Forge Your Own Path: an Interview with Freelance Graphic Designer Breanna Rose

1913 Wine Bar logo design and brand build-out by Breanna Rose

1913 Wine Bar logo design and brand build-out by Breanna Rose

Graphic Designer Breanna Rose

Graphic Designer Breanna Rose

At just 25 years old, Minneapolis-based Graphic Designer and Blogger Breanna Rose Radermacher has achieved what most designers wouldn’t even consider possible at such a young age. Designing across a range of media, including logos, websites, and full brand build-outs, she has attracted clients running the gamut from restaurants to photographers to retail stores. With a keen eye for detail, a penchant for restraint, and a carefully honed graphic style, Radermacher has built a brand that resonates—with clients and admirers alike. Having launched headfirst into freelance straight out of design school, Radermacher took a leap of faith that takes most designers years—and the payoff has been huge.

“I vividly remember sitting in my Senior Design Capstone class around graduation time, surrounded by my peers, and being asked what kind of jobs we were hoping to seek out,” she describes. “Deep down, I knew that I wanted to be my own boss, but was too scared and nervous to say that out loud. At the time, I truthfully didn’t think that you could start your own business right out of design school. I was taught that you should work up in the design world and gain invaluable experience before going out on your own. So when the time came to start applying for jobs, I did so like a robot,” she explains. “It didn’t take me long though—two applications to be exact—to figure out that my heart just wasn’t in it.”

Gohan Sushi logo process by Breanna Rose

Gohan Sushi logo process by Breanna Rose

“That whole transition time into ‘real life’ was just plain old scary,” Radermacher admits. “But it was then that I made the life-altering decision to start my own freelance business. I had a few contracting gigs, a six-month-old blog, a few social media accounts, and my childhood bedroom to live in and make it work. And,” she says, “it did. It definitely wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows and I did think about giving up at times, but in the end… all that hard work was completely worth it.”

“It definitely wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows and I did think about giving up at times, but in the end… all that hard work was completely worth it.”

Despite, or perhaps because of her decision to walk the road less traveled, Radermacher has gained many loyal clients and admirers over her short career, from those who deeply resonate with her blog posts to those who follow and commend her design chops on popular design site Dribbble. Her success in both blogging and design has led to not one, but two new exciting ventures for 2014. The first? The development and soft launch of her new design studio, Rowan Made.

Rowan Made logo and mark by Breanna Rose

Rowan Made logo and mark by Breanna Rose

“Last year, I realized that I needed to create a solid base for expansion, which simply couldn’t be done working under my own name,” she says. “It all started last May when I hired a contract designer to help on some fun projects. She was working for me, but under my name, which felt like such a weird gray area for me and my clients. I realized that if I wanted to grow my business beyond just myself, a unique name would be a smart first step. Plus, I read an article on The Middle Finger Project that said something along the lines of: ‘if your name isn’t Oprah, people probably aren’t going to remember your first and last name. A unique name, on the other hand, is different.’”

“Since that little discovery,” Radermacher continues, “I’ve created a new brand from scratch and am revisiting my design process and streamlining everything for growth. Although I have no idea what will happen, I’m so excited to start this new adventure of mine. Before, I felt like I had hit my ceiling for expansion. And although not much will change right away, I feel like the possibilities are now endless.”

Along with her studio launch, which will primarily benefit her clients, Radermacher has another project in the works for the readers of her blog, many of whom are designers themselves. Expanding from her popular advice column “Be Free, Lance,” Radermacher is in the process of developing a more in-depth Freelance Workshop with pal Jen Serafini.

Be Free, Lance column design by Breanna Rose

Be Free, Lance column design by Breanna Rose

“There are definitely a lot of big things and changes happening this year, but this is probably the one that I’m most excited about,” Radermacher says. “We are still very much in the content development phase, so it probably won’t be released until this Summer or Fall. While there will be a lot of in-depth information and learning—beyond what I have ever covered on my blog—there will also be perspective and insight from others currently in the business, alongside advice from myself and Jen. The workshop will be perfect for creatives looking to freelance,” she continues, “or others who have already taken the leap. We want to cover all perspectives and are doing our very best to genuinely consider our approach in doing so.”

With two exciting new projects in the works, a host of creative content on her blog, and consistently fresh and interesting designs, it’s hard to imagine Radermacher ever getting stuck for inspiration. When she does, she says, “I turn to Pinterest and Dribbble. Dribbble especially has so many amazing designers that it’s easy to get lost in beautiful work. But to be quite honest,” she continues, “the only thing that truly unhinges me from being stuck is stepping away from my computer, especially when travel is involved. There’s nothing like getting in your car (or on an airplane) to help bring in some fresh perspective.”

Scout website landing page mock-up by Breanna Rose

Scout website landing page mock-up by Breanna Rose

As for why she loves design so much, Radermacher explains, “I’ve always been a creative individual and truly enjoy telling stories. Since I’m not great with my hands—drawing, painting, etc.—design became a natural niche that I fit right into,” she says. “After stepping into this world, it’s always just felt right. I get to tell stories, visually, and that’s the best part.”

To those just starting out in their design careers, Radermacher has some valuable advice. “If there is something that you truly want to do,” she says, “don’t let anybody tell you that it’s impossible. There are many opinions out there when it comes to the traditional path designers ‘should’ take, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. That’s what I personally found most conflicting,” she explains. “Because really, there are no rules. You can do whatever feels best for you, not everybody else. Forge your own path and know that if you work hard and are kind to others, amazing things will happen.”

“If there is something that you truly want to do, don’t let anybody tell you that it’s impossible.”

