When DDB opened the doors for fresh creativity, it also opened opportunities for women and
minorities to get into the creative department. After many interviews, this is an account about
“THE FIRST BLACK CREATIVE HIRE.”
Ben Spiegel: “$75 a week.”
Carl Overr: “Make it $85.”
Spiegel reluctantly accepted because Ben was aware of the NAACP, the Civil Rights Movement, and
political ramifications if he didn’t make this hire happen.
Carl became the first African American to join the Creative Department
at the most creative ad agency in the world. DDB New York.
Overr’s portfolio consisted of slides. Paintings and illustrations gathered
from his Fine Arts Degree at the Otis Art Institute of Los Angeles County.
No ads. No comps. None of that mattered to Ben.
He quickly placed Carl in one of the Bullpens on the 25th floor.
To handle lettering in the Comp Department, headed up by Al Fatica.
Fatica’s group was gathered in a small room with several drawing tables jammed together. Two other
illustrators assisted Al and another for lettering.
Carl’s drawing table faced another aspiring entry’s table. Within 6 months, the beginner was promoted
and became an Assistant AD. Replacing him was another “Aspiring young entry.” Several
months later, he was promoted.
The thought began to sink in that being African American was the reason.
A chip began to grow on his shoulder. He knew he was more
than qualified. And wondered if breaking into DDB was worth it.
One day, Fatica was sizing up his staff because of the agency’s sudden growth. He contemplated
what was needed for additional help.
Al made a decision.
“Carl, you’ve done well here, and you need to be given a chance to become an Assistant Art Director.”
Fatica slowly picked up his telephone and made a call.
Shortly thereafter, Carl felt a hand nudging his back.
A low voice said: “I’d like you to be my Assistant.”
Thinking some wise-ass was needling him, and still mixed with bitterness about promotions, Carl didn’t
Instead, he asked the voice behind him: “Who the fuck are you?”
“ I’m Helmut Krone.”
Carl turned, and stared at the stranger.
“ So…… who the fuck are you?”
The next day, and for over 2 years, Helmut mentored Carl.
On concept, the art of graphic design, the use of typography, the importance of details, photography,
retouching. What it took to be an Art Director.
They worked late long hours together. A devoted team. They experienced
the ultimate test of trust and friendship. Both in and outside of DDB. Working at Helmut’s home.
Enjoying Helmut’s boat together.
Al Fatica, Helmut and Carl Overr.
They made a difference. They opened doors for others.
They made DDB history.
– Bob Matsumoto
DDB Art Director, The first Japanese American hire
Carl Overr eventually worked on the Porsche account at DDB, met the Porsche family, and learned
how to drive 180 mph on the autobahn.
He left DDB in December of 1969 as an Art Director. And returned to
Los Angeles where his career escalated with design firms and leading affiliates of New York agencies.
When Motown Records left Detroit, and headquartered themselves in Los Angeles, Carl headed up
the legendary label as their Executive Art Director. His graphic cover designs are regarded today as
hallmarks in the record industry. Overr is now a highly regarded Southwest Impressionist painter.