In Grace Bonney’s eyes, the design world has a diversity problem.
“I think that so often the design world in particular has a very particular audience that tends to be wealthy, it tends to be white, it tends to be someone in their 30s and 40s,” she told Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni in a recent interview. “And when we’re talking about the business world and in particular finance publications, those tend to be geared toward men.”
The veteran blogger – she started her Design Sponge blog back in 2004 when most of us where just beginning to understand how powerful this medium would become – has carved out a niche for herself by featuring creative businesses founded by people who are often marginalized by factors like race, age, or location.
As her online success grew, she knew there were some longer stories to tell.
“The book had a very singular format that we repeated with each person, so the magazine gives us more room to embrace different formats,” Bonney continues. “We have miniature zines and group Q&A’s, just all kinds of different things that we can do in a regular magazine that we wouldn’t be able to do in the book format.”
At a cover price of $18 (the magazine is, at least for now, ad free), Bonney believes the content is a good value for what it brings to her niche audience of creative, mainly female, entrepreneurs and artists.
Why it’s not an either/or for Bonney
Interestingly, when asked what she would want tattooed up her brain as her lasting legacy (a question Husni often asks his guests) – she replied “and.”
“The first thing that comes to my mind is actually inspired by a tattoo that my wife has, which is just an ‘and’ symbol, and it’s something that I think about a lot, the word ‘and,’ because I think that so often bloggers and writers, and people in general, we want to put each other into these boxes where you’re either this or that, and you believe this or that, and this is something that my wife Julia really taught me, it’s never about ‘or,’ it’s always about ‘and.’”
That concept goes a long way toward explaining how a blogger, who says she loves the immediacy and flexibility of the web, has morphed her business to include books and now a print magazine. In business, it’s rarely “or” when it comes to choosing print vs. digital. The reality is that our audience exists in the multi-verse. The challenge lies in understanding how to leverage the right medium for the right message.
For Bonney, the distinction is clear.
“As Design Sponge evolved and I got more into print projects that were about the people behind the design, I found that people on the Internet weren’t coming to read longer form pieces or to talk about things that might be a bit more complicated,” Bonney tells Husni. “So, that’s where I find print really excels over other mediums because when you hold something in your hand and you have time to spend with it, you’re more likely to sink your teeth into something that’s a little longer and a little more serious.”
Launching a print magazine hasn’t been nearly as easy as writing a blog (she calls it “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career”), but she revels in the challenge.
“It’s kind of fascinating to see how you can be a part of a community for so long and then discover this one aspect of it that you had no idea would be so challenging,” she notes.
We wish Bonney all the best on her new title, and congratulate her on joining the good company of magazine publishers in the new niche market.