September 5, 2023

Rachel Kobetz Joins PayPal as Chief Design Officer

Former Global Head of Design at Expedia Group brings extensive design vision, experience strategy, and operational leadership to PayPal

PayPal today announced that Rachel Kobetz has joined the company as Senior Vice President and Chief Design Officer (CDO), reporting to John Kim, Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer. Rachel joins PayPal following more than 20 years in senior leadership roles building design organizations at some of the world’s largest companies. 

Rachel comes to PayPal from her most recent position as SVP and Global Head of Design at Expedia Group, where she was responsible for leading the company’s Experience Design organization. Her responsibilities included design vision, experience strategy, and operational leadership for products and services for all Expedia Group stakeholders, including employees, travelers, partners, agents, and developers. Prior to this, Rachel was SVP and Head of Experience Design at Bank of America where she led the Experience Design organization to drive the end-to-end transformation of core product and service experiences. Rachel was also the Head of Studio, New Product UX at Amazon’s Design Group, and prior to this was Senior Director of UX at Samsung’s Mobile Innovation Lab.   

In her role as PayPal’s SVP and CDO, she will be responsible for the design strategy and execution at scale across all end-to-end experiences (including PayPal, PayPal Braintree, Happy Returns, Honey, Venmo, Xoom, and Zettle) for consumers, merchants, developers, and employees globally. 

“Rachel has a standard of excellence, creativity and innovation that we are excited to leverage during PayPal’s next phase,” said John Kim, EVP and CPO. “Her experience in financial services and consumer tech coupled with her ability to make technology more human makes her the perfect choice to help us create our next generation of experience-led products and services.” 

“We have a massive opportunity to evolve our products and deliver ground-breaking design,” said Rachel, incoming SVP and CDO at PayPal. “I bring a renewed focus on design strategy, craft, quality, and innovation. And with other leaders throughout the company, we can elevate our experiences to set the bar within and across industries.”

Read more at PayPal Newsroom:

August 19, 2023

Nodes of Design Podcast

I had the pleasure of joining Ravi Tej on the Nodes of Design podcast, where we discussed Intelligent Interfaces and the evolution of design leadership in an intelligent future.

We talked about what intelligent interfaces are, how they’re reshaping our interactions with technology, and how designers’ roles will evolve in this new future. Enjoy!

Listen to the episode here

May 22, 2023

Decoding The Future: The Evolution Of Intelligent Interfaces

A futuristic smart city during the day, with skyscrapers, greenery, and a large rectangle pool of water reflecting the buildings and the sky
kobewan x Midjourney 2023

In the tech world, there's always a 'next big thing' on the horizon. Right now, that horizon is dominated by conversations about artificial intelligence, mainly ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and Generative AI tools like Midjourney and Dall-E 2. Some professions are embracing Generative AI, while others are fearing it.

Included in that conversation is a lot of talk about chatbots. But chatbots are not the future, they are our present. In many ways, chat interfaces are the foundation of more conversational and natural interactions with systems and computers, but really they are the start of something much bigger.

We’ve been anticipating this future for a while, but it hasn’t really been possible until the last couple of years when the right ingredients and technology have converged. It’s an exciting time.

Ubiquitous Computing and Intelligent Interfaces

What happens when we move beyond our screens and unleash computing power, the internet, and AI into the real world? It starts to get interesting. Welcome to the age of ubiquitous computing — the future of intelligent systems.

Ubiquitous computing, also known as pervasive computing or ambient intelligence, is a concept first proposed by Mark Weiser, Chief Technologist at Xerox PARC, in the late 1980s. Weiser later wrote a paper on the topic in 1991 titled "The computer for the 21st century". The idea behind ubiquitous computing was to create an environment where computers were embedded seamlessly into the physical world and where human-computer interaction was natural and effortless. Where we forget about the underlying technology. Weiser envisioned a world where computing would be "invisible," and users would be surrounded by an "information fabric" that would provide them with relevant information and services.

Ubiquitous computing has been somewhat realized in the Internet of Things (IoT), the network of interconnected devices and sensors embedded in everyday objects, from smart homes to self-driving cars. But, the original vision of ubiquitous computing as a truly seamless and integrated experience has yet to be fully realized.

Then there are intelligent Interfaces, representing a paradigm shift in human-computer interaction. Unlike traditional GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) that require users to learn the system's language, intelligent interfaces aim to make the system understand the user's language. Instead of humans adapting to the system, the system adapts to them. Intelligent interfaces leverage human instincts and behaviors to create a more intuitive experience. These systems integrate artificial intelligence (AI) and can leverage everything from touch interfaces, voice recognition systems, and gesture-based controls to brain-computer interfaces — they’re multi-modal.

These intelligent systems can make our interactions with technology more intuitive, natural, and efficient. Think Siri, but on steroids. So as we stand on the brink of a new era in human-computer interaction, it's worth exploring how these interfaces have evolved, where they're headed, and how they will revolutionize how we interact with devices and the world around us.

“The future is already here — it's just not evenly distributed.” 
— William Gibson

Current State

The journey has been gradual, with momentum building in the last five years. It started with command-line interfaces, moved to graphical user interfaces, and then to touch interfaces with the advent of smartphones and tablets.

A spectrum that illustrates the evolution from interfaces that are built around computers to interfaces built around humans, from punchcards, keyboards, and mice to touch, voice, gesture, and gaze.
Slide from my Leading Innovation presentation, 2019

Today, we're already seeing the beginnings of intelligent interfaces. Technology is getting smarter, from Alexa managing our smart homes to AI algorithms recommending our next Netflix binge. They're in our phones, our cars, even our refrigerators. And they're changing the way we interact with technology. We’re now using much more natural and multimodal interaction in everyday objects. We're seeing the rise of voice interfaces like Apple's Siri and Google Assistant, gesture-based controls in gaming systems like the Nintendo Switch, and even early versions of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) from companies like Neuralink.

As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to using biometrics, like facial recognition and fingerprints, to authenticate and unlock our devices. Even BMW is starting to use gestural interaction and gaze for hands-free interaction in their cars. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) interfaces are becoming more popular, providing immersive experiences that blend the virtual and real worlds. This is seen in devices like the Meta Quest and Microsoft HoloLens.

Interaction patterns of the future.

The chat interfaces we’re seeing today with ChatGPT and others are setting the foundation for multimodal systems of the future. The back-and-forth interaction volley will lay the groundwork for how systems interact with us, anticipating our needs, confirming our requests, and acting on our behalf.

We’ve seen glimpses of ubiquitous computing and intelligent interfaces in TV shows and movies, but it’s always seemed to be further into the distance. However, we’re now on the cusp of an explosion of product innovation that advances in AI, computing, and hardware will finally enable. It’s exciting that what used to be science fiction and innovation concepts are now becoming reality. Movies and TV shows have played a large part in inspiring us to push further.

Minority Report (2002)

One of the most famous examples is the user interface in Minority Report. The movie has been highly influential in shaping public perceptions of interfaces and has inspired real-world applications of gesture-based interfaces and other emerging technologies. Most remember the gestural interface used by Tom Cruise’s character, what’s not widely known is the computer system used in the movie. John Underkoffler of Oblong Industries created the g-speak Spatial Operating Environment, which uses natural gestures — no keyboard, mouse, or command line. Underkoffler also worked on the gestural holographic interfaces in Iron Man (2006).

Her (2013)

The gesture-based interfaces in Minority Report and Iron Man gave us a glimpse of what's possible, while the voice interface in the movie Her showed us a future where our devices understand us on a deeply personal level. Her explores the idea of natural UI, the potential for human-like interactions with digital assistants, and the potential implications of a future where technology becomes more integrated into our personal lives.

Maeve’s “Attribute Matrix”, Westworld

Another great example is Westworld, which explores the concept of ephemeral interfaces and artificial intelligence, where android hosts adapt and respond to the guests' actions and preferences in real-time, creating a highly personalized and immersive experience in a technologically advanced amusement park. It gets even more interesting when the androids return to the “real world.”

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blade Runner 2049 offers a glimpse into a future where projection mapping and augmented reality create immersive and dynamic environments. In the movie, projection mapping creates large-scale holographic displays that interact with the physical environment, creating an immersive and surreal atmosphere.

Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S. AI assistant and the virtual assistant FRIDAY in Captain America: Civil War are great examples of natural UI. These interfaces demonstrate the potential for natural language processing and machine learning to create sophisticated and responsive digital assistants to help us navigate our increasingly complex and interconnected world.

Intelligent Interfaces promise to make our interactions with technology more natural and effortless. By leveraging our behaviors and instincts, they can also reduce the learning curve associated with new technologies, making them more accessible to a broader range of users.

Emerging technology shaping the future

The interface of the future is not chat — it’s multimodal and ubiquitous.

The future is not pages and pages of UI flows or detecting whether you’re on desktop or mobile. Our future interfaces will be intelligent, contextual, and ephemeral. Just enough interface compiled in real-time, based on context and relevance.

UI that appears when it’s needed and hidden when it’s not.

The ability to interact by voice, touch, or typing, easily switching modalities based on what’s natural for the user. Where interfaces are fluid, and sound and haptics enhance calm, ambient interactions. A proactive concierge that provides what’s needed based on understanding who you are and gets better the more you interact with it.

Systems that adapt to humans instead of the other way around.

Imran Chaudhri, Co-Founder, Chairman, and President of Humane at TED 2023

Some companies are already working towards this vision of the future. At this year’s TED Conference, Humane’s Imran Chaudhri provided a preview of their unreleased tech, a system where AI, computer vision, and projection come together to create an assistant that’s with you throughout your day without using a phone — where the device disappears. Early views of this type of system are reminiscent of Pranav Mistry’s 2009 SixSense demo at TEDIndia of a wearable gestural interface, his MIT Media Lab thesis project. Pattie Maes, who runs the Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces research group, created a huge buzz at the TED main stage that year, introducing the project.

Mercury OS

Another team pushing the boundaries, former Apple designer and founder Jason Yuan and Sam Whitmore, have just received funding for, whose mission is to “create a future where computers intuitively adapt to humans, forging relationships as essential as the tools we use today.” Jason Yuan’s name may be familiar for creating Mercury OS, a minimal, fluid reimagining of the traditional operating system focused on the user’s intention instead of apps and folders.

Refik Anadol, Machine Memoirs

And some of the most experimental art may push the boundaries and help shape how we interact with future systems. Refik Anadol uses projection mapping and machine learning to create immersive AI data sculptures and interactive art installations. Anadol's work blurs the line between the physical and digital worlds, creating beautiful and thought-provoking environments.

Advancements in AI, machine learning, natural language processing, and human-computer interaction will likely drive the evolution of intelligent interfaces over the next decade. As we think about the types of new interactions and experiences that will evolve, here are some of the trends and developments that will influence that future:

  1. Multimodal Interfaces: Future interfaces will likely combine text, voice, visual, and even tactile inputs and outputs. This will allow users to interact with AI in whatever way is convenient or intuitive for them at any given moment. For example, you might speak a command to your AI assistant, then receive a visual response on your smart glasses.
  2. Context-Aware Interfaces: AI will become better at understanding the context of user interactions. This means that the AI will understand what you're saying, where you are, what you're doing, and what you might need in that specific situation. This could involve integrating data from various sensors and sources to provide more relevant and personalized responses.
  3. Emotionally Intelligent Interfaces: AI will become more adept at recognizing and responding to human emotions. This could involve analyzing voice tones, facial expressions, or even physiological signals to understand the user's emotional state and adjust its responses accordingly.
  4. Proactive Interfaces: Instead of waiting for commands, AI interfaces will become more proactive, anticipating user needs based on patterns, habits, and preferences. For example, your AI assistant might suggest leaving early for a meeting if it knows there's heavy traffic on your usual route.
  5. Immersive Interfaces: With advancements in AR, VR, and projection mapping technologies like those demonstrated by Humane, we can expect more immersive AI interfaces. These technologies could allow for more natural and intuitive interactions with digital content.
  6. Collaborative Interfaces: AI will become more capable of collaborative problem-solving, working alongside humans to tackle complex tasks. This will involve understanding and contributing to human-like conversations, including recognizing when to take initiative and when to ask for clarification.

