Building a Community by Design: Recap
Lennie Gray Mowris photographed working in her letterpress shop. Community by Design 2019 event information.

I walked into the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design (PCAD) 15 minutes later than I said I would be to help set up stuffed with burritos from across the street, I was already very excited to hear Lennie talk. AIGA’s Design for Good, Women Lead, and Diversity & Inclusion initiatives have always drawn me to them; but I never knew what I can do or get started that would benefit others.

Nearing the presentation start I switched rows several times wondering if I should sit with the rest of the herd near the middle, move to the back to take photos and video for the AIGA social channels, or sacrifice myself to the front. Spoiler, I opted for the back so I didn’t have my phone in peoples’ faces.

Lennie and I struck up a conversation while I was awkwardly choosing my spot. I sort of mumbled something along the lines of “Now I need to hope that someone tall doesn’t sit right front of me.” and without hesitation, Lennie offered to go to bat for me if that should be the case. It was a great moment sharing stories about how our differing heights have affected our perspective and how tall people feel obligated to help shorter persons out when they’re caught climbing the shelving in the grocery.

We began with Bri, our vice president, talking Lennie up and giving us some background. Then, Lennie takes the podium. She starts off with an invocation – acknowledging the native tribes (Susquehannocks, Lenni Lenape/Delaware, Iroquois, and others) that once lived in the region that were forced out by settlers. This was incredibly touching to me and she gave much more information than I feel like I was able to come up within a 5 minute google search. With this invocation, Lennie asked us to acknowledge our privilege in being able to meet there that night to enjoy the company and learn more about how to build a better [design] community.

The talk itself lasted about an hour and included a Q&A at the end. If you weren’t there you really missed out on some very enlightening and touching moments of learning. The illustrated and colorful presentation slides covered, in brief, topics such as defining keywords for a community, so everyone is on the same page, how a person is defined, and how identities form; but they also brought levity to harder-to-face realities like examining how life is not worth living in order to learn how to fix those problems. A new word I learned from Lennie – compersion – has become a new favorite of mine; it’s loving the love that another person has for something or someone else.

My biggest take away from all of this, besides enlightening conversations afterward at Lancaster Dispensing Co., was Lennie’s 5 steps to impact – part of a methodology that she helped create with AIGA national as Path to Impact.

The five steps build off of each other and are as follows:

  1. Envision
    • Who benefits?
  2. Plan
    •  Do you have diverse perspectives and can you include the target community?
  3. Implement
    •  Are your vendors local, sustainable, and transparent with their supply chain?
  4. Measure
    •  Did we alter some form of the status-quo to be more balanced?
  5. Share
    •  Your story, failures, successes, your partners’ stories, your beneficiary’s stories.

If you’re interested in learning more about Path to Impact and the methodology above, AIGA Central PA will have more information on workshops for becoming Path to Impact trained in 2020.

You can follow and learn more about Lennie and the incredible work that she is doing by following her on Instagram, @lenniegraymowris, @lenspeace, and @impactologie_design; on Facebook as Impactologie and Lenspeace; Twitter at @impaceologie and @lenspeace and of course on the web at and

Disappointed that you missed Lennie’s talk? No worries! Lennie will be hosting a “Pay what you can” stream of her presentation with AIGA Central PA on Nov. 20, 2019! Visit this link for details!

Visit the events page and like AIGA Central PA on Facebook to stay up to date with more Path to Impact and other events for the design community!

By Kat Flaherty
Published November 8, 2019
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