'I always trust my gut': Mystic Mondays founder Grace Duong on how intuition helped her build a satisfying career
Multidisciplinary artist Grace Duong transformed her creative career when she launched a tarot deck on Kickstarter. Upon releasing her newest project, Astro Alignment, she sat down with us to discuss her journey from freelance designer to metaphysical brand owner and why intuition has always been her guiding force.
Grace Duong is a designer and artist based in Philadelphia. When she launched a tarot deck with original, modernised illustrations in 2017, she didn't know that in a few short years, she'd be at the helm of one of the world's most recognisable collections of modern spiritual resources, Mystic Mondays. Today, she is the creator of four decks of cards, an app, plus a wide collection of prints and other merchandise featuring her fantastical-yet-grounded mystical artwork.
The journey from designer-for-hire to the face of her own spiritually and creatively aligned company has been simultaneously a surprise and a long time coming.
Did you always want to be a designer?
As a child, I was very creative. I always knew I would go into art. When I was younger, I thought about being a children's book illustrator, and I remember thinking: I can't do that because they don't make enough money. And so I think a lot of why I went into more traditional design was because I wanted a stable career.
You may not be a children's book illustrator, but you do illustrate your work for a living today. Has your perspective on what it means to have a stable career changed?
I think the misconception often is that artists don't make enough money. So I'm trying to prove to myself that I can live a creative, fulfilling, and financially rewarding life.
Tell me a bit about how Mystic Mondays was born.
I'm the type of person who dives into something without knowing what could happen and seeing where it goes. In 2015, I was inspired to make the first 22 cards of the tarot, and the following year, I just shut myself in my apartment and knocked it out.
At first, when I was creating Mystic Mondays, it was for me – for a version of myself that didn't have what I needed. At the time, there weren't a lot of modern tarot decks. Now, there are so many. But I remember thinking I wished I had a friendly, vibrant, colourful tool. So I want to create one for myself. And that's how it started: to fulfil my needs. But also knew that because there wasn't something like it, somebody else probably felt the same way I did.
Then, when I launched the Kickstarter campaign in 2017, I was just following my gut instincts. But then, most of my stock ended up being damaged. So I reached out to a publisher. And, of course, I had no way of knowing what would happen. Since then, I've created four decks and an app.
You've relied on your intuition to build the business. Can you share how your designs help others engage with their own intuition?
The vision I have for Mystic Mondays is to cover all aspects of the metaphysical – that's a tall order. There's a crystal deck and an animal spirit deck; the upcoming one is about astrology. All these aspects weave together – I'm creating this integrated world of modern metaphysics.
I was intimidated by the elements of all these practices, which was one of my motivators to make my own deck.
Through design, I translate this world in a way that's easy to understand and relatable for other people. I often ask myself: Will someone who doesn't know anything about tarot, astrology, or crystals – will they want to pick it up? And, you know, will they get something insightful from it? Will they learn from it? You know, those kinds of questions?
So, like any good designer, you're thinking about the end user, even while you create such personal art?
There is something that is fulfilling and rewarding about knowing that people use the app, or my decks, every day and have been for years. It's part of their ritual.
I think on a larger scale that the more people understand themselves, the more I think there would be less hurt, anger, violence, etc., in the world. If we're all doing the little things – pulling a tarot card or something else – the little rituals that we can do every day for ourselves in our self-care, then on a macro level, that can affect how we treat our friends or parents. And then that ripples out.
So I'm hoping that my products have a positive impact on people. And that intention is imbued in the product so that when people use it, they feel that, and they can, you know, carry it with them.
You've had a very organic transition from more traditional design work. Can you share more about that journey?
I do enjoy brand work. Because what I love about design is that it's a communication style, and it has the power to communicate with the masses. So I think much of my design background informed how I built Mystic Mondays and approached it. Plus, I understand who I'm designing for on the other side of the screen.
Systems like tarot and astrology marry strategy and creativity – something that good design does, too. Do you think that influenced your interest in these practices?
Working with systems like tarot and astrology is satisfying as a designer because it gives you something to work with. When there's a blank canvas, it's almost like there are no rules, and that can be overwhelming because you don't even know where to start.
But in design, prompts and briefs usually have very clear objectives and systems; everything needs meaning.
It's the same process when designing with tarot or astrology in mind: there is a system to follow. I like working with constrictions because I think having the structure almost gives you more freedom.
Do you have any advice for creatives looking to step beyond their traditional roles and into more self-driven creative pursuits?
While I do like working within constraints, some client projects can feel very restrictive because they have their own needs that need to get met at the expense of your creative needs.
The growth of Mystic Mondays was partially a result of feeling frustrated in my design career. I felt like I was being pigeonholed – not allowed as much expression and creativity as I wanted.
So if your needs are not being met in your career, I would say that the world is so fertile with the possibility of creating your own opportunities. When I started Mystic Mondays, I was searching for my voice. Because when you're working on design projects, you must take on the client's voice. And I think I really wanted to craft my own identity through my work.
What I'm really trying to say is this: trust the process, and trust that life is bringing you on a journey, but if you're feeling the pull to start something new, you should follow your instincts and follow your intuition.