“Process brings progress and confidence!” How Haritos Constantinos cultivated his own practice
Based in Athens, Haritos Constantinos is a creative director and designer of Greek origin. Having built his expertise with a number of digital agencies, he set out with his own independent practice in 2019, specialising in brand identities and their applications within print and digital media. Here, he reflects on the key experiences and transitions throughout his career, alongside the formative power of travelling.
PT Hi Haritos, how are you?
HC I am very well! I send you my greetings from sunny Athens. I am very excited to talk with you.
PT Going back in time, can you describe your first steps in the industry?
HC My career as a designer officially started in 2014. That year was the period of transition from street art – graffiti – to the applied art of graphic design. I remember that as a young designer, I was looking for my identity even after graduating from university. I didn’t really know what design domain I wanted to focus on. The only thing for sure is that I was particularly fascinated by concept creation and its visual expression. From a relatively early age, I had separated design from art. I treated it as a means of communication, usability and innovation.
Over the years, I have worked from printing houses to globally recognised creative offices and digital agencies in Greece and Cyprus. Coming to today, and having put together all the pieces of the puzzle of this journey, I do not regret at all that I was so indecisive between the years 2014-2020! On the contrary, I appreciate everything that this trip gave me and I feel grateful for the people who were my mentors, for the experiences I gained, for the lessons I learned and for the wide range of projects I participated in.
There is no better path than to simply enter the game, make mistakes and learn from them.
PT How have you found launching your own practice? Is there anything that you wish you’d known beforehand?
HC What I really wish I knew before I started my own brand, would be to have someone explain to me how to do it! Hahaha, just kidding!
To answer this question honestly, I will remain true to what I answered you previously. For me, there is no better path than to simply enter the game, make mistakes and learn from them. I also believe that as long as we live we constantly learn new things and this is very interesting and challenging.
The decision to create my own brand was something I deeply wanted and was my secret goal from the beginning of my career. I believe that when you are destined to start your own business it is something that you understand deep within you from a very early age. However, it takes the necessary maturity, experience and organisational skills to be able to move from idea to action, as well as the necessary discipline, patience and persistence to survive in today’s global market. My own steps started when I felt experienced enough to lean on my feet and take the risk to start my own business, initially assisting other creative studios and digital agencies as an external partner. Today, I work exclusively with my own clientele.
PT What have you found to be the biggest differences between running your own practice and freelancing alongside various agencies?
HC As I mentioned above, my path – until I manage to take on exclusively my own clients – requires that I first find myself in the role of external partner on behalf of clients of other companies. So, I am in a position to distinguish some basic differences between these two roles, but I will prefer to focus on the most basic one which is the responsibility part. Working for someone else’s client, your responsibility is limited only to the executive matters that pertain to the planning part and your commitment to being consistent in the delivery of your obligations.
On the contrary, when you work exclusively for your own clients, you are responsible for literally everything. The outcome is not the only thing you are responsible for. You are the one who has to sell the services and do the marketing plans of your brand, analyse the client’s needs and negotiate, you are the one who will propose a solution according to the business model of the company you will work with. You are invited to calculate the budget for the entire project yourself and to form and direct your team according to the project’s requirements. What is more, it is necessary to have developed your time management skills so you can be sure that the whole work will be delivered on time. Finally, you have to find the golden ratio between producing quality work and this decision of yours not to cause damage to your workflow and by extension to the finances of your business. So you have to work smart without losing your quality but also your soul.
PT What have been the main turning points of your career?
HC Hmm. Let’s see.
I believe that the most important events of my career start somewhere in the beginning of 2019, when I decided to resign from the studio I was working in and leave behind the comfort zone of my 9-5. So, since I had already developed some solid relationships with some of my clients, I decided to work for an entire year while travelling at the same time. I really enjoyed this year. I travelled to Switzerland and stayed in a village in the snow-covered Alps, where I found a restful and peaceful environment to work on some of my projects, while at the same time enjoying nature. In the same year, I visited Milan, Italy – one of my favourite European cities – Innsbruck, Austria and finally Nicosia, Cyprus. It was a year where I met many interesting people sharing the same passions with most of them. I returned to Greece in 2020, shortly before the start of the COVID era, and have settled in my hometown, Athens, until today.
Another highlight of my career are my first awards. It’s a very nice feeling to see your work stand out among the work of other talented designers and companies. So far, I have had the honour of being recognised by global organisations such as Awwwards, CSS Design Awards, The Cypriot Pygmalion Graphic Design Awards, the legendary FWA and many others.
Finally, one of the most important moments of my career is when I was a judge at the international awards of the Art Directors Club Of Europe in Barcelona in 2022, in the Interactive & Mobile category. I can say that it was a unique experience and a fantastic, unprecedented feeling, being in the position of a judge among people who come from recognised companies worldwide.
Digital and interactive design is the present and the future.
PT What would you say are your biggest strengths and weaknesses as a creative?
HC I would say that as a creative person, I put a lot of emphasis on the process. For most of my team’s activities, there is a method that relies heavily on teamwork, strategic thinking and research. In this way, I manage to produce a result that almost always meets the needs of my clients without having back and forths and this is something that builds trust and makes my workflow easier. If I could say that I am proud of something, it is that I have managed to attract clients who do not see me and my team as simply creatives, but as a means of solving problems. So I consider myself a mix between creative and consultant.
Now as for my weaknesses, I would say that I am quite a perfectionist, a fact that once created a problem for me in the flow of my work and I had to overcome it. However, I have noticed that the emphasis on thorough research before any creative process has allowed me to produce the most accurate result that meets both the client’s expectations and my own, without leaving room for doubt or second thoughts. So, the process brings progress and confidence!
