Questions for a Superhero – Milwaukee’s Design Star, Rebecca

It’s time to bring back my favorite blog feature – Real Life Superheroes, where we honor the best amongst us. Today, I’m showcasing Rebecca Silber one of the finest graphic designers in the metro Milwaukee area.

Since Milwaukee is the biggest small town there is, Rebecca actually ordered food from me the week before she was recommended to me to help with some postcard needs. Since then, I can only hope our casseroles and cupcakes are half as good as the work she’s done for The Real Good Life. Rebecca has an eye for design and the ear and imagination to take my crazy ideas and put them to print. Seriously, guys, I can’t wait for her wall design to be installed in the shop. It’s perfect!

But Rebecca is much more than just the powerhouse behind Rebecca Silber Designs. She’s also a mom of three active little kiddos, meaning she spends just as much time in the car or folding laundry as she does cultivating her professional persona.

Our featured lady has answered some questions for us; reminding us that even superheroes aren’t perfect all the time (any of the time?!), but that it’s all about outlook.

Oh, and she tells us about her favorite meal. Her answer to this question was LOOONNNGGGG. I knew I liked this girl. ????

What are you grateful for right now?

My health and the health of my family. That’s serious, but let’s be real. Without good health, life is bumpy. I do not take that for granted.

Who do you want to be when you grow up?Are you this person yet?

This question scares me to no end. Am I what I want to be when I grow up right now? Yes. But, because I have children, I feel like that is ever-evolving. I use my children as a crutch sometimes. Can I go to the morning networking meetings? Typically I say no to those, because my time isn’t entirely my own at this point in my life. And if my work is slow, I can blame it on the fact that I didn’t go to the morning networking meetings. In the not too distant future when I have more time to myself, I’ll have no one to blame, but myself if things run a bit off-course professionally. That’s what scares me. I don’t want to be a 60-year old woman who sits at home all day and plays Solitaire on the computer.

So, short answer. When I want to grow up, I want to be someone who goes to morning, afternoon, and evening networking meetings. You can read into that, you should read into that. I’m not that person yet. And that’s okay right now, but I know that I’m going to have to step it up eventually.

What is your favorite part of your life?

My favorite part of my life is that I have a lot of freedom to do what I want. I can wear yoga pants all day and work (and maybe even work out) or I can wear a dress and take my daughter to music class. Or I can do all those things on the same day!

What’s missing from your life?

Consistency (and a work wardrobe). Do any working mothers have any sort of consistency? I’m constantly striving to find it. I’m the most consistently inconsistent person I know, in all matters of my life.

What is the biggest secret to your success?

At the risk of sounding like a total after school special, the biggest secret to my success is that I chose the right college and got a BFA degree in graphic design. Because I was lucky enough that I knew what I wanted to do in high school and had parents who pointed me in the right direction, I chose an art program that gave me the best tools, and the vast knowledge that I needed to be successful as a graphic designer. That foundation gave me a solid base for absolutely everything that followed. Without the education that I was fortunate to have, I would be about 18% of the successful graphic designer that I am right now, roughly.

What was harder for you to accomplish than you expected?

When I started freelancing in 2006, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to make a decent salary. I felt both lucky and pissed off, simultaneously, that my new endeavor was entirely made possible by the fact that I was being supported by my husband. Up until right before we got married, I was working a steady full-time job, living alone, and supporting myself. I guess I could have taken out a loan to start my freelance business, but that seemed silly. I mean, we lived in the same house. If he was buying a pack of chicken from Sendik’s, and I was cooking it, then I should probably just eat it too. Is that a metaphor for something bigger? Probably. I’m just not sure what.

Anyway, starting a business—even one as straightforward as being a freelance graphic designer, is tough bananas. And the income is really not steady, especially when one goes and has three babies along the way. I feel like last year I finally accomplished my financial goal, which is to say that I could have supported myself and paid for my own chicken if my husband suddenly got up and left me.

What comes easiest to you? Does this help or hinder your awesomeness?

