Victoria Lawson ’20 on diversifying the industrial design industry through empowering WOC and creating affordable design services

Woman in an auditorium

Before college, life wasn’t easy for Victoria Lawson’20. The California-native girl had to take care of her mother at a young age and still keep good grades at school. Lawson found designing and building stuff to be a getaway from all the stress and anxiety she had to deal with growing up.

Lawson’s mentor, Mrs. Grover, introduced her to art at the school’s Art Technology Academy, and Ms. Ho introduced her to the industrial design world through Project Lead the Way Program (PLTW Engineering) in high school.

Learning from both excellent teachers and getting support from the school that awarded her a partial scholarship gave Lawson the opportunity to pursue her dream when she was accepted into the Industrial and Interaction Design program at the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University

It makes her feel satisfied and proud when she can make something from scratch, like building up a company. Lawson opened her own cross-disciplinary freelance design service during her sophomore year called Weird & Woke, creating digital marketing, rapid prototyping, videography, photography, and video art.

Lawson learned the ins and outs of establishing a business by minoring in Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprise at the Whitman School of Management and being part of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University where she became an award-winning girl boss.

During college Lawson worked for the LaunchPad as a graphic designer, content creator, digital marketing and brand expert.  She mentored students to help them develop brand assets, packaging and website design. 

She even documented a LaunchPad event with famous entrepreneur Bobbi Brown on “Creative Entrepreneurship and Building a Brand” with Bruce Teitelbaum ’86, CEO of RPG. Brown, a professional make-up artist and a serial entrepreneur, is someone Lawson highly respects in the field. She says that “I want to build stuff that helps improve the quality of life for others around the world.”

They say the post-graduation summer is the beginner of a new chapter. It’s the period that marks the end of your school life. It’s a crossroad of your destiny. We know so little about summer and winter because we are so used to the school seasons. Nobody ever tells graduates that there’s no such thing as a “life calendar.” Everyone gets on their own track the minute after graduation.

Lawson got a hint of life without an academic schedule when she graduated during the pandemic in 2020. But she was still overwhelmed by the pressures during the summer. She frantically applied for jobs, updating her resumés, building up portfolios, etc. “It was depressing. I had to do little things to make myself feel alive,” Lawson said. “It is important to take self-care and mental health seriously.  You can’t enjoy the fruits of your success if you are not taking care of yourself.”

The anxiety of graduation seems so unique, yet too normal to every graduate. Going back home, living with parents, and buying a car just like a smooth transition to young adulthood, Lawson turned on her grind mode and gradually found her purpose.

Building on her LaunchPad experience, Lawson scored a job at Techstars LA as a full-time designer for its renowned accelerator program.  The role combined her design skills and excellent understanding of the startup culture.  She then went on to be selected as a designer for the new Techstars and J.P. Morgan launch of the Techstars Founder Catalyst program starting this fall. Based in Atlanta, the program will provide valuable startup education and mentorship to a diverse cohort of up to 20 female entrepreneurs, giving them access to a vast network of entrepreneurs, investors and corporate partners. The program will cultivate a critically important local community of innovative, ambitious and auspicious women who are all highly motivated to support each other’s success.

The spirit of building up from nothing is engraved in Lawson’s DNA. While helping with other aspiring entrepreneurs, Lawson keeps doing her side hustles to sharpen her mind, such as being a digital marketing consultant for companies that varies from the aerospace industry to the health care industry, and a philanthropist. 

Lawson cares about communities and cultures. There are so many things that she learned outside her classroom, especially from the people around her. She enjoyed talking to people with different backgrounds. Within the VPA Warehouse and LaunchPad family, Lawson loved to learn culture through the diverse international student body.

To truly embrace the complexity of culture, she explored many countries in the world via volunteer services. She has been to South Africa to remodel preschools and made friendships with teens needing support by self-fundraising the trip expense. 

As a self-starter, she continues her design services and intends to grow further. She connected with many POC designers in the field and planned to build a platform focusing on creating effective and affordable designs for local businesses, called Women of Concept + HueMatter.

According to the Design Council Survey, the product and industrial design is 95% male, yet women make up 63% of students studying creative arts and design at university and design remains 78% male (The Design Economy 2018). She says that “Women of color need to be accentuated within the industrial design community, to uplift and grow our network.” They aim to uplift local communities of color by providing practical design that builds equity, equality, and expressiveness making design accessible for all.

Victoria will be a featured panelist at the LaunchPad’s CBT Startup Showcase on Friday, September 10 at 3 p.m. (EDT) Join her then on a panel with Dayanna Torres, director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

To view more work from Victoria Lawson, please visit:

Story by Aorui Pi, LaunchPad Global Media Fellow; photos supplied