Design*Sponge founder Grace Bonney began the design blog in 2004—according to her, on her lunch breaks at the office. Grace worked at or freelanced for many of the big design magazines: Domino, House & Garden, Craft New York Home, Food & Wine, In Style, Better Homes and Gardens. And so, she took the leap and decided to put all of her time into her own business.
The ever-expanding site now covers more than just design and includes DIY projects, food and drink features, travel guides, and life and business columns.
In addition to overseeing Design*Sponge, Grace founded the D*S Biz Ladies Series which became a weekly column written by business owners (not all of them women) for other potential business owners and those interested in starting a creative business. She also hosted After the Jump, a weekly radio show that focuses on contemporary makers and the issues they face – from branding and social media to pricing and human resources practices.
As part of our series on the creative process and how different artists approach the acts of making, we sent Grace a list of questions about her own thoughts on design, creativity, making, and how she approaches her work and asked her to answer 5-10 of her choice.
I recently read a quote of Grace’s that made me especially curious to know more about her creative process: “I’ve learned not to put so much weight on the idea of being satisfied by one outlet. For a long time, I expected Design*Sponge to fill every possible void in my life, whether it was relational or business-related. I enjoy my job more now that I don’t put so much pressure on it as the be-all and end-all of my fulfillment as a person. The more I get outside and do things that have nothing to do with the blog, the more fulfilled I feel. I feel most creative when I’m not doing design-related work.” Her responses below reveal that she embraces practicality and emotion in her creative process.
Alabama Chanin: What makes you curious?
Grace Bonney: Problem-solving. I like figuring out where the weak-spots are in my community and what I can do to both improve and make others interested in improving them. I think design and creativity are at their best when they’re making the world a better place.
AC: How important is education to your creative process?
GB: I think continuing to learn (and make mistakes) is crucial for anyone, not just artists. But I don’t think formal education is required for that. I think art school and specialized classes are wonderful if they’re an option, but not everyone has access to things like that. I think life experience and continuing to stretch outside of your comfort zone (and listen to people with different stories and backgrounds than your own) is the best form of continuing education.
AC: Do you have to be in a certain mood in order to create?
GB: Yes. I have to feel clear and calm. Typically that comes after a moment of intense anger, happiness, excitement, curiosity or even sadness. Those emotional moments lead me to want to do something new, but I wait until I feel clear about my goal and mission to start on something in response to that feeling.
AC: How do you define success?
GB: Successfully communicating what you’re trying to communicate to your desired audience. Money and fame have little to do with it.
AC: What parts of your work seem the “heaviest” and the “lightest”?
GB: I think they’re actually one in the same. The heaviest work is trying to push the site to be better and stronger and do more important, substantive writing, but when we figure out what that should look like, doing that actual writing is a breeze. Because you’re writing and communicating with a mission and purpose.
AC: What makes you nervous?
GB: Knowing that I’m about to challenge myself and might fall on my face. When I feel that way I know I’m doing the right thing.
AC: Who do you define as a visionary?
GB: Anyone that has the bravery to follow a unique idea from concept to fruition without letting others, or general societal “rules” get in the way.
AC: If you were to become a professor, what classes would you teach?
GB: Digital media and ethics in the modern world.
AC: What are your favorite things to do? What do you distinctly NOT like to do?
GB: I enjoy being outside and listening to the sounds of birds, insects and the wind. It’s a wonderful contrast to all the bleeps, clicks and rings I hear in my digital life during the day.
AC: Which ones of your products and/or services inspire you the most?
GB: Our Biz Ladies series. It grew out of a very real desire to help other women running their own creative businesses and turned into an entire movement.
(This project is made possible in-part by a fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts)