Creating A Safe Space For Honest Conversations

104In the beginning…

When LENSPEACE was founded as a client-based design studio 11 years ago it was with the intention to support communication efforts of non-profits doing the challenging work of social change and to elevate the voices of sustainability-minded business to help create a more environmentally conscious world. When LENSPEACE was developed into a letterpress studio it was to communicate honest sentiments between people that did not center around the standard tropes of the greeting card industry for religious holidays, birthdays, or standard familial relationships. I wanted cards that covered the emotional landscapes of being human without expressions of identity bias to celebrate our shared humanity. I wanted letterpress to communicate on behalf of sentiments that unite all humans at various times in life from celebration to serious. From the beginning LENSPEACE as a studio has been centered around authentic communication for the betterment of humanity and our relationships.

Growing is a lifelong process…

As the studio has grown and changed alongside market forces and the needs of the world our design practice has grown alongside it. As we move into facilitating sessions that build clarity around our intentions and create space for everyone to have input on the outcomes, we’re also using the presses to speak on behalf of this work. Our letterpress studio hasn’t changed, it still says what the heart wants most to say, but together they are becoming a new expression of what LENSPEACE means.A spectrum of creative ideas as a studio intention no longer suits our purpose or unifies the expression of our work, so the time has come for a redefinition of our intentions to create a safe space for honest conversations.

shared agreementsHonesty is the best policy

Conflict often begins with a lack of trust, a desire to keep secrets, to control information or the outcomes of an objective with beliefs in hierarchy that foster supremacy constructs woven throughout our social belief systems. Conflict also occurs when we do not take the time to listen to every person in the room and offer each voice the space and power it deserves. In contrast to this existing paradigm, we believe that anything is possible with honesty. Any problem can be worked through. Any relationship can find healing. Any organization can refine its mission and purpose. It all starts with vulnerable discussion about wants and needs, hopes and fears, pain points and problem statements. Exposure to the truth gives us the chance to make conscious decisions that end patterns of abuse and foster reconciliation resulting in positive and sustainable outcomes everyone agrees to.


I begin all of my sessions with what are called The Shared Agreements. A list of agreements can be created for every group of people working together. I’ve adopted the rules I use from my friend and equity designer, Antionette Carroll at Creative Reaction Lab. These stand as the social contract to protect each person involved in the discussion and inspire vulnerable dialogue about hard topics. Getting past disagreement, creating space for underrepresented voices, learning to share power effectively, and weeding through ineffective processes often brings up complicated emotions as aspects of bias and ego are triggered. The work of social and creative change requires a lot of courage and humility, these agreements help to create the space for that growth to be possible, and for our work to reflect our values.

We created a time lapse video for the creation of our shared agreements… you can watch the process of our most complicated letterpress print so far.