In the future, we can expect more personalized and immersive interfaces. AI and machine learning will continue to make interfaces smarter and more adaptive. They'll learn from our habits and preferences, making our interactions with technology more efficient and enjoyable. AR and VR will continue to evolve, creating more immersive and interactive experiences, blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds, and creating new possibilities for interaction. Though still in their infancy, Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) hold the promise of a future where we can interact with technology using our thoughts alone.

We'll see a move towards more continuous, personalized, ambient interfaces. These interfaces will be seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, allowing us to interact with AI in a more natural and intuitive way, similar to how we interact with other humans. Consider a combination of voice, gesture, gaze, and even thought-based interfaces in the future enabled by technological advancements like BCIs.

The latest research in the field is fascinating. Scientists are exploring everything from AI algorithms to brain-computer interfaces, and their findings could revolutionize how we interact with technology. Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are developing systems that can understand and respond to human emotions, potentially making our interactions with technology more empathetic and engaging. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are making strides in BCI technology, recently developing a system that can translate brain signals into complete sentences.

Intelligent Interfaces represent the next frontier in human-computer interaction. They hold the promise of making our interactions with technology more natural, intuitive, and engaging. While significant challenges and ethical considerationsexist, the potential benefits are immense. One thing is clear — how we interact with technology is about to change significantly.

This is a more dense approach than my usual posts. As always, send me your feedback. If the community is very interested in this topic, I’ll write part two, where I’ll dive into intelligent interfaces' challenges, ethical considerations, and how the role of designers will evolve. I’ve been trying out ChatGPT as my research assistant, how did it do?

March 22, 2023

Navigating Organizational Politics: The Importance Of Shared Outcomes, Alliances, And Partnerships

Let’s break two myths out of the gate.

Keeping your head down and doing great work in isolation never yields the impact you want — it takes a team. And you can’t ignore organizational politics if you want to be successful.

As you move through your career, as you elevate and take on more significant roles, you learn that the lone hero model is a farce. Building products is a team sport. And when you’re driving transformation, collaboration is even more critical since you need to create a movement to make progress.

The relationships you build across the organization are crucial to getting any work out the door, let alone great work. Your network, reputation, and partners all come into play when driving strategic programs. Operational leadership is required to get things done, but you need shared outcomes, alliances, and partnerships to make your efforts successful.

1: Find ways to develop shared outcomes with other leaders.

You’ll run into challenges, and sometimes even a brick wall, when your agenda and goals are at odds with another leader.

Sometimes this happens because you’re driving transformation that would change the power dynamics that the leader is quite comfortable with. Other times it’s because you haven’t taken the time to get to know the individual, what’s important to them, and how to align what you are trying to achieve with what they’re going after. Let’s hope it’s the latter, and I’ll save that other topic for another article.

Shared outcomes are the way to get everyone facing the same direction.

2: Build alliances across, up, and diagonally within the company.

Alliances are the people that warm the room.

They’re the people that speak highly of you when you’re not present. The champions that start from a place of positive intent with your proposals. They’re not just people that like you; they’re people that want to help you succeed.

Alliances are critical to your success since they are often not directly involved in your programs but have work that loosely aligns or has dependencies. Usually, these alliances start because you garner alignment and trust; by doing so, the efforts you’re partnering on enable you to row in the same direction. When you begin to feel the wind on your back instead of your face, that’s when these alliances are working.

3: Drive collaboration with partners to get things done.

Get to know leaders across disciplines and teams that you’ll need to work with closely to get things done. Building great products and services requires teams that understand the meaning of collaboration and how to leverage each other’s expertise and strengths. So take the time to understand where your partners are coming from and what they’re trying to achieve, then develop alignment. Get to know them as people beyond the work you’re doing. Lean in and help them with something they’re trying to accomplish, support new proposals, and lead by example in the ways you’d like them to show up for you.

And pay attention to peer relationships. They are some of the most critical partnerships you’ll have. Your peer connections are more important than you think; along with your boss, they’re your “first team.”

Reflection Activity

If you haven’t created a stakeholder map/matrix in a while, you’re probably not paying enough attention to your relationships.

