Five things I’ve learned over the last ten years

Harrison & Co celebrated its 10th anniversary a few weeks ago. Neil Bennett, editor of Digital Arts magazine, saw a tweet about our 10th birthday and asked me if I would like to write a piece for his magazine on what I’ve learned over the last decade. Here it is…

DA article LZ

The article as it appeared in Digital Arts magazine

Ten years ago, Chris Harrison left the safe confines of a London firm to set up his own design agency in Brighton. Here’s what he’s learned over the past decade.

Working with talented designers
Over the last 10 years, the highest highs have always been linked to producing a great piece of work as a team. It sounds corny, but I get a much bigger kick out of seeing another designer at Harrison & Co hitting the mark with an idea, than if I had done it myself. Not everyone who sets up their own studio goes on to employ a team – but if you do it can be, by far, one of the most rewarding things you do.

Great clients
I’m lucky Harrison & Co have attracted some really good clients. One of those is William Norris, Communications Director at Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. It didn’t happen overnight, but after several years of working together, we now do our most compelling work for Will and the OAE. He trusts creativity and he understands the value it brings to a brand. Our best work of the last 10 years has been a collaboration between us, the OAE and the arts photographer Eric Richmond. You can’t do good design without good clients.

Branding Brighton
An opportunity came up to rebrand VisitBrighton (the council operated tourism arm). I put forward some credentials for the tender – our bid was rejected, point blank. The feedback – our work wasn’t ‘bold enough’. I knew the project was right for Harrison & Co, so I put together a second proposal, which the client hadn’t asked for and wasn’t expecting. I ditched the ‘proposal speak’ and made an impassioned, and personal, 10 point pitch about why we were right for the project. We won the tender. It’s one of my favourite rebrands that we have done to date. If you really want something, don’t be shy about going after it.

Mrs Harrison
I was having some wobbles 10 years ago about leaving behind the security of a Creative Directors salary at a good London agency (with posh sofas), to set up Harrison & Co (from a dusty sofa) in Brighton. My wife gave me the nudge (shove) I needed to take the leap. She has played a really important role in the last 10 years. She’s honest about the ideas we produce. She is my common sense mentor for business decisions. She also writes some mean copy. The last 10 years wouldn’t have happened without her. Thanks Tash.

About 7 years ago I was waiting for a train at Farringdon. On the platform I spotted Rod Petrie, one of the original founders of Design Bridge, (the London based branding agency) and I went over and said hello. Rod had interviewed me for a job in 1991 (although he didn’t remember it!). To cut a long story short, Rod, now an independent coach, agreed to mentor me in those early years of Harrison & Co. It made an enormous difference to me and the business. Serendipity has played a huge part of the last 10 years. You can make plans until the cows come home, but you can’t top lady luck showing up.


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