When LENSPEACE was founded as a client-based design studio in 2010, I had the intention to support the communication efforts of non-profits and small businesses doing the challenging work of socio-environmental change to help create a more environmentally conscious world. When LENSPEACE was expanded 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, such as 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 around our humanity and interconnected relationships.
As the studio has grown and changed alongside market forces and the needs of the world, my design practice has grown alongside it. I've been pursuing facilitation training since 2017 for design thinking and sustainable community development. For the past few years I've been moving into facilitating sessions that build clarity around our intentions and create space for everyone to have input on the outcomes. Rather than being a letterpress and design studio that facilitates with print, I've grown into a strategy facilitator who uses design media in various forms to connect us to ourselves and each other. 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.
Conflict often begins with a lack of trust, a desire to keep secrets, to control information or the outcomes of an objective. This behavior is often grounded in beliefs that foster supremacy constructs already 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 or change policies and practices. 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 to end patterns of abuse to 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 learned 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.