My recommendation is to couple the matrix with a plan for each individual and revisit it monthly. In Leading Without Authority, Keith Ferrazzi discusses creating a “Relationship Action Plan” for each person — that’s how meaningful building and maintaining relationships are to success. If this type of artifact doesn’t exist, take the time this week to create it. You’ll be surprised by what you learn and how much more intentional you will become in building solid relationships across the enterprise.

February 26, 2023

Increasing Influence: 4 Ways To Create Strong Partnerships And Alliances Across The Organization

People often overlook their relationships and networks’ importance in achieving positive outcomes.

Stop wasting time thinking you must do it yourself, and start making the time to invest in your relationships with peers, partners, and stakeholders. Not only will it enrich your experience and give you tailwinds, but many things you’re driving hinge on your ability to influence others — especially any change management or transformation work.

Here are four ways to expand your network and organizational influence:

1: Create connections that go beyond the basics.

Leverage 1:1s to understand partners’ and stakeholders’ visions, goals, and mindsets.

Find out what’s essential and drives them. Share what you’re doing and how you want to partner to reach those goals together. Think through a plan to get there. Take a similar approach with your boss (and their boss and peers) as you build your relationship.

Create forums or small groups to go deeper on topics and create an environment to share ideas, input, and feedback.

Many times, larger meetings aren’t the place for deep discussions. Create a space where you can have them with groups of 3–5 people. Ask for and share feedback once you’ve established a repertoire.

This step is a litmus of how well you’ve created an environment of openness and learning.

Align on shared outcomes that you work towards together. Instead of staying heads down in your world, spend time collaborating with partners and peers. Align your goals with what’s essential to the business — move the metrics that matter.

Cross the finish line together and continuously nurture these relationships.

2: Bring your systems thinking and enterprise mindset to the table.

Having a point of view within your area of expertise will be natural, which is required to gain credibility as an expert at what you do.

But where real enterprise operators are a cut above is when you lean into conversations outside your wheelhouse. Have a point of view on business topics and adjacent spaces that aren’t your discipline. Demonstrate across and up that you are thinking about the business and understand how functions come together across the enterprise to deliver value.

Make it evident that you are paying attention to the market and trends that could impact the company.

Establishing yourself as a functional expert is one thing, but showing up as an enterprise leader who understands how things connect will get you the street cred required to get included in strategic conversations and sought out for your opinion beyond topics around your discipline. Be prepared for meetings, and make sure you’re contributing.

Take inventory if you find yourself in meetings where you’re not talking.

3: Share thoughts and approaches early and often with others.

Don’t keep everything to yourself until it’s polished, waiting for a grand reveal.

Instead, invite peers and partners to contribute to proposals to make them better or highlight something you’ve overlooked. Strengthen your pitch by getting input and feedback from others. When others contribute and share diverse perspectives, the proposals are more robust and well-rounded, and others view your open and collaborative nature as something to reciprocate.

Socialize ideas before large meetings through 1:1 conversations.

“Warm the room” by having champions for your ideas and proposals before stepping into the [virtual] room. Meet with key stakeholders and showcase that you’ve addressed their concerns so they can provide support. This approach turns what would typically be a high-pressure approval meeting into a discussion of next steps.

It will feel uncomfortable at first — work through that apprehension and do it anyways.

4: Team across the enterprise.

Offer to lead or help on a program that cuts across business groups and is of strategic value for the company.

Use the opportunity to meet people you don’t usually work with and expand your network. Gain visibility on a company priority, and show up as an enterprise leader concerned about outcomes that have an impact. If someone else is on point, be a strong contributor and use that experience to build stronger connections with the people in the core team.

Keep those connections even after program completion, and find ways to broaden your network’s reach continually.

February 5, 2023

The Path Forward: 3 Ways for Leaders to Shape Design’s Future In Business

Photo: Carrie Johnson

What got you here won’t get you there.

Standing on the precipice of a new future and looking toward the horizon, it’s clear the landscape has shifted. And will continue to evolve. Design leadership is change management — and it’s time to transform ourselves.

Design leaders in this new future can no longer focus on the desirability circle of the HCD Venn diagram and expect other disciplines to handle viability and feasibility completely. Our leaders and teams need to be multi-lingual — it’s time to lean in.

