apps, tech + online

15 Instagram Accounts That Make Me Hopeful for The Future of Design

by Grace Bonney

One of the biggest things I’ve been wrestling with over the past few years is the way that social media has affected how we consume and understand design. There are so many positive ways social media has changed design: it’s expanded the range of voices we hear and who gets support from traditional media, increased access for artists in rural areas, and it’s shined a light on how things are made and sourced (and why they have certain price tags). But it’s also seemed to encourage the insatiable hunger for more. More trends, more hot new takes, more of everything — and faster. As a viewer, that drive for more can be both exciting and overwhelming — and I think both sides of that spectrum are valid. But lately I’ve found that the parts of social media that make me the most excited, inspired and hopeful for the future of design are the accounts that focus on slower production rates, transparent business discussions (especially when things don’t work out as expected) and a desire to grow slowly. There’s something about people using such a “go go go!” medium to talk about taking things slower that really makes me happy — because it’s a reminder that even the fastest and buzziest of tools can be malleable enough to convey a wide range of messages and points of view.

So today I wanted to share some of my favorite accounts that are delivering all the things we love (beautiful design and great photos) with the context that puts them all in perspective. xo, Grace


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A post shared by R O N N I C O L E (@iamronnicole) on

Ronni Nicole’s account celebrates her beautiful “floral fossil” studio and all of the hard work (and testing) that goes into each piece. She speaks honestly about the challenges of getting noticed and finding support on social media (especially in relation to “the algorithm”) and she inspired me to stay positive and hopeful that there are ways for small-scale makers to still stand out and make it work.


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A post shared by ⚡️Tessa⚡️ (@tessa_perlow) on

Tessa Perlow’s embroidery work originally caught my eye, but it was her bio line that really intrigued me. “Not looking to mass produce or do custom orders.” It feels rare these days to see artists or businesses that aren’t looking to scale quickly or produce large quantities of things. It’s totally fine if they are, but it feels almost radical to see someone produce something without the goal of mass production. And of course, her work is fantastic to boot.


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A post shared by B.YELLOWTAIL (@byellowtail) on

Bethany Yellowtail’s feed is a celebration of indigenous culture in all forms. The way she weaves stories and posts about music, poetry, politics and social issues into her design updates makes me feel inspired and motivated to always keep looking for those connections between the beautiful things we love to see and the people and stories behind them. Design is always about so much more than the object we see in a store or online. There are real people and issues behind every product and I’m grateful for feeds like Bethany’s that keep making those connections and helping us learn more about the cultures behind designs we love.


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A post shared by Black Artists+Designers Guild (@badguild) on

The Black Artists + Designers Guild was created by Malene Barnett to celebrate and highlight Black Artists + Designers throughout the African diaspora. This project is so important and needed in the design community and I’m so grateful to Malene for introducing so many of us to an incredible community of artists, designers and creatives.


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A post shared by J A M I E O K U M A (@j.okuma) on

Jamie Okuma’s feed has taught me so much about the history and culture of indigenous artwork and just how much time, skill, and expertise goes into so many of the beaded designs we see online and in stores and museums. Her feed has introduced me to so many incredible artists, events and publications (including this amazing magazine) and I tune in every day to see what exciting new updates will be there.


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A post shared by Ann Wood @ Woodlucker (@woodlucker) on

Ann Wood of Woodlucker’s feed is one of my favorite places to indulge in my love of handmade paper flowers, plants and insects. Ann is wildly talented, but I also really admire her unique point of view in our community and the fact that she’s stayed true to her style. Her carefully curated collections of tiny paper bees, butterflies and fruit make me smile and remind me that sometimes it’s important to slow down and focus on making one small thing that makes you happy.


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A post shared by Ruben Guadalupe Marquez (@broobs.psd) on

Ruben Guadalupe Marquez (Broobs.psd)’s feed has been a favorite of mine for a long time because Ruben uses most of his collage work to combine current events (both social and political) into beautiful artwork that has an important message. Ruben makes me hopeful for a new young generation of artists who are connecting larger world issues with their work and using social media to start conversations and inspire people to take action.


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A post shared by Alexis Tellefsen (@atellefsen) on

Alexis Tellefsen’s feed reminds me of the importance of discussing mental health openly and honestly. She weaves in personal stories about mental health, body positivity and gratitude along with updates about her work process. Alexis is also a part of the Lagusta’s Luscious team and I really enjoy seeing the stories of people who run a creative business while also working another job. Not everyone can afford to leave their job to follow a creative passion and I really appreciate seeing all different examples of career paths online.


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A post shared by Tanya Aguiñiga (@tanyaaguiniga) on

Tanya Aguiniga has inspired me since the very first days of Design*Sponge. Watching her grow, use her art to educate and to inspire real change has been a joy. She and her team work so hard to connect culture and art and activism, and the way she’s worked to keep learning the traditions of many different cultures and incorporate them into her work and her mission inspire me to always try harder.


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A post shared by Jee Hei Park (@jeeheipark) on

Jee Hei Park’s artwork and graphic design are always challenging people to look at their choices, assumed beliefs, and biases differently. The conversations started by Jee Hei’s work are important, layered and so valuable for our community.


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A post shared by Morgan Harper Nichols (@morganharpernichols) on

Morgan Harper Nichols’ feed is a beautiful mix of words and artwork that continue to push people to be kind to others, themselves and their community at large. I love the way Morgan is always testing out different versions of her illustrated words and poems — the artwork that accompanies them is just as moving as the words.


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A post shared by a.p. bio (@doan_ly) on

Doan Ly: Watching Doan Ly’s work evolve and become more layered over the years has been so inspiring. She’s shared such an evolution with her followers online, from straightforward floral arrangements to more and more layered and detailed photoshoots with experiments in color, texture, and light. It’s been so moving to watch her push her skills and her artistic interests to include floral design, but to also explore the world around flowers and how they integrate with it.


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A post shared by Kelli Anderson (@kellianderson) on

Kelli Anderson is, for me, one of the most exciting and talented people in design, period. She occupies such an interesting and unique place and point of view in the world of design and is always (always!) stretching to try something new. The way she approaches every project with curiosity and a fully open mind to both new technological advances and older-school craft and design techniques makes me hopeful for design in the long term. That marrying of “old” and “new” gives me hope that doing things by hand and appreciating those skills (as much as computer tech) will keep going.


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A post shared by Grace D. Chin (@gracedchin) on

Grace D. Chin‘s work is always sensitive to the larger concerns and emotional needs of the creative community. She reminds me to listen and watch as much as I talk and create. She’s also a powerful example of the way social media has been a tool to introduce people to the wealth of amazing artists that exists (and has always existed) outside of huge coastal cities and in parts of the country that don’t always get the attention they deserve.


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A post shared by Justina Blakeney (@justinablakeney) on

Justina Blakeney is one of my biggest design heroes. I so admire her honesty and transparency about the work side of running a design business. She talks about the difference between the perception of success and the financial reality of a popular business or brand and does so with such grace (when it would be easy to just let people believe it was all easy and perfect). I will always be a fan of her work and can’t wait to see what she does and what/who she continues to inspire with her work.

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