Adam Vicarel — Design Direction and Adventure
Crafting designs for people, brands and companies that care.

Musings, Thoughts and Perspective

Vicarel Studios 2017–A Year In Review


2017 was year 3 of freelancing for me, and it was one for the books: teaching The Basics of Hand Lettering workshop at SXSW with Goodtype, backpacking in Mexico, and clients such as Sharpie and Lennox—2017 was quite the year! But, with the good came the bad...

2017 Overview:

  • I redesigned my website

  • 30+ amazing clients

  • 250+ students taught (The Basics of Hand Lettering workshop)

  • 6 murals painted

  • 12 new products in my online store

  • 6 speaking opportunities

  • I moved into a new studio space (with some of Denver’s finest: Joe Friend, Luke Gottlieb, Travis Bartlett and Rashelle Stetman)

  • I was published 3 times 

  • Taught my first digital course, Hand Lettering for Beginners, with Craftsy (check it out!)

For the first time as an adult I made a 2017 new years resolution: to find my primary income in the form of hand lettering as well as focus on working with brands in the outdoor industry. Not only did I achieve both of these goals, but 2017 was my best year in business—2017 goal setting proved to be a success! Although, despite having an amazing career-year and achieving the goals I had set, there were a handful speed bumps along the way...

Main lesson learned in 2017:

The utter importance of Organization. I way over-committed myself, especially in Q4. At the end of 2017 I had a scarcity mindset, and I was fearful that the end of the year was going to be slow with work (as it was in both 2015 and 2016). To my fortunate surprise the end of 2017 was my busiest time of the year, but due to over-committing, I was working 14+ hours 5-7 days per week from September–December. Had I been more organized (had timelines in place, monetary and work-related goals set) I would have been able to to see that I didn’t need to take absolutely everything that fell in my lap.

The Takeaway: Organization: calendars (iCal), time tracking (Toggl), and to-do lists (Evernote) are key. Be realistic with timelines, and resist a scarcity mindset at all costs!

What went well in 2017:


This year I landed some heavy hitters: Sharpie, Lennox, Zeal Optics, Mountain Standard—these were some of my favorite projects that I’ve ever worked on. I was able to push myself creatively, and I learned so much on each of these projects. I’ll be posting most of this work on my website in Q2 of 2018. For now, get some sneak previews on my Instagram.

New Opportunities:

In March of 2017 I had the opportunity to teach Basics of Hand Lettering workshop at SXSW with the lettering hub of the internet, Goodtype. Teaching on this scale was a bit nerve wracking; however, it afforded me the opportunity to teach 250+ students throughout the remainder of the year via 15 different hand lettering workshops. This ultimately lead to an opportunity to film a Hand Lettering For Beginners course with Craftsy. This online video course is available to anyone anywhere! Again, I was quite nervous, to be on a production set in front of multiple cameras; however, I’ve learned that immense growth comes from discomfort. If you’re interested in this class, check it out here! Also, if you’re at SXSW in 2018, I’ll be back at it, teaching with Goodtype.


As I mentioned, my 2017 goals were to work with a few brands in the outdoor industry and to make hand lettering the main source of my income (whether that meant getting paid to do it, teach it, etc.). I was fortunate enough to team up with both Zeal Optics and Mountain Standard this year (two soft good brands in the outdoor industry, both based in Boulder, Colorado), and between teaching 15 hand lettering 101 classes, my Craftsy video-course, numerous murals, and working with 30+ new clients, hand lettering made up 80% of my income this year!

What didn’t go so well in 2017:

Personal life:

It died. Due to an inexplicable desire to push myself and see my freelance career excel in 2017, I lost sight of some of the things I truly value: my close friends, personal time, and time spent outside. I use the phrase “pursuing balance” as a tagline, and I have no problem acknowledging that this is a constant pursuit.


Due to the influx of work that hit me in Q4, my organization fell to the wayside. Client folder/file organization, documents, invoices, photos, videos, my schedule—pretty much everything started to fall apart. Luckily, before my head spun fully off of my torso, I took a step back, and I began focusing on staying organized through use of apps/programs such as iCalendar, Toggl, Evernote, Google Drive and Dropbox. I made sure to exercise proper folder and file-naming structure no matter how small the project was.

  • iCalendar: meetings, deadlines, calls, etc. Both personal and professional. If it’s not on the calendar it doesn’t happen.

  • Toggl: time tracking app. I use the free version and it’s everything I need to know how much time I’m throwing down on each project.

  • Evernote: a cloud-based note taking ap that synchs to all of your devices. I mainly use Evernote for “high priority” and “low priority" to-do-lists. Evernote is my everything. 

  • Google Drive: managing some client files/documents. Great for easily sending larger documents through links in emails.

  • Dropbox: Everything I do lives here. Also great for easily sending larger documents through links in emails.

2018 Goals

I spent about 3 hours a few weeks ago going through this goal setting review/exercise. To be concise, it was massively informative, it made me far more self-aware, and the review enabled me to uncover a few goals that I didn’t realize I wanted to achieve.

The Overview:

Campaign Work:

Towards the end of 2017, I was fortunate enough to work with two iconic brands, Sharpie (personal favorite) and Lennox (personal favorite). These proved to be two of my favorite projects, and because of that, one of my goals in 2018 is to do more campaign. In order to achieve this, I will be creating and sending out a self-promotional piece to agencies all over the country. I’ve done this once before (in just Boulder and Denver, Colorado) and it proved to be massively successful—I’m looking forward to giving it another shot. 


I will be traveling a lot this year. Again. I’ll be in Mexico most of February, the mountains for the beginning of March, and SXSW through mid-March. I have a few design conferences on the horizon, I’m speaking a good deal, and I want to teach in a few new cities around the country. Also, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be headed to South America for a few months of traveling come September. With all of that movement, I need to hone in on my processes and organization in order to be able to travel and work in synchronicity while still retaining my sanity. One major tool I’ll be utilizing to achieve this is the iPad and Apple Pencil that I recently purchased. I’ve heard these can massively expedite the lettering process—can’t wait to start experimenting with digital drawing.


I’ve wanted to start writing for the past 3 years. Instead of taking action and actually writing or blogging, I’ve only talked about wanting to do it. Total dweebus move, right? This year will be the year—at least 1 blog post per month. I intend to pull from my experiences to give y’all as much value as possible in most of these blog posts (much more value than this annoyingly self-centered year-review.) Have thoughts on what you’d like to hear me write about?

Have a subject/idea you'd like to hear me blog about? Let me know!

Cliff Notes:

I’ve labeled 2018 my year of intention. I will be taking this year by the reigns, not merely waiting for things to come to me. 

To those of you that support my work on Instagram, I truly appreciate your support. YOU make this dream-career of mine possible. I hope you’ll stick around for this wild ride.

If you’re not already signed up for my newsletter—get signed up! My subscribers are the first to hear about new products in my store (you’ll almost always have the opportunity to purchase them at a one-time-only discount) and I will randomly select some of y’all to get some free goodness. 

Cheers to you, and I hope you take the opportunity make 2018 the year that YOU want it to be!

Adam vicarel