Companies need and want catalyst leadership, but there’s an apparent mismatch in expectations.

Here are three ways to shape design’s future in business and thrive as a leader:

1: Develop an integrated skillset and leverage technology.

Bring together new domain knowledge and emerging technology to become a powerhouse.

T-shaped leaders move beyond design disciplines in this environment. Business and technical acumen are required. Emerging technology is embraced and leveraged.

Designers need to understand the human insight and business aspects of the work, including leveraging data that drives business, data science, and AI/ML. Forward-leaning designers must learn to use AI-assisted tools to increase space for more strategic work.

Fuse the strategic design and business strategy toolkit. Envision experiences through service blueprints, develop approaches through future casting and opportunity framing, and map directly to ROI.

Make the future tangible through visualization, mapping, and prototyping.

2: Demonstrate business fluency and impact.

Show up as a business operator that’s driving sustainable growth.

Gain a deeper understanding of how the business works and how it makes money. Discover how value is created and what’s essential to the company. What are the most significant external and internal threats? What is the business strategy, and are you more focused on exploitation vs. exploration?

Focus on the metrics that move the business.

Don’t waste time developing a new set of metrics outside the business’s goal. Align on shared outcomes. Develop a shared vocabulary that grounds discussions in reality vs. theory.

Design leaders require business fluency and the ability to directly connect the work to the impact it’s creating for the business. Otherwise, they end up focusing most of their time down instead of across and up, lacking comfort in business conversations and accountability to metrics that move the needle.

Directly connect the work to the impact and ROI.

3: Architect a culture of system thinking, experimentation, and collaboration.

Become the orchestrator and organizational designer.

World-class organizations will move beyond the basics. Develop embedded capabilities and practices like service design, experience strategy, design technology, and experience architecture. This also requires hybrid leadership.

Define, hire, and develop talent along a spectrum from craft to strategy.

There’s a skillset distinction between shipping products, building platforms, and defining and mapping business systems and opportunities. The right talent and alignment are needed for strategic design, with accountability to deliver outcomes. Create integrated processes, mechanisms, and operating models leveraging cross-functional teams.

Strategy and organizational operating systems are connected.

Develop strong advanced product teams with portfolios aligned to the company’s strategic intent and clear accountability to budget and outcomes. Adapt your organization to what the company needs now while building the capability to create value for the future in adjacent markets.

Build a culture of hands-on experimentation through prototyping, modeling, testing, and iterating.

This is an exciting time where design leaders can shape the future of business if they are ready for it. It requires an integrated skillset, business fluency, and a culture of experimentation. The time is now.

September 1, 2022

Design Hiring in 2022: Elevating culture to attract the right talent

Thanks Andrew Hogan and Figma for highlighting my post “10 Truths From Building Design Organizations at Scale” in your 2022 Design Hiring report, Elevating culture to attract the right talent. Great insights and perspective throughout — very timely and relevant.

August 21, 2022

Design Your Week: 3 Time Management Routines For Design Leaders That Keep Your Focus On Business Impact So You Can Drive Your Most Important Priorities 

Leading large Design organizations, I’ve realized one of the most important areas to gain leverage is through time management. I’ve prototyped many approaches to streamlining my days, maintaining focus, and getting results.

I’m going to share three routines that will provide leverage, allow you to scale, and drive impact for the business. I’m inspired to share these because I’ve used them myself, and reaped the benefits.

With these routines, I hope you’ll be able to achieve 10x results.

#1: Audit your calendar and align your schedule with your top priorities.

Make sure the meetings on your calendar move you forward on your most important goals. After you’ve defined your ruthless priorities, map out how meetings, reviews, and worksessions move those programs forward. Audit where you’re spending your time and remove as many unnecessary meetings as possible — aim for a minimum of 30% reduction. Time block your schedule to reduce context switching.

The reason you audit and align your calendar is to eliminate anything from distracting you from the priorities that will move your team and the business forward. This exercise has one of the largest impacts on your performance because it’s where you spend your time day-to-day. You never get more time in the day, but ruthless time management will help you get the most out of each one. Take back your schedule.

#2: Start every week with a planning session and end with a review.

