Patricia Buchholtz continues to see Austin’s brilliance through the eyes of an adventurous adolescent.
By Patricia Buchholtz, Photo by Photography by Brenda and Jabari
I grew up here. Not exactly a full-blown unicorn, but I landed in what was then the suburbs of Northwest Hills at age 3. In middle school, my friends and I would sneak out (don’t tell my kids) and take a parent’s car to drive as fast as we could on 360. No stoplights, no traffic, nothing except hills and trees. It was magical. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered other magical parts of the city: the Barton Springs Bathhouse, where topless sunbathing was a shock to even my car-stealing sensibilities, and the long, low wall-fountain at the base of the pink granite wedding-cake office building (now One Eleven Congress). I dunked my whole head in that fountain when I was 15 because I had trekked from East Riverside through the sewer tunnels under I-35 and I was hot.
But Austin’s magic never left me like it did for some people. It has morphed and grown. As I stroll through the streets today, I see the love that my company, lookthinkmake, has poured into the city over the past 13 years. My head-dunking fountain isn’t there anymore, but Fareground is. I still jump into Barton Springs on New Year’s Day and am proud of the campaign we developed, For the Love of the Springs. I can see the version of old Austin growing up, quite literally, with the skyline-changing towers of The Austonian, The Independent and the upcoming 6 X Guadalupe. These shiny new places are part of the lookthinkmake creative family—projects from our past and present clients.
Austin is growing.
That can’t be stopped, and not everyone will like how it’s growing. But I find it fascinating.
I launched lookthinkmake in 2008 with my business partner, Sean Thompson. It was a time of anguish for the economy and maybe the worst time to launch an advertising agency, but we knew that brilliance pops out when economic bubbles burst. It was a risk, but it has been the best risk of my life. You see, I wanted to be in the advertising world for as long as I can remember. Then one fateful day when I was 20, I was introduced to an ad exec at a major agency. Armed with my artwork and my questions, I was eager and wanted advice. He told me that this business was terrible, that I was “too nice” and that I shouldn’t bother. So I laid it aside and went a different route. It took me 12 years to get back to my dream.
I guess 12 years is a cycle, as the 12th anniversary of lookthinkmake saw us run to the safety of home to protect ourselves from COVID. It was the first time I thought we might have a layoff. We didn’t. I thought maybe we’d have to cut salaries. We didn’t. I thought we might close our doors. We didn’t. Rather, we did what we do best: We helped others.
We helped our clients pivot as quickly as possible into this new version of the world, ensuring they could continue connecting with their audiences. We created virtual travel campaigns for the city of Marble Falls, video walking tours of beautifully designed architecture for CG&S Design-Build and event branding for the Andy Roddick Foundation’s first virtual fundraiser.
New Ways to Love
As the world—and our industry—slowed down for a moment, we found new ways to love and support the places around us by reconnecting with our community when we needed it most. Our creative team designed a logo for the Girls Hockey Club of Austin while the PR team worked closely with our new client, Measure Austin, to help empower underserved communities. We used our talents to help area nonprofits combat the sudden onslaught of new problems caused by the pandemic. So many out of work, so many closed places, so much isolation.
Thankfully, my team at lookthinkmake is making plans to meet up in person again. We’re talking about a proper Christmas party complete with plus-ones. We are looking forward to giving client presentations in person. We are ready to have regular lunches and happy hours.
The fact is, the only reason any of us were able to keep working together, that our relationships with one another did not completely fail, is because we were all in it together. We’ve been living shared experiences, which is what actually builds relationships. We’ve had more in common to explore with one another than the weather, so we’ve been able to maintain our bonds, even if we haven’t maintained them in the real world. As the pandemic winds down, our relationships will need to be in person to remain healthy. Yet any kind of change can be hard.
I fully expect that coming out of the fog will be bumpy. There is still uncertainty. Then again, life is uncertain. There are protocols that we want to keep, like working from home, and protocols that we miss, like working together. We need to sort out how to make that work best for most. What I do know is that we need to reconnect, in person, with great frequency. I’m personally looking forward to having all of the places that I love feel full of life—and magic—once again.