2024 Community by Design Honouree: Mark Busse

The Community by Design Award was first introduced in 2019 by the Vancouver chapter. Award recipients are recognized for demonstrating leadership at all stages of their career, and for advancing the goals of the society while giving back to the DesCan community. We recognize these award recipients of being our ambassadors by living the society’s values of Community by Design.

Past recipients are Pauline Lai (2019) and Brenda Cofield (2021).

This year’s recipient is longtime DesCan supporter and colleague Mark Busse, CDP, F.DesCan.

Mark has been a leader in the BC design community for countless years. A former DesCan Vancouver president and founder and leader of Creative Mornings Vancouver, Mark’s contributions to our design community include not only event organizing but also serving as a mentor and coach to so many students and designers. Outspoken. Opinionated. Warm. Funny. Humble. Gracious.

Thank you Mark for all you have done and continue to do!!!

Mark had prepared this speech to give at the Salazar Awards evening that we gave him his award at:

“Thank you so much for this honour. Honestly, I feel a bit like a fraud receiving this. Despite some early artistic skills, I’ve never really been a great graphic designer. But I get it. And I’m grateful for the recognition.

I attended the DesignThinkers conference this week, and amid the celebration of banal beauty and graphic bro culture, I appreciated moments of insight and vulnerability. These reminded me that beyond marketing and profit, thoughtful design can create new connections, experiences, and positive community impact. But there were also numerous warning signs of disruptive changes to come.

Yesterday, SFU announced they were dismantling their cultural program at SFU Woodward’s, where we’ve hosted CreativeMornings for a decade. As a member of the Vancouver Arts & Cultural Advisory Committee, I am privy to information about what’s happening both inside City Hall and in the creative industries, and I assure you there is more troubling news on the horizon. Between socio-economic and political realities and the uncertainty caused by the rise of AI, this is a stark reminder that we need each other, our community—and indeed our creativity—more than ever.

In the opening keynote talk at DesignThinkers, CreativeMornings founder Tina Roth Eisenberg reminded us that a powerful expression of creativity is always found in the act of choosing optimism and curiosity over fear. So, to the young designers here, I offer a warning, a challenge, and some encouragement.

Get your act together. Your impressive skills, taste, and energy may not take you as far as you might hope in this rapidly changing world. But remember, you are far more than just beauty makers. Beyond applying your design skills at work, invest your time, energy, and talents into building community and benefiting society.

The more digital our craft becomes, the more important human connection will be. Show up and get involved, both in the creative community and more broadly as engaged citizens, and you will find: Inspiration, Collaborators, Friends, Coaching, Mentorship, Impact, Leadership, Mental health, Adventure, Perspective, Diversity, Empathy, Recognition, Empowerment, Fulfillment, Innovation, and Resilience. Don’t show up and you will find frustration and failure.

While it’s fairly simple science that beautiful things are perceived as more usable and valuable, beauty is also a way to create real impact in the communities you serve. So, I encourage you to lean hard into the unknown we’re all facing with optimism and curiosity, where you too will find a path to creating community by design. And if, like me, you’re a mediocre graphic designer, embrace your flawesome and find your people—they will help you find your way, your place, and your purpose.

Thank you again to everyone in the DesCan community who have endured my rants and supported me for over two decades. Let’s keep striving together for a Canadian design industry that values community and cultural impact above all. Cool beans?”
— Mark Busse, CDP, F.DesCan

Learn more about Mark here.

Portrait of Mark: Albert Law
Event photos: Shiny