Talk about a leading lady! I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Grace Bonney, a bit, and I must say, with her passion for design and her flair for business, it makes perfect sense why her blog, Design*Sponge remains the fountainhead of all design blogs.
In a candid e-mail interview, Grace opens up about her ripe young age, loving her family, and the "awful" blogs she likes to read for fun (perezhilton.com). I truly admire her honesty and willingness to share herself in our blog and hope you enjoy getting to know Grace as much as we have!
1. With the career you’ve had as a freelancer, what made you decide to start a blog?
Well, for me the blog actually came first. I was working in design PR and was unhappy on that end of the industry. I made some wonderful contacts in the industry and was able to meet some really fantastic designers, but I felt like PR just wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.
I started D*S while I was still at the office and would sneak in posts on my lunch break (sorry if my old boss reads this!) and my only goal was to have an outlet to chat about design. I always thought it would be nice to work for a magazine but, not having a background in journalism, I thought it was impossible. As I blogged throughout the first year somehow I managed to plug into the right community and started to get offers from magazines and newspapers to write pieces on design. I started taking anything that I came my way and somehow ended up doing freelancing as my full-time job. It’s funny how things work out that way.
2. Where did you come up with the name Design Sponge?
Let’s just say I wish I’d thought this one through a bit more. When I started my blog I just put up the first thing that came to mind; my mom used to call me a whatever-“sponge” because I would become obsessed with new subjects and research them endlessly as a kid. You know, a “little history-sponge” or “cooking sponge”, something like that. Sounds silly, I know. So I thought, well, these days I’m passionate about design so I’ll just use that until I think of something cooler. I managed to get sucked up into the blog world faster that I intended so I didn’t have time to change it. I wish I had something cooler and sleeker sounding but to be honest, that just wouldn’t be me. So I guess D*S is fitting after all- a little dorky, a little cutesy, but pretty accurate.
3. You blog like a pro how long have you been blogging and do you have others that blog for you?
I’ve toyed with having editors and other writers but it never quite feels right. I’ve gotten spoiled having so much control over the editing of the site so I don’t think I’ll ever have another writer on D*S proper. I’ve really enjoyed having the guest blog where I can shine the spotlight on people I admire within the design industry- but I enjoy keeping it separate so they can do their own thing in their own way.
4. How much time do you spend writing posts, doing research and reading comments per day?
Oh lord…all day? I wake up at 6:45 or 7 and start work immediately. I spend at least 3 hours a day managing email alone (I answer every email personally and try to answer every design request I get) and then research for about 3 hours in and out of the day. I spend about 2 hours of the day working on projects for House & Garden and then I spend 2 hours at least working on D*S projects like the shop, new columns or maintaining current features like the scholarship, etc. As for comments, I just click “approve”. Some days I read them closely and other days I just scan for nasty words.
5. What other blogs do you read (work & pleasure)?
I used to consume design blogs like there was no tomorrow but these days I find I need a break from design. So I read a lot of food blogs like 101Cookbooks.com, ChocolateandZucchini.com and DeliciousDays.com. I also love sites like Sweet Juniper and Dooce– their writing styles are so unique and so funny- they’re always a nice break in the day. And of course I have my guilty pleasure reading: PerezHilton.com, GoFugYourself and The Superficial. I know, it’s awful, but everyone has a few of those in their bookmarks. In the design world my go-tos are Bloesem, Oh Joy and Lena Corwin’s site– they have such distinct points of view and I really appreciate that in a good design blog.
6. Where does your inspiration come from?
The design world, students, Brooklyn- pretty much everything. When I’m feeling uninspired I tend to turn to student design shows or the local design community. I’ve been running a series of business women meet ups in Brooklyn and I find them endlessly inspiring for me- nothing helps you get off your butt and work like seeing the people that you’re trying to help face to face.
7. How do you stay motivated?
Working within the community of local and women designers is my main motivation. I’ve seen what these women mean to each other and how they inspire each other and if my roll is to help them showcase their work and find new projects then I’m thrilled to help. But some days motivation can come from a single email- when you hear from a designer or student that’s able to connect with something you’ve written about it’s the greatest feeling around.
8. How do you stay on top of what’s up and coming in the design world?
I used to spend at least 10 times as much time researching as I do now. Sadly as the site’s grown it’s been harder to find time to research as much so I try to cultivate good contacts in the design world whether they’re designers, shop owners or buyers who can let you know what they love in the industry. I love reading artists’ blogrolls and finding links to smaller designers you never would have found. It’s time consuming but usually pays off with some incredible people.
9. Do you have blogging goals (like what you want to accomplish with your site)?
To be honest the site has surpassed any goals I could have dreamed of for myself so far. I didn’t expect to be living off of my own business at 25 so this has been something of a dream. I know that it’s rare to be doing what you love at this age so I’m grateful for every day I’m doing this.
As the site has grown though my goals have changed from “being a writer in the design world” to “connecting independent designers with experts and the best resources” and “providing a platform to promote independent design”. I’d like to expand the site to help younger designers get started so I’m always trying to find a way to do that. The beauty of the web is that I can test columns and ideas almost instantaneously so I’m always seeing what floats and what sinks.
10. What is the most important thing that you want readers to take away after reading your posts?
I hope that if nothing else, people walk away from the site with a smile. It would be great if designers are able to walk away with some advice, resources and inspiration but my real goal is just to share beautiful things with people. Everyone can use a little inspiration and beauty in their day and if that’s what most people get, that’s a-ok with me. I know I cherish the sites that make me laugh and smile during the day and it would be wonderful to know if people got that from my site sometimes.
11. When you take a break what is your favorite indulgence? (m&m’s, hot bath, good book, travel etc)
Ooh, that’s an easy one. Chocolate and What Not To Wear. Sometimes after a day spent writing and planning thinking about new projects it’s great to zone out and indulge. When I’m feeling particularly wiped I drag myself to the Aveda school on Spring Street for student facials- I can afford them and they wipe weeks of stress from my face.
Also, you can’t put a price on a good trip home to see family. I hope to move closer to VA one day so I can see my parents more regularly- they mean the world to me.
12. What is your favorite part of blogging, eg. Making friends, community building, getting heard etc.?
Hmmm…it changes day to day. Meeting people is amazing- to me designers are like rock stars so it’s always a rush to meet someone like Kelly Wearstler or Jill Bliss who you think does amazing work. These days connecting younger designers with established designers has been incredibly rewarding, it feels good to know that even though I’m not creating my own work or giving advice myself, I’m able to help in some small way by connecting people with artists who’ll help them get their work off the ground. Oh, and working from home is a wonderful perk of the job. 😉
I asked Grace what her personal design style is like and she said that she is evolving her style all the time and right now she is focusing on a combination of vintage finds mixed in with affordable artwork and cheaper pieces that she fixes up herself. She calls it "mid-century Brooklyn modern on a budget". I call it resourceful, creative and fabulous…just like her blog.