While You Were Out: We Founded a Design Organization

I just realized that somehow one very important topic/thread of how we spend our time outside of the studio has been missing from this blog…Spark

Over 5 years ago, when Ellen was a young lass, fresh off the bus from design school, she and I decided on a lark to check out a cocktail party a friend of a friend was hosting at someone else’s home/studio. The impetus for the drinks? Get together and talk about being a graphic designer.

Little did I know then how much these drinks around the corner would change my life.

It turned out that the group we were joining was meeting for the second time, ever. At their first meeting they had formulated this pact: they were to be known as “Spork” and they would get together periodically to support each other, as each of them was an independent contractor working on their own, which got pretty lonely and often downright stressful.

We started joining the group regularly and at each meeting we would talk about all the things that frustrated designers…sometimes these were design challenges, but more often we talked about all the things that were never covered in design school, minor things like HOW TO RUN A BUSINESS??

After a few months it was determined that selecting a topic for discussion each month would help focus our conversations and most likely lead to less griping and more productive break throughs— thus the basic framework for our organization was created.

Fast forward a few years and at a yearly planning meeting it was determined that our grass roots organization needed an official website. I think I was daydreaming when I awoke to discover that MSLK had been nominated for the task. I agreed with the one caveat that we were allowed to really look at the organization/brand from the ground up.

Marc and I had always felt that the name, Spork, didn’t speak enough to the core of the group’s ideals so together with Rebecca Brian, of Tribecca Designs we challenged the steering committee to go through a traditional naming exercise. And with a slight-of-hand like a masterful card trick, switch the “o” to an “a,” the name Spark was born. Finally, we had a name and a mission that everyone agreed on.

Since then Spark has been a much more focused organization overall. It is as if that tiny name change, new logo, and clean and professional website, gave us the authority to say, we are legit. Nothing changed about the great programs and topics we covered, but somehow we changed.

As our mission states:

Spark is a group of independent designers who meet each month to enlighten each other on the business and creative issues that are relevant to small design studios. Members come to share their experiences, knowledge, and inspire each other. Spark is a valuable support system for anyone who strives for excellence in business and design practices.

This winter I was asked to grab the reigns of Spark and step in as President. I’m very excited about this opportunity. It has been amazing to see how much Spark has made an impact on our members and their business practices and I really look forward to increasing awareness of Spark within the design community. I think as an organization we are posed and ready for what’s next and you can expect to hear good things from us in the future.