Recent Writing

Published in Harvard Business Review

A set of principles collectively known as design thinking—empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure chief among them—is the best tool we have for creating those kinds of interactions and developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.

This new approach is in large part a response to the increasing complexity of modern technology and modern business. That complexity takes many forms. Sometimes software is at the center of a product and needs to be integrated with hardware (itself a complex task) and made intuitive and simple from the user’s point of view (another difficult challenge). Sometimes the problem being tackled is itself multi-faceted: Think about how much tougher it is to reinvent a health care delivery system than to design a shoe. And sometimes the business environment is so volatile that a company must experiment with multiple paths in order to survive.

Recent Presentations

.pdf of presentation at IxDA 2017 & IA Summit 2017

Books

Selected Presentations

Sh*t Sh*w: Creative Clarity in the Midst of AmbiguityPresented at Interaction 17

#HBRLive: Using Empathy to Create Products People LoveInteview with Harvard Business Review, 2014

Well Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People LovePresented at Midwest UX, 2014

A Means to An EndPresented at UX Lisbon, 2013

Design For ImpactPresented at Interaction South America, 2011

Out With The Old, In With The NewPresented with Don Norman and Richard Anderson at Academy of Art, 2011

My Heart Is In The WorkPresented at the IxDA Conference, 2010

The Phenomenon of SynthesisPresented at the TedXCreativeCoast, 2010

Design SynthesisPresented at the IxDA Conference, 2009

Predicting and Avoiding the Commoditization of Design ResearchPresented at IIT's Design Research Conference, 2009



Education

Austin Center for Design

I founded Austin Center for Design, a design school in Austin, Texas, in 2009. At AC4D, we teach autonomy through design. Learn more.


Online Courses

I've offered a few of my courses online. Before you take them, you might consider reading this post that describes my skepticism with online learning, or this post that describes how Udemy is an emperor with no clothes.

Methods of Design Synthesis: Research to Product Innovation

An Introduction to Design as a Process for Innovation

Product Management: Building Great Products

Service Design: Designing for Experience Over Time

Selected Writing

2017

Creative Clarity

Creative ClaritySeptember 15, 2017

2016

Strategic PatternsOctober 30, 2016

The Problem of Bolt-On Acquisitions in a Digital WorldPublished in Harvard Business Review, July 5, 2016

Simplicity on the other side of complexityJanuary 11, 2016

2015

Look, I Made a Thing: Confidence in Making
December 18, 2015

Moving on from RequirementsPublished in interactions magazine, November 1, 2015

Design Thinking Comes of Age In a new window...Published in Harvard Business Review, September 2015

Learning the Long, Hard Slog of ProcessPublished in interactions magazine, July 1, 2015

Lean Doesn’t Always Create the Best ProductsPublished in Harvard Business Review, May 14, 2015

A Process for Empathetic Product DesignPublished in Harvard Business Review, Apr 23, 2015

Teaching a Confidence in ProcessPublished in interactions magazine, March 1, 2015

Make Enterprise Software People Actually LovePublished in Harvard Business Review, Feb 12, 2015

Dysfunctional Products Come from Dysfunctional OrganizationsPublished in Harvard Business Review, Jan 21, 2015

2014

Why I Teach TheoryPublished in interactions magazine, November/December, 2014

Why Investment in Design is the Only Way to "Win" in EducationPublished in UX Magazine, September, 2014

Running an Entrepreneurial Pilot to Identify ValuePublished in interactions magazine, July/August, 2014

Learning Entrepreneurial HustlePublished in interactions magazine, March/April, 2014

2013

Stop Chasing Scale in Higher EducationDecember, 2013

From Interaction Designer to Product ManagerPublished in interactions magazine, November/December, 2013

ManipulationPublished in UX Magazine, July 23, 2013

The Optimism of DesignPublished in interactions magazine, July/August, 2013

The Academic Journey: Beyond MOOCSPublished in The Huffington Post, May 16th, 2013

Now Hiring: The Most Liberal ArtPublished in The Huffington Post, January 7th, 2013

Trusting the Design Process Published in interactions magazine, March/April, 2013

2012

Transformative Learning in the Design StudioPublished in interactions magazine, November/December, 2012

Design, in the Big and SmallPublished in interactions magazine, July/August, 2012

Changing the Career Outcomes of Design EducationPublished in interactions magazine, March/April, 2012

2011

Heart Of DarknessPublished in core77, November 8, 2011

CraftsmanshipPublished in interactions magazine, November/December, 2011

Stupid, Stupid ClientPublished in UX Magazine, August, 2011

The Conflicting Rhetoric of Design EducationPublished in interactions magazine, July/August, 2011

Endless Nights - Learning from Design Studio CritiquePublished in interactions magazine, March/April, 2011

How Do You Transform Good Research Into Great Innovations?Published in Fast Company, January 12, 2011

Cultural Values That Will Make Your Office an Idea Factory
Part 2 of 3: A description of the cultural values that support synthesis.Published in Fast Company, January 19, 2011

When Trying to Invent, Being Objective Can Cripple Your ProcessPublished in Fast Company, January 27, 2011

Unveiling the Magic of Design In a new window...Published in Rotman Magazine, Winter, 2011.

