We had the good fortune of connecting with Harry Decker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Harry, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My business has two parts to it: I am a Freelance Creative Director in my traditional day job, and a painter and artist in my “other” job. Hence, the name Double Decker Design.
In my design career, I came up through the ranks of advertising agencies, from Junior Designer back in Germany to Creative Director here in San Diego. While my background is in print and advertising, my experiences over the last 10 years evolved to include strategic branding, copywriting and content creation across all digital channels. My experience with agency leadership, client relations and team management added even more strengths to my resume.
During that time, I also started digital painting as a counterbalance to the fast-paced agency stress. About four years ago, when my last agency downsized, I took the opportunity to open my own creative consultancy. The trends were—and still are—going towards the gig economy; many traditional ad agencies and marketing places need to become more flexible and agile, being able to match talent to the requirements of often multi-faceted projects. It is very tough to keep full-time staff for every single discipline in marketing. So, the time was right to take the plunge open my own business, positioning my skill set as Freelance Creative Director.
There are tons of young creatives and mid-level designers in the world, lots of them are freelancing, but not many of them have the strategic experience needed. It’s rather rare to find a well-rounded Creative Director who does not come with the overhead of an entire agency. That’s what makes me stand out among freelance creatives. Working for yourself does have the advantage that I am extremely flexible. I can do the strategic work as well as the creative work, from start to finish, and with a full focus on the task at hand.
For a company hiring me, it’s a huge plus to get 100% of my attention and experience, without having to hire a whole agency. And for agencies or creative shops that do not have the strategy or copywriting capabilities, I can be an extension to their team and range of competencies. This can involve a project from briefing to end or maybe just the brand strategy, whatever is needed in the creative process. Because of the varied needs and requirements, I mostly work on a project basis, but also take on ongoing engagements. Working for myself also allows me to gain more experience on the administrative and business development side. It’s a challenge, but a welcomed learning experience.
And then, there is the other side of my work. My creative and artistic work go hand in hand. Creativity is the way you think about solving a problem, so in many ways it applies to every job in the world, not just design. In my school days, I always favored the creative classes like art and design. So, naturally I was drawn towards a creative career. My art is just as much a part of me as design. Turning an idea or vision into a tangible story on paper or any other medium is nothing other than a puzzle. How do you bring the pieces together? How do you best tell the story you want to tell? From picking a format and choosing a composition to creating a flow and rhythm in your artwork that helps guide the viewer through your work, there are so many design decisions that flow into creating a piece of artwork, it is just beautiful to watch it come to life in front of your eyes.
The big difference I see between art and design is that my designs and brand solutions have to do a specific job for a client, customer or target audience. My art, in comparison, does not have to do that. It is just a personal expression that I share with the world, and when people like it and it puts a smile on their faces, it’s all I want.
What should our readers know about your business?
I love being a designer and creative problem solver. Especially in the design business, every single challenge has different complexities. As a designer, you work around a set of restrictions and most importantly you work around a set of expectations from all sorts of stakeholders. The multitude of marketing channels and their always-on mentality raise the challenge even more.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In my free time, I like experimenting with rum cocktails. So when I go out, I am typically drawn to Tiki bars and bars that make good cocktails. For an excellent cocktail experience I strongly recommend False Idol, Polite Provisions and Raised by Wolves. I can sit at the bar, watch my drinks get freshly made and ask the bartenders what I want to know. For a perfect day in San Diego, rent a sailboat, explore the Big Bay harbor, and dock at Shelter Island’s Bali Hai for a Missionary’s Downfall. Aloha.
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?
Of course there are some great mentors in my career, and they span across the globe. Special thanks go to my teachers in design school for the persistent and patient mentorship during my school time in Rheinbach, Germany. In the ad agency world, I’d like to especially thank my Creative Directors Andreas Beckmann, Michael Fröhling and Steven Morris for all the things I learned during my agency time. But while there are a few people I consider great mentors, there are countless colleagues, teammates and friends that made the first 24 years so much fun! You know who you are.
© All artwork by Harry Decker. All other images by DoubleDeckerDesign.