Recent Writing

Published in Interactions Magazine

There are two paths of design, diverging. There are people and firms practicing design thinking by making things, driven by practitioners aware of the history of making things and skilled in the craft of making things. And then there are people and firms practicing design thinking by, well, thinking about things. The difference is profound.

Recent Presentations

.pdf of presentation at IxDA 2019.



I'm the Chief Operating Officer, and Partner, at Modernist Studio. Modernist is a strategy and innovation company; we help our clients build a design strategy and launch great new products and services.

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

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Selected Writing


Jony Ive and the Myth that Only Certain People Can Design In a new window...Published in Harvard Business Review Blog, July 1, 2019

The Failure of Fast Education In a new window...Published in EdSurge, June 2, 2019


The Divisiveness of Design ThinkingPublished in Interactions Magazine, May-June, 2018

Want To Build A Culture Of Innovation? Master The Design CritiquePublished in Fast Company, January 1, 2018

How I Teach

How I TeachJanuary 15, 2018


The Simple Idea That Drives Creativity At Amazon, Airbnb, And Dell: Think Small.Published in Fast Company, November 14, 2017

Creative Clarity

Creative ClaritySeptember 15, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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