Artists often gain inspiration for their work through personal experiences, and can attain success by filling a void within a specific niche. This is exactly what graphic designer Stephanie Hinderer does with her greeting card business, Red Letter Paper Company.
Encountering a lack of well-designed Christian cards providing just-the-right sentiments motivated Hinderer to start her own business in 2010, and provide “something previously unattainable to people who were looking for a little less glitter and a little more faith.”
Hinderer left behind a full-time job as art director for three newspapers to become an artist-entrepreneur and focus on creating Christian cards with a modern edge. “Instant success is rare, and it’s been a growth process ever since,” says Hinderer. “While I love working for myself, I had to learn how to manage my time when it wasn’t being dictated by someone else.”
In addition to writing and designing cards, Hinderer is also in charge of photographing products and creating all marketing materials for Red Letter Paper Co.
Hinderer studied journalism in college, and did not major in art. While she took one or two design classes, she is “mostly self- and friend-taught.” Her interest in design traces back to her sophomore year in college, where she created pages for the student paper. However, it was working alongside a fully-trained graphic designer at a newspaper that provided some of her most invaluable experience. Learning the technical aspect of the craft helped build Hinderer’s confidence as a graphic designer.
“Working with him was probably one of the things that helped me most as an artist-entrepreneur,” says Hinderer. “As a self-taught designer, I admired and respected his expertise.”
Hinderer stresses the importance of not only gaining experience and building a solid portfolio, but also says developing strong people skills is important for an aspiring graphic designer. Communication is also essential. She warns that some clients may have trouble communicating exactly what they want, and you might not always see eye-to-eye with a client.
“Graphic designers need to be able to work with people,” Hinderer says. “You’ll get to design for yourself sometimes, but chances are you’ll also be designing things for other people.”
She says that future clients will appreciate the ability to clearly articulate a thought process behind a design – such as explaining why one logo works better for them than another. “And when they disagree, you have to be able to accept it gracefully,” adds Hinderer.
Stephanie offers the following advice to aspiring graphic designers: “Get comfortable selling yourself. I identified a niche that had hardly been touched, and it’s still taking time and effort and work to make the world know my company and products exist. Don’t give up if the money doesn’t flow in right away. And don’t let your fears get in the way. Work hard. Do whatever it takes to succeed.”