We had the good fortune of connecting with Howard Lim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Howard, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I graduated from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo with a BS in Applied Art and Design – which was categorized as Graphic Design the following year. Cal Poly’s moto is ‘learn by doing’. I learned from completing school projects and working on real business projects during my college years. This included designing logos, brochures, posters, advertisements, package designs, etc. After I finished Cal Poly, I wanted to do graduate work at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angles. They are considered the best design school in the world. They had the first Macintosh computer lab in the world, and I had the good fortune to be one of the few individuals selected for the digital course. The first time I touched the keyboard, I knew this was the future of design. I saw the tremendous impact of combining strong design and advertising fundamentals with technology.
During the birth of the digital revolution, there was one major problem. Nobody knew how to get more than just a black and white 8.5 x 11 printed piece of paper produced from the computer. This is when I decided to create my company, HOW Creative (past name HOW Studios Inc.) and assemble a team that had a similar vision of the future. Dennis Dunbar, one of the world’s first digital photographers was on my team, as well as Jeff Weekly – a world-class copywriter, production for RPI and Graphic Express, and a superior printer – Coast Litho. The power of imagination was now fully possible to ground ideas and concepts into reality using the Macintosh computer. We had full control over the entire design layout rather than involving 3rd party vendors such as the typesetter, photo scanners, special effects labs, and film stripping for the color printing press. Not only was I dependent on others to capture my vision it also was very time consuming and rather expensive to produce a well thought out piece. For example, a business card involving all the vendors from typesetting concepts, to all revisions, messages to run between my office and to the typesetter location, the film needed to produce proofs, etc., could cost upwards to $1,000 dollars before going to the press, and this was in the late 1980s. We had to get computer programs to work together, even though they were not designed to work together. The result was a more beautiful and polished end product that engaged the target audience.
I had a vision to create a promo piece that represented my company, HOW Creative’s unique and innovative approach and solutions to the design and advertisement industry. Almost everyone in the modern world has been impacted by my branding solutions. I remember all too well working 16-18-hour days, and I only took one Sunday off a month for over 10 years. Through our digital approach, we also eliminated all 3rd party vendors. Typesetters, photo scanners, special effects labs and film stripping, color proofs, etc. were no longer needed. All these 3rd party vendors were replaced by a much more cutting-edge process (I called it the ‘bleeding edge’ back then) of design and advertisement layouts, all while reducing time and cost.
I started to introduce my disruptive ideas to advertising and design studios using a Macintosh computer as a single solution, rather than doing everything by hand and involving an army of 3rd party vendors. Hardly anyone was grasping my vision, and many were not willing to adapt to the digital world. So, I then introduced my ideas to big fortune 500 companies and well known agencies. They saw my vision and wanted the competitive edge that my team and I could give them. As a result, I created the first multidisciplinary firm specializing in all types of digital media formats such as animation, print, packaging, video, TV titles and bumpers, illustrations, photography, product designing, graphic user interfaces for CD and DVD, websites, and advertising. We came up with solutions in multiple industries which impacted consumers around the globe. My team and I were critical to the successful launch of DVD’s, which dominated the market — surpassing VHS and Beta tapes as the standard for the movie rental space. Through pioneering and many all-nighters, I created one of the first computerized, off-line, motion graphics for ABC networks that forever changed television viewing and helped birth the rise of motion graphics. I led my team to position Zylan by launching one of the first graphically integrated, effective, award-winning websites, setting new standards for an optimal user interface experience in the early 90’s. My team and I created the first all-digital ad (the most memorable ad) for Fujitsu to use at MAC World and in MAC User national magazines. This ad put Fujitsu on the map for removable discs. The first completely digital ad for Wall Street Journal for Claris, FileMaker which dominated the market with their category. My company HOW Creative and I branded University of California Santa Barbara’s ACCESS card; a new product that combined the debit and student ID into one convenient card that quicky became the industry standard for all universities across the United States. We reignited the torch for the City of Los Angeles Marathon with a simple, bold and memorable brand identity system. After the rebrand, the Marathon had record breaking attendance, selling out the event with 23,000 running participants. It was the largest event in the 15-year history resulting in increased business revenues, tighter community bonds, and increases in brand value and equity. Other Fortune 500 brands I have represented are Apple, Honda, Disney, DreamWorks, Acura, Xerox, Oracle, Cirque du Soleil, Lakeshore Entertainment, Mattel, Jakks Pacific, Northrop, ATT, Paramount Pictures, and HP, just to name a few. My contributions have added billions of dollars to clients’ profits, to the greater value of the brand and to their company’s equity.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
