Where Are They Now?

Design*Sponge Team: Where Are They Now (Maxwell Tielman!)

by Grace Bonney

It’s been so much fun catching up with our old teammates and friends as we bring our final year to a close. We’ve had a chance to hear about so many exciting projects, personal news, and updates they’ve all been working on and it just makes me feel thankful all over again for the amazing team of writers, artists, and photographers we’ve had the honor of working with over the past 15 years. We recently caught up with former DIY editor Jessica Marquez and today we’re catching up with the lovely Maxwell Tielman (and his dog, Tucker, above).

I will never forget Max’s email all those years ago. He reached out in what can only be described as the perfect cold email, listing all of the amazing things he could bring to our team (which he did, and then some!) and why he’d like to work with us. I wasn’t looking to add to our team at the time, but I was so blown away by Max’s enthusiasm and talent and looking back, I can’t imagine not having Max as a part of our team’s history and extended family. Before I dive into Max’s update in his own words, I have to share this story, because it is one of the most lasting impacts that Max had on me as a human and I am so grateful for this wisdom (in addition to his helping me catch up to the 21st century and learning — sort of — how to use Photoshop to batch-edit images).

As the tide of the internet started to change and we saw more and more comments that were confrontational or negative in tone, I had a tough time adjusting. I took almost everything personally and felt like saying “sorry” to someone, if I didn’t agree with them, was a slight I couldn’t bear. I know, not my best self. One day as I complained about a comment that I felt was asking for too much, Max turned to me and said something like, “Why not just say you’re sorry? It doesn’t cost anything to say you’re sorry if someone’s feeling hurt.” In that moment, the simplicity and honesty of his words really stayed with me. I had a much needed wake-up call to the importance of acknowledging someone’s feelings and letting everyone have their space to feel how they feel and apologizing if our words have been a part of that reaction. Max brought so many wonderful things to our team, but he brought compassion to our team on that day in a big way and I’ve never forgotten it. Thank you, Max. xo, Grace

So Max, tell us what you’ve been up to!

Name: Maxwell Tielman

Where can we find you? Instagram @maxwelltielman and maxwelltielman.com

Could you please share with us your favorite post/s from your time at DS and why they were your favorite?

Ha! This is an almost impossible task — there are so many — but I will try to keep it brief!

Everything For Everybody: Doing Away With Gender In Design

One of the things that I loved about working with Grace is that she is never afraid of — and really straight-up encourages — getting political. Gender is something I think about frequently and, by virtue of the field I work in, gender in design. This essay was all about how design objects (be they children’s toys or Mid-Century sectionals) are arbitrarily labeled as “masculine” and “feminine,” something that basically murders my soul every time I see it. I’m so happy to have been given the opportunity (and a platform) to voice this opinion!

DIY Washi Tape Picture Frames

I worked on this post pretty early in my Design*Sponge tenure and I’m still pretty proud of it. It just goes to show that modest materials can create something truly impactful!

Entertaining Stories

Anybody who knows me knows that I LOVE (like, really really really love) to entertain. It goes without saying that the semi-real/semi-staged parties I helped throw at D*S are some of my faves. Here’s a tiny selection:

Super Bowl Party & Coaster Freebie
Beer-Tasting Party
Old-Fashioned Parlor Game Party (Editor’s note: this card wreath Max made was SO cool)

Did you have any memorable moments, interactions or experiences during your time at DS that you’d feel comfortable sharing?

There are a ton! From learning the moves to Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” in a surprise dance class for Grace’s birthday to throwing a dog parade through Greenpoint (yes, that actually happened), it’s really hard to come up with a concise list. Rather than one specific moment, I think the cumulative experience of working at DS and the people I met along the way are what have really stuck with me. Writing about design afforded the opportunity to engage and interact with some of the most creative and interesting people I’ve known. Meeting designers, artists, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs; visiting beautiful homes and inspiring studios — each of these things provided endless inspiration and different ways of looking at the world.

What do you remember most about your time at DS that has informed the work you do now?

During my time at DS, there were at most four people working in our office at a time, so we inevitably wore a lot of hats! I think that’s one of the biggest gifts that that time gave me: the space to teach myself new skills and the confidence to be a wearer of all of those hats! On any given day I might have been writing, photographing, illustrating, designing, or video editing. I think it’s rare to find a position that allows such broad exposure and learning opportunities, and the skills I learned on the job at DS have carried with me fully into the work that I do now.

What are you up to now? And how can our community support you and your work these days?

I recently started working as a photo Art Director at West Elm! Keep an eye on our catalog and website for some of the work I’m doing now. Before that, I was working on the brand’s social media + digital content team, creating stories for the blog Front + Main. I’ve been at West Elm for going on four years now (OMG how time flies) and barely a day goes by without applying some sort of skill or experience I learned from my time at Design*Sponge.

Read more of Max’s 600+ posts from our Design*Sponge archives here!

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