Petty. Seriously. This song was stuck in my head all summer. Every time we packed up the camper, started up a trail, or headed out of the front door it would play through my head from start to finish. I think Tom Petty was trying to converse with me telepathically. Tom, I’m listening. I get it. It’s time to get going. Well, here we go.

Listen to Tom Petty’s Time to Move On.


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*A la the O.G. grumpy interviewer Brian Kahn of Home Ground on MTPR, whom we admire.

Elma is a partner and Creative Director at Highline.

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