On Monday morning, set aside 30 minutes to plan for the week ahead. On Friday, spend 60 minutes on a weekly review to recap the week, assess progress, and reflect on learnings. Making space for planning and reviewing will increase your velocity and progress against priorities. It will also highlight anything that’s creeping into your schedule that needs to be removed.

#3: Design your meetings for outcomes, and expect the same from others.

Meetings should only be to debate, decide, discuss, or develop your people. When you do require a meeting, make sure it has an agenda and clear outcomes. Otherwise, decline meetings like it’s your job. Everything else can happen asynchronously with digital tools.

I hope these routines give you the impact that they’ve provided for me. Reach out to me with any questions!

August 20, 2022

The People Who Have Influenced My Design Practice and Leadership 

Throughout my career, I’ve been influenced and inspired by many people, books, and experiences that have shaped my approach to the work. But there are a few who’s philosophy and perspectives have become part of my designer DNA and ethos.

By internalizing their teachings and perspective and evolving from them, I can attribute the foundation of my design practice and leadership to these influential people, who continue to inspire me and constantly renew my passion for design:

Charles and Ray Eames

“The details are not the details. They make the product.”

Not only were Ray and Charles an amazing couple well known for their modern furniture design, they pioneered work in film, environments, textiles, and architecture, and pushed the boundaries of what design means and could be. Their bar for quality and attention to detail are why I exude the mantra that the details are what separates good from great.

When asked by Madame L’Amic, curator of the exhibition “Qu’est ce que le design? (What is Design?)” at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais de Louvre in 1972, Charles Eames responds:

Q: “What are the boundaries of Design?”
A: “What are the boundaries of problems?”

Bruce Mau

“Design is the ability to imagine a future and systematically execute that vision. So if you think about what all designers do, they’re all futurists. They’re all thinking about what’s going to happen. They’re going to make something new happen in the world. They’re all trying to make the world a better place. I’ve yet to meet a designer who wakes up in the morning thinking, “I think we could do something worse.” That’s not our mandate. That ability to create a vision is one of the most powerful tools that a designer has. We don’t really understand how powerful it is — it’s an incredible power to create the future by showing somebody what it looks like.”

If you haven’t read Massive Change and MA24 — do it.

Dieter Rams

Dieter is a goldmine of quotes and inspiration, especially his ten principles for good design. Modern, minimal, and timeless, his “as little design as possible” philosophy always has me pushing teams to find the elegance in a solution, paring it back to its essence. Distill complexity, expose simplicity. But I find his approach to life and expectations for designers even more intriguing.

“Good designers must always be avant-gardists, always one step ahead of the times. They should — and must — question everything generally thought to be obvious. They must have an intuition for people’s changing attitudes. For the reality in which they live, for their dreams, their desires, their worries, their needs, their living habits.They must also be able to assess realistically the opportunities and bounds of technology.”

Brigitte Borja de Mozota

“Design is a management tool that creates differentiation in the internal capabilities of the company. Design is no longer seen as the output of design-form, but as a creative and management process that can be integrated into other organization processes, such as idea management, innovation management, and research and development management, and that modifies the traditional structure of process management in a company.”

Brigitte is a researcher in management science, and wrote one of the first books I read on Design Management, which became my handbook. Her work on The Four Powers of Design clearly outlines a balanced scorecard approach to measuring and communicating Design’s impact.

These leaders have shaped my design leadership approach, my practice, and inspired me to shape the world around me. I hope by sharing this it will move others to learn more about them and become inspired themselves.

July 23, 2022

Elevating the Customer Journey

Appreciate Fast Company including me and other industry experts for our perspectives on how consumer psychology can help you identify ways to exceed expectations and drive customer satisfaction.

"Deep customer insight stems from understanding the needs, wants, and desires of the humans you’re designing for. The strongest design and product leaders use a mix of qualitative and quantitative research, connecting behavioral and interaction data with ethnographic approaches like in-depth interviews. The quantitative data can tell you the “what” and “how many,” but the qualitative gives you the “why.”


Design leadership and operations, building world-class organizations that integrate human-centered design to drive product innovation and customer-centric culture.

© 2023 kobewan

The present is a beta of a better future.