Becky Simpson, Illustrator & Designer

Portrait by Chelsea Francis

Portrait by Chelsea Francis

Chipper, fun and talented as hell are all the ways we’d describe Becky. We loved hearing about her creative process, perpetuating your own work, the inevitable learnings of running a new bizz, and her perspective on working for yourself versus a day job. This is a thoughtful and inspiring read from one of Nashville’s finest!

What do you do?

I’m an illustrator, graphic designer, author and owner of Chipper Things, a paper and lifestyle brand.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

Lately my mantra has been, “Make it easy by making it fun,” and, “If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong.” I know that not everything is going to be fun—even in this line of work (which usually is pretty great), but the point is that there are a lot of things in life that we don’t actually have to do. We pressure ourselves into doing them or we do it because it’s what everybody else does. I thought about those phrases a lot when I was working on The Roommate Book. I had a few spreads that I felt I had to make (I put them in the outline), but realized that nobody was making me do it. So I scratched them in order to make the process more enjoyable. Cool thing about personal projects: You make the rules.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

After I graduated college in Iowa (shoutout to Iowa State!), I moved to Texas, a thousand miles south. That move gave me a lot of confidence. I realized if I could make all new friends and create a life for myself, then I could do anything.

I acquired my first book deal for I’d Rather Be Short .

I finished my Adobe Creative Residency last May. In that time I finished my second book, presented to thousands of people across the country at design conferences and launched my store, Chipper Things. None of those things would have happened if it weren’t for the thing before the thing. That’s why every experience has a compounding effect—we don’t know what will come of what until we try.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

I’m really pumped about the future of Chipper Things. I learned a lot in the first 8 months. I’m changing up some stuff on the backend, integrating smarter business practices and changing the direction a bit. I also have new products I’m itching to launch!

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

Yes! A big part of that is thanks to my pal, Jen Moulton. Jen and I started meeting weekly to keep each other accountable on our business goals and give feedback / critiques, but it evolved into becoming BFFs and with a shared love of connecting people, we started these Creative Lady Happy Hour monthly events in Austin (Ladies Doin’ Things). We also did a few other events. I think that when you like to gather people, it makes for easy community. I’ve also invested a lot of time in going to conferences across the country. Many of my best design pal (and regular pal) friendships came from attending Designer Vaca—three years in a row!

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

I went to the Whitney in New York last year by myself. For some reason I was never an audio guide person. I’m not sure why. I think I thought they would sound dry and cold. But I decided to give it a $7 chance and I’m so glad I did. They were like bite-size podcast NPR nuggets. I left the museum feeling so inspired. It truly was a transcendent experience. I knew I might never have that feeling again. Knowledge = context.

What is your dream project?

My dream project is one where I feel appreciated for the work that I do. Appreciated through pay, recognition and freedom. I love when I client says, “Here’s some direction, but I trust you.” My work is usually better because of feedback and critiques from clients, so I’m not saying that I don’t want them involved the process. It’s more fun when a client is as excited to work with you as you are with them. That’s the dream.

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I love to dance! When I see little kids dancing at a wedding, it makes me think we are biologically wired to dance. Are there studies on this? I’m not actually a good dancer, as I do not take myself seriously. I’m just a small person who really goes crazy on the dance floor. One time a bartender cut me off because of my dancing, even though I was completely sober. To me this is a badge of honor.

If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice event, who would it be and why?

I’m all about the lady comics. I audio booked Tina Fey’s Bossypants four times when it came out, and I’ve read the others too (Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Leadra Medine, Ellen Degeneres, etc.) I’d love to hear from a whip-smart, funny, confident woman.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

Last night my 21-year-old sister was telling my husband and I that she’s regretting not taking certain classes that pertain to her major. We assured her that this is totally fine and normal. Then Greg said, “College is supposed to teach you how to think, not what to think.”

I’ve thought about that post-college and I wish that I had that mindset when I was there. While college is long gone, I know I can still think like that today.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

I’ve been listening to a lot of true crime stuff—like, a lot of it. I like inspiring listens and reads, but for the last month or so, I’ve been consuming more entertainment. I also really like Michael Ian Black’s podcast, How to be Amazing. My brother-in-law introduced me to the band, Glass Animals. Does everybody already know about them? I like them!

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

Definitely diversity. I’m also excited to see the conversation of “work for yourself” vs. day job change. I think it already is, but when I first started going to design conferences, I felt like the tone was, “Follow your dreams so you can quit your job!” I was all about it. Now I couldn’t disagree more. Working for an employer/working for yourself is not inherently good or bad. One is not better than the other, it just depends on what’s right for you. A steady paycheck with a company you believe in is also living the dream. I don’t want people who work at an office to think that they haven’t “arrived” because they aren’t self-employed. I love what I do, but it comes at a cost. Both are awesome and both can be hard. Contentment (not to be confused with complacency) is king.

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

Q: “What did you want to be when you grew up (when you were in fourth grade)?”

A: WNBA player

How can we find our more about your work?

Personal: beckysimpson.co // @beckymsimps (Instagram and Twitter)

Chipper Things: chipperthings.com // @chipperthings  (Instagram and Twitter)

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?

Jen Moulton!