2010

On Academic Knowledge ProductionPublished in interactions magazine, September, 2010.

On EducationPublished in interactions magazine, July, 2010.

Jon Kolko On Design That Changes Human BehaviorInterview in Forbes, June, 2010

On Language and PotentialPublished in interactions magazine, May, 2010.

Sensemaking and Framing: A Theoretical Reflection on Perspective in Design SynthesisPublished in 2010 Design Research Society conference proceedings.

Designing in the Face of Change: The Elusive Push Towards Emotionally Resonant Experiences In a new window...Published in The New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, published by Taylor and Francis.

Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design SynthesisPublished in MIT's Design Issues, 26:1, Winter 2010.

2009

The Authenticity ProblemPublished in interactions magazine, November/December, 2009.

On Hopelessness and HopePublished in interactions magazine, July, 2009.

Our Misguided Focus on Brand and User ExperiencePublished on Johnny Holland, December 1st, 2009.

2007

The Tenuous Relationship Between Design and InnovationPublished in Artifact Magazine, Volume 1, issue 3.

Information Architecture and Design Strategy: The Importance of Synthesis during the Process of Design.Published in the IDSA 2007 Conference.

Information Architecture: Synthesis Techniques for the Muddy Middle of the Design ProcessPublished in the 23rd International Conference on the Beginning Design Student.

2005

Design as Communication: The Increasing Case for Literacy in AcademiaPublished in the IDSA 2005 Conference.

New Techniques in Industrial Design EducationPublished in the 6th International Conference of the European Academy of Design.

TRIBA: A Cable Television Retrieval and Awareness System In a new window...Published in the 2005 Computer/Human Interaction Conference proceedings.

2004

Mixing Disciplines in Anticipation of Convergence: A Curriculum for Teaching Interaction Design to Industrial DesignersPublished in Interactions Magazine.

2003

User-Driven Brand Design : Establishing a Convergent Brand ExperiencePublished in Tweak, Q4/03.

Selected Blog Posts

Jan 6, 2013 Designer as Product Owner In a new window...
There's a creature in software companies called the "product manager" (almost always referred to as the "product guy", hammering home the unfortunate fact that nearly all software companies are full of men. For fun, I'll switch it 'round for the remainder of this post.) The product gal has a strange role, in that her focus is on product-market-fit...

June 26, 2012 Code Is Material: Why Designers Must Learn To Code In a new window...
It would seem obvious and non-contentious to say that if you are crafting a digital product, you should know how to code. It is neither obvious nor non-contentious...

April 30, 2012 Do You Want Critique, Or A Hug? How to Gain Valuable Criticism On Your Design In a new window...
One of the most fundamental parts of the process of design is the critique, a formal opportunity for the designer to receive feedback from a group of people. There's a lack of good literature on critique, although there are a few notable exceptions, and so for most, critique remains a mysterious tool...

April 15, 2012 It's Hard, And I'm Just Not Passionate About It In a new window...
Words that make me cringe. I get frustrated and annoyed with things just like anyone else, but I've never felt the sentiment of these sentences - yet I've heard them from entrepreneurs looking to start their own companies, from consultants working on projects, and from people trying their best to orbit the giant hairball that is a Fortune company...

April 4, 2012 Thoughts On Design Portfolios In a new window...
Designers are typically judged based on their portfolio of work. When I worked at frog, I encountered lots of unsolicited portfolios. The sad reality of sending a portfolio to a consultancy is that your chances of getting a job are a weighted dice roll, based on a mixture of extremely fast first impressions, serendipitous timing, and who you know...

Mar 3, 2012 How To Start A School In 10 "Easy" Steps In a new window...
When I describe what I'm doing at Austin Center for Design, the common reaction is, "You started a school? How do you do that?" I'm not exactly sure, honestly, because the process only seems logical in retrospect: I sort of made it up as I went along. However, I thought it might be informative to describe the steps I went through in a purely mechanical manner...

Mar 21, 2011 Bootstrapped Publishing - DIY FTW In a new window...
I've had a few different publishing experiences. I've published a book entirely by myself, I've worked with a large-scale publisher (owned by one of the Big Houses—Elsevier), and I've worked with a traditional and respected academic press (Oxford University Press). Here's what you can expect from a DIY approach...

I blog somewhat irregularly at Austin Center for Design, and I used to blog on the Blackboard corporate blog when I worked there.