PT What initially drew you to digital and interactive design?
HC In the beginning, as I mentioned before, I didn’t really know which field of design is the one that really expresses me. That’s why I experimented a lot over the years. However, having one working background mostly in digital design, it was very natural for my design mentality and aesthetic to be shaped accordingly. Today, after several projects as an employee in digital agencies but also as a freelancer, I have to say that what attracts me to digital and interactive design is that, whatever you are going to design, it aims to solve a problem that serves the user, i.e. the human being. It is very interesting and a significant challenge to have to enter the psychology of the user to think about how he will interact with each digital environment, whether it is a website or a digital product, such as an application. Design is by itself an applied art with the aim of serving some purposes, but digital design gives extra importance to what we call usability, innovation and functionality.
In addition, what attracts me a lot in digital projects is the collaboration between different branches, such as copywriters, UX researchers, UI designers, brand designers, photographers, developers, etc. and beyond the research and design process, I really like to coordinate and combine their different worlds to achieve a common purpose. Today, it is necessary and even mandatory to organise the digital image of your company, in order to benefit from the mass projection that the internet provides. And as far as my opinion is concerned, digital design is the branding of the future, as a user’s first impression of a brand, overwhelmingly comes from some online platform or some digital advertisement. In conclusion, digital and interactive design is the present and the future. And I am very fascinated by what the future brings.
PT What stage of a project do you find the most engaging or rewarding?
HC As the most engaging for me, I would say that it is the stage of the first contact with a possible new client. The acquaintance, the analysis of their needs. How you will sell yourself and your services? It is like a game of chess where even the smallest detail plays an important role. I think that the art of selling is a huge chapter by itself.
As a rewarding stage, I believe that it is definitely the completion of the project. Seeing your client happy and expressing it is one of the nicest feelings I‘ve felt in this job. Then I would say that it is the reaction of the world and its interaction with the project as soon as it is released publicly. It is very nice to receive the feedback of the community. Either it’s about positive comments, or comments that you can take into account in order to become even better.
PT Which projects have provided the biggest learning curves for you?
HC At some point in my career, I had the good fortune to work with a newly formed company, where I learned a lot of things regarding the biggest part of the creative process of a project. So I think that all the projects I took on there taught me a lot, as I had the opportunity to be part of smaller groups and to work closely with all the branches that are necessary to complete a project. Contrasted with established companies I‘ve worked with in the past that had more verticalised their processes and the work felt more like a production line. For the above reason, I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who aims to work alone in the future to collaborate with a start-up at some point in their career.
PT Which project do you think best encapsulates you and your practice?
HC I believe that our most representative project is that of the Kiss My Button company, a company that provides consulting and customised software solutions based in Thessaloniki, Greece. It is our most iconic work because it is a project that we literally took on from scratch. We undertook the company’s brand strategy and then proceeded to design its brand. We produced texts based on their brand archetype, as well as custom image and video content for their website. We created a custom website by doing UX research and configured the sitemap, user flows and their wireframes from the beginning before proceeding to the UI design stage. It is a project that fully reflects what we do, as we are dedicated to the brand experience and technological projects are one of our specialties.
PT At the moment, who or what is inspiring you the most?
HC I would say that people generally are a source of inspiration for me in my life. More specifically, people who produce work. Any kind of work. It has nothing to do with our industry alone. I like people who are hardworking and who are interested in their professional and spiritual development. Those who have a schedule and discipline. They are people I want to associate with because I know I have a lot to learn from them.
As for inspiration at work, I would say again and again that people are my source of inspiration. I believe that design is here to serve people’s needs. And I am here to observe them and try to understand them.
PT What does a typical week look like for you?
HC In my daily life, I like to maintain a routine. I usually wake up very early, at 6am before the sun even rises. I prepare a coffee and my breakfast and sit for a while on the balcony. Then I take my bike and go to the central square of my area, where I like to watch people starting their day and I exchange good mornings with acquaintances and friends.
I find it very important to do things for myself before I start working. I arrive at my office somewhere around 9am and that’s where I spend a significant percentage of my day on weekdays.
In the beginning, I used to have no hours, with the result that I worked until very late at night. I would say until dawn several times. They say that the beginning is always difficult and I believe that. Now, however, most things in my business and workflow have settled down and there is a definite pattern to my actions that allows for a more restful routine. It is very important to have a balance between work and life. We must not forget that our health is our greatest asset. That’s why weekends especially are days dedicated to hobbies, excursions, friends and family.
I come from a country that has an undeniably rich history.
PT What is the design culture like in Athens, and Greece in general?
HC I come from a country that has an undeniably rich history and I was born in a city that distinguished itself for various forms of art such as architecture, sculpture, painting, drama, comedy, etc. So it is very natural that the culture of art and design has passed down to subsequent generations.
If you walk around the city of Athens you will see art of all kinds. From street art, art festivals, museums, to individual artistic exhibitions. Athenians have a need to express themselves. As far as the level of aesthetics is concerned, I would say that Greece is divided into different zones according to the historical and cultural backgrounds. For example, the blue and white colours that are dominant in the Cycladic architecture.
In Greece, there are several internationally recognised design offices and I would say that the level of the design scene is particularly high. Of course, our design aesthetic is also influenced by our culture, but living in 2023 means that our influences are also affected by worldwide design trends.
PT What are your next steps, career-wise?
HC I think that it is time for a rebranding in order to renew the image of my brand in order to not seem too personalised. In short, I am thinking of changing the business model from an independent creative director to a creative studio, since the amount of work has multiplied and the services have been enriched. Also, I am in a period where I am looking to move to a new office. As for my goals, in the near future, I would like to launch some signature products and courses addressed to the design community.
Photography by Dimitrios Schoinarakis