Fourth Street logo and business card design by Breanna Rose

Fourth Street logo and business card design by Breanna Rose

A Few More Questions for Graphic Designer Breanna Rose

What would you say was the steepest learning curve for you in going freelance right away?  

“When you start your own business, you instantly need to wear a lot of different hats, some of which are unexpected. I naively thought that I would design and chat with clients all day, but that’s 100% not the case. As a sole business owner, you are managing everything from marketing, financing, customer service, and so much more. I had to learn how to juggle a bunch of new things while learning all about them, too. In all honesty, though, I think that’s a great way to learn. When you throw yourself into something completely new, it forces you to learn what works for you very quickly.”

Do you think having a distinct style has helped you attract the clients you want to work with?  

“When I look at work of mine from a few years back, it’s very easy (and exciting) to see some serious growth. I say that with slight hesitation, simply because I don’t mean to be snobby. But I believe that as designers, we learn a lot in the first few years of experience. We don’t know exactly where we fit and while we may be happy (at the time) with what’s being produced, it’s truly a wonderful experience to feel like you’ve come into your own. While I don’t think I’m all the way there yet (are we ever?) I now feel like I’m on the right path and do believe that my approach attracts a certain client type. I know it’s not for everyone, but I personally enjoy having a more specified niche. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t consider projects that may take me out of my box. Because hey, that’s how we grown even more.”

Have you always wanted to be a graphic designer? What led to you attending design school?

“Two weeks before my undergrad adventure begun, I was actually enrolled in a nursing program at a small private college in Iowa. Then, in the span of 24 hours, everything changed. A few key things happened and I ended up experiencing the largest epiphany of my life thus far. I had always been a creative person, but was somehow convinced that I couldn’t make that a career. For whatever reason, I thought I would ruin and get sick of any creative hobby I had. Seriously, it was all silly thinking on my part. And luckily, I realized that at an opportune moment. With the help of my parents, I quickly switched schools and got myself set up on a path towards design. Best decision of my life thus far.”

Linwood website design by Breanna Rose

Linwood website design by Breanna Rose

Have you ever had a moment in your career where you’ve felt like you’ve failed in some way? If so, how did you move past it?

“Most definitely! Multiple times. When we look up to our favorite creatives as inspirations, it’s easy to think that they have it all together. And maybe some do. But really, we’re all just trying to figure ‘our stuff’ out. That means that yeah, sometimes failures happen. But you have to get past the notion that it’s the end of the line. Because more often than not, we learn from our mistakes—no matter how tough—and grow better because of them. I won’t lie and say that it’s always been easy to move past failures. I used to let downfalls (even minor ones) affect my life. Pity party central. Nowadays, I ask myself ‘is it really that bad?’ and try to move on in the most positive way possible. You just gotta keep going.”

What would you say is the biggest risk you’ve taken so far in your career?  

“Starting my own business right out of school was probably the scariest thing I’ve done so far in my career. It wasn’t a traditional path and a lot of people I knew didn’t fully understand my reasoning, so I had to not only prove that I could do it to my family and peers, but also to myself. It was a large weight to carry, but I knew I had to push through and simply make things happen.”

Nectar & Green logo process by Breanna Rose

Nectar & Green logo process by Breanna Rose

Is there anything in your career you would go back and change, like an opportunity you didn’t take, or a project you turned down, if you could?  

“In the beginning of my freelance career, I didn’t have as many boundaries set in place as I do now. I said ‘yes’ to almost every project and did anything I could to make people happy, just because I wanted to make it in the freelance biz. Yes, you should work hard and be nice to people, but you should also make sure that you have boundaries in place to protect yourself. And now I do!”

What is your favorite thing to do in your down time?  

“I’m quite a homebody, so I typically spend weeknights with my fiancé and new puppy relaxing and watching some of our favorite shows: ‘House of Cards’ and ‘True Detective’ being the winners right now. Weekends, on the other hand, are when I love getting out of the house. We typically brunch at a few fun spots in Minneapolis or spend time with good friends and family. Either way, the goal is to relax and enjoy ourselves.

What does a typical day look like for you?

“I’ve always liked having a routine, so my days are actually fairly consistent. On a typical day, I wake up naturally around 7:30 am and have breakfast. I then spend the first hour of work answering emails and catching up with clients. It’s a nice way to ease myself into the day instead of diving right in. Then, I finally spend the rest of the morning designing. I always try to accomplish one to two large items from my to-do list before lunch, because it just feels good. The rest of the afternoon, after lunch, is for finishing up my to-do  list… hopefully by 3 or 4 p.m. I learned that I don’t do well sitting in front of the computer for many hours at a time, so limiting my work day to make it more manageable has made all the difference!”

If you weren’t a graphic designer, is there anything else you could see yourself doing?  

“I have always loved photography, so that’s definitely something I could see myself doing. I took a handful of courses in school and even got to develop my own work in their large darkroom, which was such an amazing experience.”

You can view more of Breanna Rose’s work at imbreannarose.com

Greeting Card Design from Our Paper Shop, a collaboration between Breanna Rose and Emma Robertson

Greeting Card Design from Our Paper Shop, a collaboration between Breanna Rose and Emma Robertson

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Author: Sara Berkes

Sara Berkes is a graphic designer, writer and maker based in Ottawa, ON, Canada. She has a combined BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of King's College and an AA in Graphic Design, which she earned from FIDM in December 2013 along with the 2013 / 2014 Graphic Design Award. When not designing or blogging at Sara Berkes Creative or writing for the FIDM Digital Arts Blog, Sara can probably be found sewing, knitting, or hiding from Winter. You can find out more about her and her work at www.saraberkescreative.com

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  • Breanna

    Thank you so much for sharing this again, Sara! I’ll be sharing it with my readers this week. :)

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