Meet Blessing Yen Smith, the Chief Design Officer at “Seed&Spark”; a platform that connects people through stories that matter by building sustainability, equity, and community for all creators.
A multi-disciplinary designer and artist with a decade of experience working in product design and systems, Blessing thinks at the intersection of technology and the arts. She serves as the Chief Design Officer for Seed&Spark and her films, performances, and immersive experiences (co-created with her partner James Kaelan) have been screened at several festivals around the world, including Slamdance, SFIFF, and AFI FEST. Blessing also teaches human-centered experience design at the University of Southern California and values strategic thinking and paying attention to one’s environment.
As a child of immigrants, Blessing always felt divided between two worlds and cultures, but she is grateful for growing up with a sense of safety and security fostered by her parents. She is glad that her formative years were safe.
Before becoming the Chief Design Officer at Seed&Spark, Blessing had worked as an accountant, a budding investment banker, a media buyer, a visual designer, an educator, a photographer’s assistant, and a creative director as a full-timer, a part-timer, and a freelancer. It is her interest in the union of technology and arts that took her to Seed&Spark.
At Seed&Spark, they believe in the principles of abundance and emergence. Blessing explains, “Society, like nature, can and should be cooperative, not competitive. When we collaborate, the sum is so much greater than its individual parts”. Seed&Spark’s mission is to create an inclusive, thriving community of independent creators while amplifying the cultural impact of the stories they tell. Elaborating on their mission, Blessing says, “Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have to move the culture forward. Who gets to tell those stories – and how widely they can reach – determines both how we understand our past and how we imagine our future. Seed&Spark creates space and a place for those stories and the communities around them. We strive to make creative careers more equitable and accessible through free education, democratizing tools like crowdfunding, and new distribution models that value creator ownership and impact. We are working to build a better world through the stories we tell”.
Blessing believes that their creative community at Seed&Spark loves them because the company loves its community. They operate in an abundance mindset as opposed to a scarcity one, which is a purely capitalist, individualistic, and competition-first worldview, as they look to meet the needs of the community while centering them in the design processes. Seed&Spark has built a workplace inclusion product that revolves around storytelling and film, and they have fully expanded into a space with diversity, equity, and inclusion. They have also seen a positive response and sudden demand, particularly in the wake of America’s reckoning with its racist history and present in 2020. Blessing informs proudly, “While we fight daily to tear down the systems that make this kind of workplace program necessary at all, we believe strongly that storytelling and reflecting different perspectives is one of the most powerful ways to instigate personal connection and real cultural change”.
Blessing has overcome a lot of difficulties. But even today, her primary challenge is that she is entirely self-taught in her discipline. She elaborates, “It can be more difficult to find your way without good models or mentors to guide you. It also took me some time to break free of the notion that work and career was a rigid structure that had to be achieved a certain way“. Blessing believes that we all follow our own paths and that there is both a joyous freedom and a necessary self-discipline required to do so.
As an independent filmmaker, every film is an exercise in abundance and emergence for Blessing. She believes that filmmaking is a constant giving of the self, and the result is magic. She explains, “The beauty of a film is that its essence is cooperative. It takes a village to make a film, no matter how small. You start to see the process itself – the sharing of gifts, the collaboration, the journey – it’s as much the point as any final product or result. Some might say it’s the only point”.
She advises all the dreamers to take the leap of faith. She says, “Fail, maybe, but try. And then, try again, armed with your new knowledge and collaborators and experience”. Blessing ends her motivating message with a Margaret Mead quote – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.