Helen V.
Holmes is a

As a designer/developer hybrid I have nine years of industry experience. I’ve worked in finance, in advertising, and in tech. I’m currently looking for full time employment in New York City. If you have a position you feel I would be good for, please reach out to me at sayhi@helenvholmes.com. (I’m also fine with you just saying hey.)

Professional Accomplishments

I started my career at a small design shop a former professor started. It was flattering to be asked to be the first employee, and it gave me my first glimpse into what it was like working at a design firm and running your own business. When later I would start my own I shifted through my memories of this place to remember how to present to clients, how they handled the struggles they had, and tried to learn from the mistakes they made.

For my next position I prioritized being allowed to code and ended up with a small military contractor. Here I was thrown in the deep end—I quickly had to learn how to install developer environments, work within them, and how to solve my own roadblocks. As the only designer, I had to advocate for design as a concept—its importance, its relevance, its history, its concepts. I had to learn to talk to developers and find equal ground in understanding the problems we both faced in making a product come to life.

I worked with a design temp agency where I did a lot of production print work, mostly for clients like the AARP. While not glamorous it taught me the ins and outs of preparing files for printers , pixel-perfect precision, and empathy for users that were very different than myself.

I started to venture out into the D.C. tech space to find other women learning and coding professionally. I became a founding member of the Women Who Code D.C. chapter.

I moved to Central Virginia with Capital One on their design team as a prototyper. My time there showed me to what it was like to work at a huge, corporate company with a massive hierarchy. I expanded my engineering boundaries: I built small hardware prototypes, prototypes of user flows for research, and webapps, executing on projects that had high visibility among higher ups in the company.

In 2015 I began speaking at conferences. I traveled the globe about design and technology—actionable advice for developers on making their codebases more accessible, graphic design history and typography, and progressive enhancement loading techniques for webfonts.

I moved to Mozilla where I worked for the Developer Tools Team on Firefox. I designed the initial tooling for CSS Grid, helped in the Debugger redesign, redesigned the Responsive Design Mode, among other things which I’ve written about here.

In 2017 I went freelance. I’ve learned about taxes, managing subcontractors, presenting to clients, moving projects to completion, getting clients onboard, working for family&friends, and designing in lots of interesting and atypical scenarios. I’ve branded companies, designed collateral for conferences, designed iPhone apps, and of course, designed and built websites. I got to work with big companies with big names I could have only dreamed of having on my resume. I've learned a lot about how to position and set up expectations, and manage client relations when things go well and when they go south.

Key Moments

Sole creator of a webapp shown to the CEO directly by my VP that secured additional funding to the design team¹
Branding a company’s entire yearly conference²
My conference work being an inspiration to others, notably Font Style Matcher³
Designing the initial tooling for CSS Grid, subsequently studied by all other major browsers for their own implementations
¹ Rich Fairbanks, Capital One
² Altitude 2018
³ Monica Dinescu, Web Fonts, boy, I don’t know
⁴ CSS Grid and Grid Highlighter Now in Firefox Developers Edition




Personal Values & Passions

My passions outside of design are food, sewing, and reading.

In 2014 I moved into my first apartment. I had complete domain over my kitchen, and I was determined to make the most of it out of it.

Charlottesville has a strong farming and food culture, boasting more restaurants per capita than New York City. I learn to bake new things, cook new meals, and source my ingredients differently. I began researching where my food came from: the classic In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, the more bohemian Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Food Fights and Culture Wars by Tom Nealon, Why Calories Count by Nestle and Nesheim. I worked part-time in a local bakery to learn the tricks of the trade, which I wrote about in my article On Critique. These days I am trying to figure out what my own food culture is while baking bread from starter and brewing my own kombucha.

My interest in fashion is relatively new. In January I began Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline. I became so riled up by the abuses the mainstream fast fashion industry has on our environment, our workforce, and our wallets that I took the sewing machine I had purchased, five months prior, out of its box. (Before this, I had been too scared of it to use it.)

Since then I've used Youtube to teach myself how to put darts into pants, taken in blazers, heightened hemlines, and sewn myself a winter puffer out of a recycled sleeping bag (in between some less exciting failures). Learning to sew has given me new perspective when buying clothing and confidence in my own ability to alter my own clothing to suit my own personal style better. I am attempting to only buy locally, make, or thrift my clothing in 2019 and intend to do a financial breakdown of how this goes at the end of the year.

Beyond these things I enjoy reading. Golden Krishna's The Best Interface is No Interface best describes the North Star I strive for as a designer. Nir Eyal's Hooked provides the opposite. Alain de Botton's The News: A Manual, my desire to understand the world around me less through the news app on my phone and more via longford literature. The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior the country surrounding where I spent summers growing up. American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse and Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, the people I hope wish to keep in mind as our users.

Strawberry streusel and lemon ricotta, respectively.
New winter coat for a new city.