Bold lines and muted color schemes are defining characteristics of the stickers that AJ Wiley, a senior graphic design major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has successfully turned into his own business.
Inspired by nature, simplicity, love for people and animals, Wiley grew into the business of graphic design ultimately creating his company, AJ Wiley Design. This idea has introduced him to a variety of clients that have helped pave the way for a successful career.
Working for the Nebraska football team as the recruiting graphic designer since his sophomore year, Wiley was inspired to pursue his love for design even further. Last December, he began selling his original illustrations on stickers and graphic tees.
“I currently sell stickers and I do orders of graphic tees every few months,” Wiley said. “Stickers are quick and can be used on so many things. I wish I could sell more graphic tees, but budget permits.”
As a 21st-century entrepreneur, Wiley promotes and sells his products through Instagram. After discovering he had a market for his work, Wiley said he decided to move to shops where he knew his creative aesthetic would be supported. Not only does he sell his creations online, he also works with the local outdoors and lifestyle store Threads.
Known as “the Birkenstock store” in Lincoln, Threads has expanded its products introducing outdoor lifestyle brands like Patagonia, Chaco and Hydroflask. Aside from selling name brands, Chelsea Walz, Threads’ store manager and assistant buyer, has incorporated local businesses such as AJ Wiley Design, in the shop as well.
“Since we sell Hydroflask and are very close to UNL campus, stickers actually sell super well for us,” Walz said. “College students purchase them for the most part, but we do sell them to other younger and older customers as well.”
Threads has a “do good, be good” policy, as they strive to bring brands to Lincoln that are cautious about what products they carry based on their values. As Wiley raises awareness for animals through his stickers and his work is based on the environment, the two couldn’t be more compatible.
“AJ’s stickers are in line with our mindset as he urges people to get outside and to protect the world around them,” Walz said.
Wiley aspired to use his passion for graphic design to make positive impacts on people’s lives and on the environment. According to Wiley, business has slowed down while he studies abroad in his home country of Japan — but his creative mind hasn’t. Wiley said his stay in Japan has inspired a design project involving endangered animals, which he hopes will be released before Christmas.
“I got to interact with some monkeys and deer while being here in Japan and it gave me perspective … we should care for animals and animals going extinct is hand-in-hand with how we treat the environment,” Wiley said. “I wanted to create stickers to raise awareness of these animals losing their homes while giving people a practical way to help.”
While being self-employed has its ups and downs, Wiley said he decides to shine the light only on the positives his business has given him. Wiley said he never thought possible that design could take him to the places and people it has. As he continues to make stickers, Wiley hopes to eventually expand to prints.
“It’s one of the coolest jobs you could ever have in my opinion,” Wiley said. “I get a rush of excitement just thinking about making cool stuff, making a positive impact and helping people. I hope people feel encouraged and motivated when they see my work.”