Derek “Dee” Fullmer is a full-time freelancer and teacher — and one of Indie-Life’s favorite creatives to work with. Dee has been getting his start in design when he moved to the Philadelphia area four years ago. And, it was in the City of Brotherly Love where he got his first freelance gig when he linked up with Indie-Life.
“Rafik was so welcoming and we connected easily,” remembered Dee. “It got me involved in branding work which was exactly where I wanted to focus my design career. I’m thankful we continue to work together and talk as friends even as I move around. Indie-Life has always been supportive of their artists living indie, and now I’m going for it full force.”
Currently, the 26-year-old is in the midst of renovating an RV which he intends to make his permanent residence. And soon, he’ll be taking all his work on the road and finding new views to explore and work in every day. Good enough reason for us, to ask him “Life’s Biggest Questions.”
I am a freelancer, but I’m also a teacher. I teach graphic design and digital art to my students who are middle schoolers in Philadelphia. We create projects together and work to inspire each other and push ourselves to create new work we didn’t think was possible. When we create something that looks so good, we’re all very proud and excited to share.
My best asset as a designer and collaborator comes from the same excitement. I love to work together and collaborate. When I’m designing branding work for a client, it’s not about me mysteriously concocting something behind a curtain. I love to openly communicate, pick the brains of clients, speak to their emotions about the kind of care that they have for their business and the work they do. When we emotionally connect like that, we ensure that the best design solution comes to the front. Lead with love.
The biggest annoyance is always coming from the miscommunication. Truthfully, it’s the job of the designer to be as thorough as possible, especially when you’re briefing a project. The biggest annoyance is being given too much liberty as a designer, the client says things like “Hey I dunno, you’re the professional!”, and you take that as a great opportunity to put your best work into it, pushing their brand into the modern-era of 2021 design. And then they see your final work and they are so confused and disappointed that you have completely missed the mark.
As a designer, you need to pick their brains and show visuals to compare. It is hard, especially for clients hiring you, to explain what you enjoy visually. It helps to show them side-by-side options, see what sort of style they like, and then from that you need to create something that is both personalized and new, but also links to their interests. I’ve spent so much time on an open-ended project just for them to send me another logo they’ve seen and they tell me to: “Just do it like this.”
My biggest accomplishment is simply being a full-time freelancer and now flourishing in the job. I’ve been able to set my life on my terms, but it took many years to get to this comfort level. I get to work with amazing people who are starting up their dreams, and I get to be part of that collaborative process and ease their worries. Realtors, mechanics, doctors — these are all jobs where you want to find the one who understands your situation and you want to fully trust their work and prices, ensuring you got the best of many options.
Designers are in an occupation that requires just as much trust. It is an amazing feeling to deliver high quality work that the client got to put their input in. They have helped define all that they want to see in their baby, their brand! Then you take that precious information and magically create something visual for them to see and personally connect with. It’s an honor to be able to get paid for that kind of work, because it is a very delicate process that requires a lot of trust.
While juggling freelance, I’ve been able to delegate my own schedule and fit time for teaching in an after school program, and that energy keeps me feeling bright and sharp. Working with middle schoolers is incredible, they all have so much talent in them, and I love to pitch projects to them that will bring out every bit of their undiscovered talent. Some of them just need a prompt, and like a key to your jammed shut closet, it just unleashes all their ideas that have been dreaming to fly. Life is good as a freelancer!
If you want to keep up with Dee, his life and work as a freelancer, check him out on IG @treefullz.
By Andrea Leonhardt
Imagery by Derek Fullmer