LENSPEACE, ATLANTA GA
Lennie Gray Mowris describes herself as “having been many things: an artist, arborist, model, project and business manager, farmer, adventurer, strategist, consultant, and partner. My design career grew out of a desire to create artistic communications that serve people and their environment.” In 2010, Mowris founded lenspeace, which is both a commercial design studio, a letterpress printer and a retail brand. Lennie states: “We also utilize monoprints, blockprints, and mixed media techniques. We play with paper, ink, paint, and ideas to craft communications that support the environment and humanity. Our friends play with design, words, video, code, and concepts to bring you the ideas generated here. Together, we manifest a spectrum of creative ideas.”
HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE AND/OR SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS, CLIENTS AND CAUSES?
I am a fervent lover of life and the interconnected relationships life is constantly negotiating. My work comes from an understanding that we all share this planet, it’s not about what is mine or yours, but what we collectively bring to our shared life experience on our world. Sustainability and social responsibility for me have been a lifestyle for 20 years that led me to my career in design. I realized if I wanted to live in a sustainable world I had to help create it. I founded lenspeace as a commercial communications strategy studio, but over time it evolved into letterpress and a retail brand seeking to utilize vintage print communications to converse about the human condition through art and design.
I’ve always been fascinated by our psycho-emotional and physical connections, starting with the relationship we have to ourselves which I express through art books and journals, our connections to loved ones which I express through cards, and our relationship to the world which I express through poster work. I chose letterpress because when someone touches letterpress it creates a moment people feel and connect to and I wanted to exploit that to deliver messages with heartfelt meaning. As a result of my experience and perspective on branding strategy, I also consult on social impact strategy, empathy facilitation, and the creative process to teach sustainable and responsible methodologies to other creative professionals through lenspeace and AIGA.
ARE THERE SPECIAL CHALLENGES OR OPPORTUNITIES IN PURSUING THESE GOALS IN 2017?
At the start of 2017 all of my clients were social and environmental justice npo’s. I discovered what happens to my client base when you have an administration that denies the importance of this work, many get caught in their own funding and litigation battles, and therefore don’t need branding help, they needed broader strategy work. This has brought multiple opportunities to pivot my perspective and what I offer, while also challenging me to reinvent my workflow. I have bumped up against budget constraints, but also a lack of awareness for what a design strategist actually does. It is my hope that over the next few years the increase in trained social impact design professionals, the increase in perspective in what that means, also offers new ways of seeing what designers can bring to organizational and civic resilience.
PHOTO: Nate Dorn Images