Dear Austin,

Please join me at Companion on December 1st from 7-10 p for the opening reception of my very first art show.

I’m very excited to be showing off work I’ve created throughout my Creative Residency that will kickstart the next phase of my project (I’ll tell you about it soon).

The show will be up through December, but I want to see you there. Grab a drink next door at Brew & Brew and join the fun!


908 E 5th St #106c
Austin, Texas 78702


Woo hoo! 2016 calendars are available! They’re 12×18″ and perfect for any office, kitchen or kids room.

I illustrated the type with crayons and India Ink. Each month’s header has a unique illustration and type treatment. The left side has space for writing notes and goals, and each day on the calendar has little boxes for marking goal progress. It includes holidays and even has a cardboard backing to make it extra sturdy.

Includes October 2015-December 2016.

Snag one while they’re hot.

january-full2 calendar-feb

Meg Gleason is the founder and designer of Moglea (pronounced Moh-glee), a letterpress and stationery studio. You’ve probably seen her work, even if you don’t know it.

I met Meg at Iowa State back in 2006. It was a brief but memorable interaction. Long story short, she was a junior when I was a freshman. I saw her work and thought it was the coolest (she had a poster that featured a llama). The following year she remembered me and asked if I was accepted into the graphic design program. Fast forward 10 years later and her work is still the best and I’m still trying to play it cool.

Today Meg works from her studio on her family’s farm in Audubon, Iowa (which is beautiful). Her husband Chad is also a designer and farmer. They have several employees and they ship their stationery and other paper goods to Anthropologie, Paper Source, Steven Alan and shops all around the world.

Meg was kind enough to let me hang out with her at the studio when I was in Iowa a couple of months ago. She gave me the full tour and some pretty great swag. She dropped some knowledge and I learned a lot about what to expect from the stationery world as I move on to the next phase of my creative residency—developing my creative business.


Here are a few of my questions about starting a stationery business and some of her answers.

Q: How did you first get your work into stores? Where do you sell the most products?

A: Tradeshows. If you want to make a big splash in the stationery world, you need to attend the National Stationery Show (NSS). It’s in May, but it’s best to apply early (ideally by October in order to get a good spot—you don’t want to be on the outer ring). There are others too, like NYNOW, which is twice a year (this show is optimal for gifts like prints and other products).

Q: I’ve looked into NSS, but the price of attending seems unclear. How much does it all cost? How did you know what you were doing when you first attended?

A: NSS costs about $2,500 for a small booth then several thousand more (at least) to put the space together and cover travel, food and products. It’s not cheap, but this is the place to be seen. As far as how to navigate the new tradeshow scene, sign up for Tradeshow Bootcamp.


Q: How prepared were you when you first attended?

A: “I never sold a card before attending. However, I did go into it with confidence from my Minted line that was doing well. Since I was sharing a booth with some other designers, something that helped give me attention was another company that directed big buyers to check out my work. Before I left the NSS in May of 2012, I had orders from Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. I came in with 30 designs, but buyers wished I had an even bigger catalog.”

Q: How do you start a new business when the markup is so low per product? It’s so expensive to print a low quantity that selling a few here or there seems hardly sustainable.

A: “You might not make money right away. It takes time. The idea is to grow to get big enough orders so that it lowers the cost per product.” Meg said she doesn’t see how people can grow a business without going into debt. “If you make $30,000 from a tradeshow, you have to invest that right back into the business in order to grow and meet the demand.”


Q: What’s a line? How many cards do you need to have in a line?

A: “A line is all of your cards. It’s best to have 60-100, but it’s okay to start smaller.” Meg went into the first tradeshow with about 30 designs. Her products went over well, and retailers even wished she had more. Obviously it’s best to have quality over quantity, but quantity is really important too. When I had lunch with her and Chad, they told me that retailers like to be directed to top sellers. “The top 3% sounds better than the top 30%. That’s the difference between a line of 100 and a line of 10.” Well put, Chad.


Q: How do you find the time to design and run the business?

A: Shocker: delegation. While Meg does do all the lettering and card designs, she has designers who work on the website and online marketing, as well as employees who work on shipping, sales, painting the paper, printing etc. She focuses on the things that need to be cohesive for the brand—essentially the work that nobody else can do. “You have to learn to trust others with your work and be able to clearly communicate the vision behind each piece so that they can help you accomplish your goals.”


Q: Where do I start?

