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Passing the Baton: One Final Podcast Episode about Closing Design*Sponge & Good Company

by Grace Bonney

This year has been full of big professional decisions. The first was deciding it was the right time to close Design*Sponge — and then figuring out how we’d like that to go and feel. The second was realizing that, despite our best efforts and love and hard work, it was time to step away from Good Company as well. It was far from an easy decision, but it was one made from a place of love, understanding, and experience in knowing how much bandwidth it would take to make the magazine as profitable as it needs to be — and knowing that I just don’t have that bandwidth in me right now.

The closing of both creative projects has been a bittersweet time, full of ups and downs and feelings of doubt, but also peace with it all. And when it came to Good Company, I couldn’t figure out the right way to sum it all up in one single post or social media update. On the one hand it was a reminder of just how hard it is to make print profitable enough to stay afloat (while also paying people fair wages for their work), but it was also a reminder of how sometimes projects can teach you so much, even if they don’t go the way you planned.

So rather than sum it up in a quick 250-word post, Julia had the idea for us to sit down together for a podcast conversation about why I chose to close both, how I’m feeling about it all, and what I hope for the future and what our role in it all was, is, and might be going forward. I’m so grateful to have had this time and space in podcast form to talk about some really honest, scary, and vulnerable feelings. Because while I know it’s time to move on, there’s always the very real fear that… is this it? Will I ever be able to do something important again after this? Has this all been the peak? Or am I just now figuring out how to better use my voice and place in any community in a way that is kinder, more generous, and less about my thoughts and views? I don’t have all the answers, but Julia did have all the questions and this conversation is an honest look at what it is to run a business for 15 years and experience all the highs and lows that come with that. Thank you for listening and I hope this might provide some more insight for anyone curious about the closing of Design*Sponge and Good Company, but also just what it’s like to start an online business and steer it through a changing world. xo, Grace

*If you aren’t able to listen to the podcast, the main thing I hoped to leave listeners with is this: I am so grateful for everything we’ve gotten to do at DS and Good Company. And my one hope is that both projects have, in some small way, pushed the needle forward and might inspire someone out there to follow their voice and passion into a new dream project of their own. My goal has always been to pass the baton to the next generation of people with passion for the creative community, and I feel ready to do that after 15 years of having the greatest job ever. 

  • Click play to listen above, or listen on iTunes by subscribing to Good Company with Grace Bonney

  • Download a transcript 

**Also, a huge shout out to Good Company‘s amazing project manager, Kelli Kehler, our social media and marketing manager, Allie Misch, our creative director George McCalman, and artist Erin Ellis. You four made this project a complete and absolute joy to figure out and it would not have been the same without you.

[Hand vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com]

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Comments

  • I’ve been reading DS since about 2006, and I’m so sad to see it go. That said, this is the most ending. You certainly haven”t peaked, Grace. Your essence travels far and wide, whether you are actively putting content online or not. Thank you.

  • Oh how Proud we are of you! Whatever you do in the future it will always be interesting and informative. Looking forward to what you care o share when the time is right. Aunt Mim

  • You will be missed …. what a lovely and inspiring blog you have gifted us with… all the best to you both

  • Just listened to your beautiful and moving interview. I LOVE Design*Sponge, and love it even more as I hear you reflect on all the challenges and pivots you’ve had a to make along the way. What stood out for me the most is your integrity. Sticking to your vision, insisting on paying people for their work – we need more of this in the world, not less! This is definitely not “peak” for you. D*S was not an accident, but a product of your passion, smarts, leadership and agility. I have every hope you’ll find a new way to harness all these amazing qualities.

    How sobering to realize that despite the incredible success of both DS and Good Company, you are worried about affording health insurance and have not been able to “exit” these projects in a way that secures your financial future. Securing a massive payout may have required compromises you were unwilling to make. I hope investors with more creativity and imagination can figure out how to nurture platforms like D*S (and Rookie, which you mentioned in the interview). The world is a more beautiful and interesting place with your voices in it!

  • i haven’t listened yet but thanks so much for telling us about your process, that is also a real gift i know..
    Maybe in your future you may be helping people you see in front of you, and your life will mean as much or more, but in different ways, and maybe you will be in a larger format and that will be good too. Where ever you go you have done enough in
    big ways to highlight design in groundbreaking ways. How many people get to say that or do that.
    THANKS

  • What a tribute to your own work. I’ve been reading daily since 2003 or 4, so I sobbed while listening, cuz my life has changed over these 15 years, too. I still dream of a dream house, but at the same time I don’t care about the dream house, you know? xo

  • Thank you, thank you Grace! What a meaningful conversation to wrap up with. You and your team have so much to be proud of, especially how you have continued to grow, evolve, and make changes that are not easy, but right. I’ve always admired your grace and honesty in sharing info about the challenging aspects of running a small business, the changing media landscape, etc. — it’s been really educational and has informed how I regard (and how much I value) creative professionals of all kinds. I will be following along and cheering you on for whatever you decide to do in the future.

  • I’ve been a big fan of designsponge since the beginning. I lived in Brooklyn before moving to L.A. You being in my beloved Brooklyn made it so wonderful. You put your heart and soul into your businesses and that always came through. Best of luck with whatever you do in the future.

  • It was so wonderful to hear to two talk about all this. And I 100% love and respect your decision to end things on your own terms. I can’t wait to see what’s next for you. I have a feeling the best is yet to come.

    Also, I love the way Julia can’t help but use cooking idioms and metaphors (the slow simmering decision), and you can’t help but use design ones (the house metaphor was so perfect) ;)

  • been a fan for almost 10 years now…sending you best wishes as you figure out your what’s next! Lucky to have Design*Sponge throughout my 20s (now in my 30s). Everyone changes, and that’s a beautiful thing!! Congrats and thank you for all you’ve done!!

  • Have long been a fan of D*S and recommended it it to many people here in NZ. For me, it was a pioneering site – beautiful, inclusive and smart. I wish you all the best for your future!

  • Dear Grace, I have been a (UK) follower from early on and last year decided to take a little break, aware of how DS had been ever so subtly changing for a while, with a somehow slightly more commercial edge. It was also because I was becoming swamped by the digital world I’d surrounded myself with (yes, you are right, since you started things have exploded, where once you were a lone star in the sky now there is now a whole galaxy of choice). However, nothing has come close to the essence of DS, your lightness of touch, your genuinely individual voice and the people you have introduced us all to, the community you have created and shared. I love the insight you give on your version of american life. So today I ventured back and was on the one hand shocked to learn you are closing DS, yet on the other hand recognised instantly that this is the right time for you to free yourself and move onto new adventures. Yes, quit while you’re ahead and on the way celebrate everything you’ve achieved on the DS journey. Thanks so much for lighting the way, I am now hastily catching up on posts before you go!

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