After ten straight years of co-creating and representing Fortune 500 companies by expanding their global market share and creating their brand identity extensions for higher recognition, I wanted to continue to move towards bigger things. I wanted to solve the problem of why 90% of companies fail or reach a lid in the first 3 to 5 years of their business. I wanted to make an impact on all sizes of businesses. About 20 years ago, I discovered my superpower (everyone has a superpower) is being a whole brain thinker. Only about 3% of the population possess this gift. I have my Father to thank for this. He was a mega whole brain thinker – the ability to see the macro – to – micro view and the ability to strategize and execute on an idea to transform it into reality. I created a new business model that bridges the gap between the left side of the brain such as strong business fundamentals, systems, processes, revenue, and implementation, and the right side of the brain, such as vision, aesthetics, innovative and overall brand experience. Over the course of ten years, I created an intellectual process to Design Businesses® from the inside out and from the outside in for any type industry. Regardless if you are in a start-up phase, growth phase, or going through a merger or acquisition, my process is a universal model and works for any type of service, product, or information business.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Starting with restaurants, we’d start off with a beautiful sunset dinner at Nobu. Alternatively, we’d hit Sunset Bar and Grill just before Zuma Beach. They have great fish tacos and Chinese chicken salad. It’s a local haunt. For a night cap, we’d pop into Moonshadows blue lounge and watch the waves crash in the ocean facing spotlights. They have excellent DJs during summer. For Sunday brunch we’d visit Paradise Cove – truly a crowd pleaser with fantastic Illy coffee and lots of beach for kiddos to run around. We love showing guests Malibu Canyon to provide visitors the canyon experience that few know LA has to offer. The natural beauty is always a highlight. We would stop by our favorite beaches, like Topanga State Beach. If they are into history, we’ll drop them to tour the Adamson House just past Malibu Pier. Afterwards, a lovely pier walk breathing in the ocean air and watching the surfers is enjoyable. If they enjoy bird watching, we’ll visit the Malibu Lagoon and then head over to the Malibu Country Mart for lunch. Their burger place is delicious, while Sunlife Organics features choices that are dietary friendly. Alternatively, we’ll drive down to Venice, walk Abbott Kinney, visit the inlet, which is always full of boats heading to sea, then take guests to the very little known -but very romantic -Venice Canals. This is always a fun surprise for guests. If it’s a sunny day, we’ll visit Hotel Erwin’s rooftop, which has fantastic views of the beach and skate park. If they are craving sushi, we will visit a longtime favorite Hama Sushi and watch the surfers on repeat shown via the projector. For fall guest visits while the weather is a bit cooler and more comfortable, we will visit Calamigos Ranch which has something for everyone, from corn hole to paddling along the lake. The outdoor experience is unique, cool and everyone loves a tree suspended chandelier! For extra special guests or a special occasion, we’ll have dinner at the famed Saddle Peak Lodge. For shopping, we enjoy visiting Melrose or Beverly Hills and Montana. We try to focus on the outdoor activities because LA’s weather is so special, but if it’s an indoor dreary day, we’ll visit the Beverly Center. Of course, the Grove is on the hit list not only for it’s shopping adventures, but also for the great selection of eateries in the historic farmers market and also it’s festive holiday decor.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Most definitely my Dad. We didn’t agree on much growing up (I was a bit of a rebel in high school), but over the years, we grew closer together as he mentored my skill set. While growing up with a household of 9 children, we all had chores together on Saturdays. As my siblings grow older, one by one they would peel off leaving home, which meant more chores to the remaining kids at home. At some point, I had to wash and wax all the family cars which would take hours. I remember letting Dad know when I had finished, and he would come out to the driveway and inspect each car meticulously. If I missed a spot washing or waxing, he would have me redo that area until it was perfect. My Dad taught a valuable lesson about paying attention to detail and taking pride in what you do – no matter how small the task.
I remember before the age of five watching Dad paint a mountain mural on the dining room wall in the original house. I was in awe of the majestic colors and the magnitude of the scale. My Dad inspired me to draw. When I was about eight years old, while he watched his evening shows, like the Streets of San Francisco or the 6 Million Dollar Man, he would take the time to teach me the strong fundamentals of drawing. He nurtured my natural curiosity and fostered that skill. My Dad continued to teach me how to be persistent, to be patient, to practice and to enjoy the pursuit of excellence through hard work.
While considering a college major, Mom wanted me to pursue computer programming, and Dad preferred for me to become an architect. But, Dad asked me with an open mind what I would like to major in. I told him I wanted to follow Dennis’ (my brother) footprints, but instead of majoring in Communications, I wanted to major in Applied Art and Design. Mom immediately turned to me and said “you will end up being a starving artist”, and Dad simply replied “you should do what you love, Howard.” Dad never said you that he loved you, but he indeed shared his generosity with his love through his actions. He encouraged me strive to be the best in my major, as a true Lim.
During the recession in the late 80’s I was laid off. And I had a choice to make: work for another company or start my own business. I mentioned to Dad I would like to create and own my business and help lead the digital revolution. I explained to Dad nobody knows what to do with this new media and there is a real opportunity show companies in different industries just how to use technology and design to their advantages. Dad turned to me with an open expression and said, “write a business proposal with 10% interest and I will think about it”. He accepted the proposal and taught me a valuable lesson to follow your passion and back it up with a concrete plan, invest in other people’s dreams, and how to leverage compound interest.