Best of WMC: From Design Sponge to Diversity

Attending design events always gets the creative energy flowing. And they’re a great way to rejuvenate, especially when you’re surrounded by so many innovative makers. (It’s one reason why HOW Design Live and the HOW Interactive Design Conferences are so invigorating.) This past weekend, I attended the fifth Weapons of Mass Creation Fest in Cleveland and was inspired by so many talented people. From Design*Sponge founder Grace Bonney’s presentation to the culturally and personally rooted project by Veronica Corzo-Duchardt to the focus on diversity in design, 3 overarching concepts emerged that will give your creativity an extra boost.


WMC 5 Poster. Available at:

1. Embrace the Scary Things.

This is always a good thing to hear: Your hunger is important and can help you reach your goals. But, as Grace Bonney explained, you have to first “embrace the scary things.” To do so, define what “no” means to you. Bonney explains that once you take the negativity out of that word, you’re better able to face challenges and keep your focus on where you want to go.

This approach is how she started Design*Sponge in the first place. And it’s how Bonney got through the struggles and tough decisions she had to make to keep her business afloat. In the midst of the chaos, Bonney paused to remember and evaluate why she started Design Sponge — and why she wanted to keep it going.

Gracey Bonney of Design Sponge

Gracey Bonney of Design*Sponge. Image provided by WMC.

While Bonney joked about being a “bad leader” (she’s clearly not), she encouraged other designers to break goals into smaller chunks and to take baby steps into it, if you’re afraid of diving headfirst into, say, a new project or even venturing out on your own. After all, scary things (like realizing that you don’t have enough money coming in to pay your employees) are only frightening because they mean you’re taking a risk — and there is something to that phrase “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

2. What You Keep Shapes Your Life

As a designer, you already look at the world in a different way (don’t pretend you don’t notice kerning all the time). But have you ever thought about how the things you keep shape you?

Cuban-American artist/designer/educator Veronica Corzo-Duchardt created a beautiful project that draws on her interest in stories, cultural preservation, connections and translations to create The Neche Collection. You may have heard of this art project previously: Corzo-Duchardt photographed and archived her grandfather’s items (he worked as an accountant) to retell his story.


Typewriter from The Neche Collection:

Not only did she look at objects in a deeper way, but Corzo-Duchardt encouraged us to think deeper about the things we surround ourselves with and the stories they tell. An audience member asked her how digital spaces might impact this type of project as well as our own personal stories.Corzo-Duchardt explained that the “textures humans leave” (such as the worn out keyboard or the things we put on our electronics) will remain — and we still continue to tell our stories through them.

Veronica Corzo-Duchardt

Veronica Corzo-Duchardt. Image provided by WMC.

That is, taking a moment to consider the objects you value, the tools you use for your trade and the things that inspire you is worthwhile — not only to assess your priorities but to think about the story you’re leaving behind.


3. Diversity = Perspective

At this year’s WMC, there were two panels that focused on diversity and gender in design. The  Race & Culture in the Creative Community  panelists discussed some of their experiences working as a person of color in design — and how to help make the field a more diverse and inclusive place.

As designer and MFA student Jacinda Walker explained, it’s as easy as having a student shadow you for a day or week, mentoring a student or even going to speak to schools that may never had a designer visit and open the students eyes to the possibility of a career in design.


Inclusivity will strengthen design. Image from WMC: Weapons Declassified: Race in Design & Creativity

Diversity is an important matter to discuss for a variety of reasons — but it means that the field is lacking a multitude of perspectives. As the panel so eloquently put it, it can lead to everything looking the same because it’s coming from the same perspective. The same font. The same color palette. The same style. And that gets boring. (Not to say that there aren’t innovative designs and approaches out there now!)



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