Ep. 91: Designer Amélie Lamont

Digital designer and writer Amélie Lamont is a native New Yorker and daughter of Jamaican immigrants. A self-proclaimed nerd, she grew up reading Encyclopedia Britannica and teaching herself to code. A life-long learner, she has pursued many different areas of study in school and hated them all, which is probably why her long-term vision for herself involves a PhD and starting a design school! As an outspoken advocate of PoC, she has initiated projects like People of Craft and The Guide to Allyship.


What is your earliest memory?

I don’t know about my earliest, but one early memory is with my dad. Right before he passed away, we saw The Lion King in theaters and got White Castle after (I was seven).

While I cherish the memory, every now and then nostalgia twists my arm and I ended up eating White Castle. The fleeting pleasure I get from the memory is quickly replaced by inevitable stomach cramps and too many bathroom trips.

How do you feel about democratic design? 

Democratic design is a wonderful concept that falls apart at sustainability. Sustainable in this context often means the materials are recyclable or using only what is  necessary. In my expanded definition (again, in this context), sustainability includes quality. As in, designed goods should be so well-crafted, you don’t have to keep replacing them. But I know definition is antithetical to capitalistic intent.

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

“Don’t take away someone else’s agency by making assumptions about them.”

How do you record your ideas?

I’m a kinesthetic thinker, so I need to move my body when I’m processing anything. I usually write my ideas down on a giant pad of paper using giant markers. There’s often music playing in the background, so I get the chance to amplify the gesture of writing with big movements, and lots of grooving.

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

A giant pad of paper and giant markers. And sometimes my trusty normal-sized notebook and normal-sized pen.

What book is on your nightstand?

I’m currently reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I’ve recently stopped running away from my destiny of writing and felt this was a good book to start with.

Why is authenticity in design important?

Before I answer this, it’s important to define authenticity. People toss the word around a lot, but language is funny and I don’t think many of us know what we’re saying when we use it. “Authenticity” carries with it the weight that something is “real” or “true.” When we speak to authenticity, what we’re actually talking about is the perception of intent. But intent doesn’t hold as much weight as does perception of impact. You can have an “authentic” designer who is “authentic” in their intention to create an “authentic” product, but the impact on a user is something else entirely.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that impact is more important. Everyone has a moving target and definition of “authenticity.” What I’m more interested in is seeing how designers begin to understand how the language they use shapes the world around them. I’m also interested in seeing how designers are learning to understand the impact of both their language the actions.

Favorite restaurant in your city?

I don’t have a favorite restaurant in the city, but I’m really digging Fan Fried Rice Bar right now.

What might we find on your desk right now?

Definitely my planner, as well as some Sailor Moon and One Piece paraphernalia. Oh, and most importantly, my trusty notebook for writing down ideas or planning my future.

Who do you look up to and why?

I don’t look up to people because it creates this hierarchy of power that doesn’t need to exist. As in, “I look up to this person who is doing something so incredible that I could never do.” That’s a myth that exists to keep us down, along with 30 Under 30 lists. (Let people do things at their own pace, y’all!)

More than anything, I try my best to recognize and acknowledge people, because we’re all trying to get by. I acknowledge people who understand that justice and liberation don’t look like the destruction of everything in sight. It’s easy to say “burn x down” without considering the people that would harm instead of help. (Poor, lower class, disabled, Black brown, indigenous, etc. people.)

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

My favorite project that I’ve worked on lately is not actually a project (though I’m working to make it one). I teach designers how to use storytelling to talk about their design work and practice. I define “storytelling” as engaging and relevant conversation about design work and impact. It’s what defines design as a key player, deserving of a seat at the table.

It excites me because design discourse can be dry and unapproachable. That’s why some people ignore the work we’re doing even though it touches every aspect of our lives. All human-made objects are designed objects.

Storytelling isn’t just for podcasts or books. It’s a design skill for creating interest and putting agency back into the hands of people who often don’t have it.

What are the last five songs you listened to?

Silent Poets - La Vie
Cibo Matto - King of Silence (Dan the Automator Remix)
Suprême NTM - Tout n’est pas si facile
Femi Kuti - Water No Get Enemy feat. D’Angelo and Macy Gray
Zap Mama - The Way You Are feat. Bilal

Follow Amélie Lamont on Twitter and Instagram, and keep up with her work and writings at amelie.is. Visit peopleofcraft.com

Thanks to our sponsor, Wacom! The Wacom Cintiq 16 creative pen display and accompanying Pro Pen 2 are the perfect tools to take your creative ideas to the next level. For more information, head to Wacom.com and use promo code CLEVER to get $50 off of the Cintiq 16 May 1-July 31, 2019.

Clever is produced by 2VDE Media. Thanks to Rich Stroffolino for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of
El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to
Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.