A: Observe what’s missing in the market. See what people are doing. Find the right balance between being knowing the market really well and not finding yourself too…inspired…by other brands. When Meg emerged, nobody was doing what she was doing—mixing hand painted cards, collage, hand lettering and letterpress (they still aren’t). She’s found a way to mass-produce individual pieces of art. Find what makes your style unique and run with it.

Thank you, Meg!

Shop Moglea here and follow Meg on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. 

*Photos courtesy of Moglea

Last week I received an email from a nice college student named Lauren. Lauren had a good question and I thought it was worth sharing on the world wide web (with her permission, of course). I also edited the exchange to only keep the relevant parts to this blog post.

I am currently balancing a job, class and my “side-project” illustration work. When you were in college, what worked for you? Did you keep a daily journal? How did you keep what you wanted to do separate from your assignments?

Thanks a ton!

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for writing. I was a crazy college kid who took herself like, soooo seriously. I spent all my time on class projects, which is okay enough because I did a good job and had fun, but a few side projects wouldn’t have hurt. I think you’re already ahead of the game if you’re creating personal work now. I do well with self-initiated projects that have a start and end date (100 day projects and the like). I even started my first book by turning it into a monthly blog post where I uploaded one new “I’d rather be short” drawing every day. They took way longer than I thought, and I only created half as many as I intended, but this structure helped me accomplish my big goal—compile enough illustrations to pitch to lit agents.

I’ve also found that doing a side project at the same time every day helps, even if it’s just 10 minutes before bed or first thing in the morning. I think it’s best to give your personal work the best part of your day (early morning). This way you start the day out feeling satisfied, and no job or class project can take that from you.

I’ve learned that slow and steady wins the race. Steady baby steps are usually more powerful than sporadic sprints. There’s a time and place for each, but for the sake of practice, I’d rather “stay in shape” by drawing a little bit every day than just picking up the pen for a huge project once every couple of weeks.

I hope that helps. Best of luck!



Adobe MAX is right around the corner! As a Creative Resident, I’ll be giving a presentation (twice!) called Adventures in Book Publishing. It’s a dream for many designers, illustrators and writers to see their name on the cover of a book. I’ll be giving an hour long talk where I share my story as well as answer some questions to help aspiring authors get started. Questions like…

Do I need an agent? Should I go with a traditional publisher, or self-publish? How much money will I make? How long does it take? What can a book do for me? Should I share my ideas online? What’s the difference between a query and a proposal? …and more.

I hope this provides clarity to what can seem an ambiguous, arduous undertaking.

Not going to Adobe MAX? Sign up to view the keynotes online. I’m going to try to Periscope my talk. Will keep you posted! Follow the fun. 


Hi Brooklyn,

Please join Adobe, Makeshift Society and me for a night of Exquisite Totes next Thursday, September 24 from 7-9.

We’re paying homage to exquisite corpse, a surrealist game dating back to the early 20th Century. Artists would pass around a piece of folded paper and write a word that would become part of a collaborative sentence. The name comes from one of the first sentences, translated to, “The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine.” It’s also fun to play with pictures, and now totes.

I created a series of monster heads, torsos and legs. During the event you’ll be able to pick one of each to create your own monster for a tote. There will also be drinks and light bites.

Purchase your ticket here. Even better, take 50% off with coupon code ‘friendsof’. 

See you soon!


Only a couple more weeks left of my September Tattly bonus! I designed this pup with the Adobe Creative Residency. It’s the next best thing to having a real tattoo, and you even have the opportunity to reenact this scene. How it works: order any Tattly(s) from the site and you’ll receive this pup with your order for free.

If you’d like to see how I created it, check out this tutorial I wrote for the Tattly blog.

becky-simpson-flower-tattlyPhoto by Tattly, worn by my groovy biz mentor, Nic Annette Miller

Hello, all! I’m leading a workshop at Yellow Conference this week and here’s a handy list of resources I’ll be directly or indirectly referencing. I hope you find them helpful!

