Those who have stepped foot in a Target or Walmart in the past two years are likely familiar with Joshua Leonard—they just don’t realize it. The global store design lead for Harry’s (any podcast fan will recognize the name from their early stake in the medium’s advertising) has his team’s work displayed on endcaps and displays in two of the nation’s most popular retail chains. This lands Leonard’s work visibility somewhere between skywriting and a Times Square billboard: everyone is going to see it.
“There’s always the pressure of knowing that your work is going to be viewed by a lot of people,” Leonard admits. “If a mistake happens, if one dimension is off, even slightly, it’s not just a one-off. The scale is going to ensure that it’s seen by the masses.”
But Leonard’s confidence suggests that isn’t a problem he’s had to encounter quite yet in his relatively young career. Just ten years into a designer-turned-design-development role, Leonard has been able to cobble his love of design, his inside knowledge of the supplier side of business, and his penchant for quick turnaround with his in-house team into sharp success for the men’s grooming company.
Leonard already has a host of experiences that make him an ideal candidate for his current position. Internships played a key role in helping the young designer build out his skill set. “Those internships gave me multiple experiences across the whole entire business model, from finance—how much it costs to outsource and insource—to brand marketing teams to just being a doer when it came to things like drafting [computer-aided] designs.”
Leonard’s early work with a firm specializing in point of purchase (POP) displays and event marketing helped refine the designer’s expertise following the economic collapse of the late aughts. “I found a good niche in the design industry where it’s fast-paced and a perfect mix of architectural and brand design,” Leonard says. “You still have the opportunity to manipulate space but on a more personal scale to the consumer through multiple brands.”
Having worked on the supplier side of the business has made Leonard particularly effective at Harry’s because he understands each side of the vendor conversation. “I’ve worked so close with engineers, contractors, and consultants for my entire career, it’s made me much more effective in vetting them to make sure they are capable of working with us as far as our brand goes,” Leonard explains. “It also means that communication can be sped up because it’s more like a peer-to-peer conversation. We’re using the same software and the same language; we both can get as technical as we want, and we can usually understand each other’s vision pretty quickly.”
“Josh and the team at Harry’s epitomize the concept of collaboration,” agrees Steve Zick, executive vice president of Innomark Communications and a trusted colleague of Leonard’s. “By focusing on motivating the consumer with Harry’s displays rather than simply putting product in a store, they allow Innomark to bring the best structural and material solutions to the table. Josh makes the team at Innomark truly feel like a partner.”
Coming in-house at Harry’s seems to have been a welcome change for Leonard in terms of shepherding projects through to completion. “Having everything in-house with our awesome design team makes everything much more efficient,” Leonard says. “We can make quick decisions and turnarounds because everyone that’s touching the project is so immersed in the brand. Nothing gets lost in translation.”
The design lead is at the company at a remarkable time. The company, founded in 2013, is one of the more notable direct-to-consumer companies that sought to bypass drugstores and bring razor and shaving accessories direct to consumer’s homes. The billion-dollar business that followed has opened up brick-and-mortar opportunities for the brand that are remarkable for a brand so young.
Leonard is also proud to be at Harry’s for reasons altogether separate from their product line. “One of the great things about Harry’s is our donations and contributions toward various communities and the country at large,” Leonard shares. Harry’s donated $500,000 worth of products to healthcare workers in New York, and another $500,000 worth of products available to healthcare workers across the country.
The company has also focused on its own people during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve really encouraged a positive approach towards mental health during this time,” Leonard says. “We have a mental health crisis text line and also partner with multiple companies to make sure our people can get free and confidential support.
“I’m also very proud of the stance our company has taken against racial injustice,” he continues. “We’ve called out our own need to develop a meaningful action plan and hope that other companies will follow suit. We want to make sure when we look back, we know that we did everything we could to help fix these complicated issues.”
Looking ahead, Leonard says he’s not able to disclose what he’s working on at present but is very excited about the direction the company is headed. “We’re definitely exploring expanding in multiple categories,” the design lead offers. “It’s a very exciting time for us.” And no doubt an exciting time for Leonard, alone. Only a decade in, and he’s already been seen by most of the country.