Design strategy, product management, education & writing
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.
I founded AC4D, a design school in Austin, Texas, in 2009. At AC4D, we teach autonomy through design. Learn more.
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.
The Problem of Bolt-On Acquisitions in a Digital World
Published in Harvard Business Review, July 5, 2016
Simplicity on the other side of complexity
January 11, 2016
Look, I Made a Thing: Confidence in Making
December 18, 2015
Moving on from Requirements
Published in interactions magazine, November 1, 2015
Design Thinking Comes of Age
Published in Harvard Business Review, September 2015
Learning the Long, Hard Slog of Process
Published in interactions magazine, July 1, 2015
Lean Doesn’t Always Create the Best Products
Published in Harvard Business Review, May 14, 2015
A Process for Empathetic Product Design
Published in Harvard Business Review, Apr 23, 2015
Teaching a Confidence in Process
Published in interactions magazine, March 1, 2015
Make Enterprise Software People Actually Love
Published in Harvard Business Review, Feb 12, 2015
Dysfunctional Products Come from Dysfunctional Organizations
Published in Harvard Business Review, Jan 21, 2015
Why I Teach Theory
Published in interactions magazine, November/December, 2014
Why Investment in Design is the Only Way to "Win" in Education
Published in UX Magazine, September, 2014
Running an Entrepreneurial Pilot to Identify Value
Published in interactions magazine, July/August, 2014
Learning Entrepreneurial Hustle
Published in interactions magazine, March/April, 2014
Stop Chasing Scale in Higher Education
From Interaction Designer to Product Manager
Published in interactions magazine, November/December, 2013
Published in UX Magazine, July 23, 2013
The Optimism of Design
Published in interactions magazine, July/August, 2013
The Academic Journey: Beyond MOOCS
Published in The Huffington Post, May 16th, 2013
Now Hiring: The Most Liberal Art
Published in The Huffington Post, January 7th, 2013
Trusting the Design Process
Published in interactions magazine, March/April, 2013
Transformative Learning in the Design Studio
Published in interactions magazine, November/December, 2012
Design, in the Big and Small
Published in interactions magazine, July/August, 2012
Changing the Career Outcomes of Design Education
Published in interactions magazine, March/April, 2012
Heart Of Darkness
Published in core77, November 8, 2011
Published in interactions magazine, November/December, 2011
Stupid, Stupid Client
Published in UX Magazine, August, 2011
The Conflicting Rhetoric of Design Education
Published in interactions magazine, July/August, 2011
Endless Nights - Learning from Design Studio Critique
Published 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.
When Trying to Invent, Being Objective Can Cripple Your Process
Published in Fast Company, January 27, 2011
Unveiling the Magic of Design: The Role of Synthesis
Published in Rotman Magazine, Winter, 2011.
On Academic Knowledge Production
Published in interactions magazine, September, 2010.
Published in interactions magazine, July, 2010.
Jon Kolko On Design That Changes Human Behavior
Interview in Forbes, June, 2010
On Language and Potential
Published in interactions magazine, May, 2010.
Sensemaking and Framing: A Theoretical Reflection on Perspective in Design Synthesis
Published in 2010 Design Research Society conference proceedings.
Designing in the Face of Change: The Elusive Push Towards Emotionally Resonant Experiences
Published in The New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, published by Taylor and Francis.
Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design Synthesis
Published in MIT's Design Issues, 26:1, Winter 2010.
The Authenticity Problem
Published in interactions magazine, November/December, 2009.
On Hopelessness and Hope
Published in interactions magazine, July, 2009.
Our Misguided Focus on Brand and User Experience
Published on Johnny Holland, December 1st, 2009.
The Tenuous Relationship Between Design and Innovation
Published 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 Process
Published in the 23rd International Conference on the Beginning Design Student.
Design as Communication: The Increasing Case for Literacy in Academia
Published in the IDSA 2005 Conference.
New Techniques in Industrial Design Education
Published in the 6th International Conference of the European Academy of Design.
TRIBA: A Cable Television Retrieval and Awareness System
Published in the 2005 Computer/Human Interaction Conference proceedings.
Mixing Disciplines in Anticipation of Convergence: A Curriculum for Teaching Interaction Design to Industrial Designers
Published in Interactions Magazine.
User-Driven Brand Design : Establishing a Convergent Brand Experience
Published in Tweak, Q4/03.
Selected Blog Posts
Jan 6, 2013
Designer as Product Owner
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
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
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
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
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
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
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...