Event Recap: Gray magazine presents Design Minds / Design Making a Difference


I walked away from last week's Gray magazine Design Minds event feeling equal parts empowered and inspired. In today's politically charged climate the event was as refreshing as it was timely. How can design inspire change? Are designers obligated to consider this in their work? Can design activism make a difference?

The answer was unanimously yes, and the explanations from panelists were brilliant. "On November 9th we put Visible into action because our assumption that other people were doing what we weren't was incorrect," said Visible Resistance Co-founder Jen Thomas. Visible is a non-profit that works with creatives who have pledged to provide free creative resources to organizations working to fight for social, environmental, and civil rights causes.


Felix Böck of ChopValue, spoke about identifying inefficiencies and finding creative ways to problem solve and empower. One night while he was out with friends, he had a lightbulb moment as he tossed his chopsticks into the trash.  Why wasn't there wasn't a more eco-friendly way to dispose of chopsticks? Turns out, in his city of Vancouver B.C., over 100,000 disposable chopsticks are sent to a landfill every day. Felix and his team knew there had to be a solution to this problem and found a way to recycle chopsticks and turn them into sustainable furniture and decor. To date, the company has reused over 1.5 million chopsticks. "Everyone who has an idea and takes that into implementation can have a direct impact on their community," says Felix.


S. Surface, co-curator of Alice, encouraged the audience to show up and be part of the conversation. "We can each do something meaningful to create change," Surface said. On that note, Surface is focusing on picking specific communities that have personal resonance and finding ways to give back. "People are working to find meaning in the work that they do," says S. Whether your crafting policies or producing events, everyone has the ability to make change and stand up for what they believe in. This is not the time to opt out.

Are you looking for ways to make a meaningful impact in your community? Here are 3 things you can do right now. 

1) Take the pledge and sign up as a creative with Visible Resistance to empower the voices of diversity.

2) Start reading again. "We need to go in-depth with our understanding," says Liz Neilson, of Visible Resistance. On her reading list? On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder.

3) "Teach someone else how to do something," says Felix Böch of Chop Value. "Show them how to take an existing concept and apply it to something new".


The event marked part one of a three-part series for Gray magazine. Moderated by Gray magazine editor Jennifer McCullum, these conversations are thought-provoking and essential to attend. The next event is scheduled for Oct. 19 at Hotel Theodore in Downtown Seattle. Stay tuned for more info!

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