TED talks
Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are  Amy Cuddy
How Schools Kill Creativity Ken Robinson
On finding meaning in your career Steven Tomlinson

Blog posts
The Most Important Thing I Ever learned (Life unfolds in moments) David Cain
Focus on the Growing Heap, Not the One Coin Gretchen Ruben
The Complete Guide To Not Giving a… Julien Smith
Productivity Hacks Tim Ferriss
1000 True Fans Kevin Kelley

Mindset Carol Dwek
Breaking the Time Barrier by Mike McDerment and Donald Cowper (I read this on my flight home and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a must read for all small business owners)
4-hr Work Week Tim Ferriss
The E-Myth (Revisited) Michael Gerber
Rework Jason Fried & John Heinemeier
99U books

Online classes
B School

Apps (for designers)
Adobe Shape (vectorizes projects from your phone)
Adobe Color (capture real life color palettes)
Adobe Draw (drawing pad for ipad or iphone
Scanner Pro (awesome scanner from your phone)

Time management & organization
Harvest (time tracking)

Virtual assistants:
Fancy Hands
Virtual Miss Friday
(also, just search “creative virtual assistant” or “design virtual assistant”)

Posts on book publishing
Adventures in Book Publishing Pt. 1
Adventures in Book Publishing Pt. 2
From Blog to Book
“So you want to write a book” video from Jay Papasan (so good!)

Howdy, lettering and drawing nerds!

I finished up 100 Days of Getting Started last week. This is the first completed project during my creative residency.

Celebration is lovely in theory but most of us hardly make time to commemorate important milestones because we’re too busy moving on to the next thing. Not this time! I decided to celebrate with a rousing night of illustration at Studium. Lucky for me, Justin David Cox had hosted a lettering night in the past and was looking to do another. We combined forces and created a super party: Drawing/Lettering Night.

It was a real hootenanny. We drew, lettered and drank.

In case you missed it, fear not. We’re going to have another in September. Stay tuned!


I finished my 100 day project last night (if you haven’t read about this concept, head over to The Great Discontent to learn more). My project? 100 Days of Getting Started, inspired by Mark Twain’s quote, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

I recently read this Tweet by Ugmonk founder, Jeff Sheldon:

Top 5 Mind-Blowing Secrets of Successful Entrepreneurs:

1. They don’t read clickbait articles all day.

2. They do the work.




(Slow clap)

We live in a world of information overload. We’re constantly forced to curate our lives, because we know that if we don’t, someone else will. We have more opportunities than ever, and we’re better than ever at sifting through said click bait links and YouTube videos. Those of us who have found our home in creative industries are also learning how to hone our skills, manage our time and coddle the vision that got us here in the first place.

We’re dreamers!

But that’s the double edge sword. We like to dream.

It’s easier to dream than work.

I feel a sense of FOMO rush over me every time somebody posts a book/blog post/podcast that was “life changing.” I want to drop what I’m doing so I can acquire this fruit from the tree of knowledge instead of doing the work that will instill valuable lessons of my own.

Before I started working for myself several years ago, my dad told me, “Your biggest struggle will be staying focused. Every business owner has to learn focus.” I didn’t know what he meant because I always thought my vision was clear: I wanted to work for myself doing graphic design and illustration. I wanted to be my own boss. What else was there to figure out?


After a couple of years I realize exactly how right he was. Productive procrastination runs rampant in any workplace. Crossing tasks off the to-do list welcomes a lukewarm adrenaline rush that can only be satisfied by crossing off more lukewarm tasks.

As I reflect on the last three months of art I’ve been creating for 100 Days of Getting Started, I’m oddly surprised by how much I learned by experience (those specific lessons learned will be on Adobe Inspire later this week).

Perhaps the biggest lesson of all was the reinforced advice my dad gave me that December: learn to prioritize focus.

The beauty of 100 day projects is that they don’t allow room for petty excuses or lack of direction.

At the end of the day, the only question that matters is: “Did I do the work today?” If the answer is yes, then you are inching closer to victory. If it’s no, then you have failed. However, knowing that each day is a fresh start is the most redemptive part of the project (side note: this is also how I survived golf in high school—new hole, fresh start). Doing this over and over makes you feel like Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow for pretty much three months straight, and that’s cool because he saves the world from aliens…but I digress.

100 day projects don’t have to be complex, but they should be challenging. They’re meant to be practice, after all. With healthy practice, process and growth are celebrated, not perfect performance.

Projects like this teach us to hunker down and do the work. Unexpected consequences arise (a.k.a. lessons learned), but only those who do the work will be able to internalize these game changing lessons. It’s the ultimate, “You had to be there” for personal growth. The good, the bad and the ugly are all agents of change. They’re the warriors to bring us to the finish line.

What else is nice about working on something for 100 days?

You have 100 more of anything you want. In my case, it’s a slew of new illustrations.

Remember: baby steps.

What’s your project?