Staying on task comes easiest to me. I’m pretty organized and well aware of deadlines. I keep my clients happy by keeping them in the loop and delivering my best work to them on time, every time. That sounds like an advertisement, but I’m thankful that comes easily to me. That’s all key in maintaining excellent client rapport.

Have you had the same goal(s) your whole life or do they change?

As boring as this will sound, I really have had pretty much the same goals my whole life. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to be an artist. There’s proof (i.e. an elementary school worksheet) of this. The only change is that my field of vision narrowed gradually, over time. I remember distinctly in sixth grade when my mom told me about graphic design. I think she was just trying to get me into a dependably lucrative art field. In her defense, I was quite taken by the black velvet painting sales that were popular at the gas station around the corner from us. But once she explained the graphic design profession to me, I was like, “that’s it!” and there was no looking back from there.

In high school, I had a very specific dream of being a graphic designer in downtown Chicago, in the skyscraper with the diamond shaped top. Why that building? I have no clue. In college, I had a professor who freelanced and stayed at home with her kids. Up until then, it had never occurred to me that such a thing was possible, and even when I did head off to Chicago to work after graduation (not in the diamond shaped top building), that notion of working from home, while raising kids, stayed in the back of my mind.

SIDE NOTE: I take all of this back, a few years ago I wanted to be a writer. I took a creative non-fiction class through UWM’s School of Continuing Education and I sat next to Jessie Garcia, who actually left the class and published a book. I did write a little. If you Google me, you might actually find evidence of this hiatus. I made no money from all of this, but I did win a six-word poetry contest one time. And I had a whole lot of fun too. Then I got a neat graphic design project, got pregnant again, and shoved the writing aside. So, other than from 2012–2014, I have had the same goals my whole life.

“Superheroes… They are just like us.” Tell me something you do just like everyone else.

I’m not sure if I should give you the self-denigrating answer or the People magazine answer. I pump gas in shorts and Uggs! Well, I pump gas anyway. I also doubt myself all the time, get down on myself, counter every high with a low. Hopefully, everyone else does this. Please tell me that you do too.

Who are your superheroes?

My superheroes are really anyone who is giving something that they are passionate about their full-on energy to make a dream a reality. I don’t care what it is; following a dream and getting it done is brave and sexy.

What’s the best meal you ever had?

Oh, this is such a hard question for me. I love food so much, I’ve had so many memorable meals. I would have to say that my most memorable meal was at Trio in Evanston, IL around 2001/2002. I was living in Evanston and my parents were in town visiting me. They love food possibly even more than I do, so when they visited, I would try to choose places that would impress them. So, at this time, Grant Achatz was the head chef over at Trio, he was just getting his start. I recall this restaurant being set up sort of like Bacchus, like it was at the bottom floor of a condo building. I think I’m recalling that correctly. Just trying to set the scene. So, we sit down and decided on the tasting menu. That may have been the only option, actually. This menu was absolutely bonkers. Courses were brought out in shot glasses, many were smoking, as in smoke was billowing out of these “dishes.” I really do not remember what we ate that night, other than dessert. Dessert was a brownie made with liquid smoke (do you sense a theme?). It was nothing that you’d want a brownie to taste like. The three of us left the restaurant about $500 poorer, probably about as hungry as we were when we arrived, but we were under some sort of spell. We could not stop talking about this meal, and how it was like performance art. We also really wanted to stop at the grocery store on the way home to get cupcakes.

Other foods that I have had that make me smile when I think about them: bagel platter at Russ + Daughters in NYC, the gnocchi at Barresi’s restaurant in Cincinnati, Lee Wolen’s roast chicken at the Lobby at The Peninsula in Chicago, the cupcakes at Baked & Wired in Georgetown, the breakfast casserole at Honeypie, a lobster roll I ate during our honeymoon at the Saint John City Market in New Brunswick, and the incredible lasagna bolognese that our friends made one evening when we went over at their house for dinner. Gah, I am SO hungry now!

So that’s Rebecca. Hopefully, she inspired you to realize you, too are and are surrounded by superheroes! If you have someone you would like to nominate for this series, please let us know.