Sharing my story and learning yours

Let’s get together!

I’d be delighted to share my story and learn about yours. From guest lectures or critiques to workshop hosting or facilitating, even jurying – you name it. Smash the button below to complete a form with as many details as you have, and I’ll be in touch.

Upcoming engagements

World Interaction Design Day hosted by Adobe, September 24, San Francisco, CA

Design Thinkers, October 2019, Toronto, Canada


Brand is Product is Marketing is Operations (version 2)

Joint Futures
Helsinki, Finland
September 3, 2019

How is music like design? Why do teams start out more integrated and aligned, and how do things get messed up along the way? When you create a world that previously hasn't existed, how do you keep it orbiting together as it grows? As it turns out, it's the context of work that makes a huge difference. If you want to create a truly intentional and conscious experience, you’ll need to pay the most attention to design operations, design systems, socio-cultural programs, the end-to-end employee experience, and more. In this talk we’ll see how people persist more than products, so you’ll learn proven methods for paying more attention to this layer. Especially at this critical moment in society and on our planet, now is a terrific time to focus on the integration and intersectionality of teams.

Photo by Eija Jokilahti Photography

Photo by Eija Jokilahti Photography


Brand is Product is Marketing is Operations (version 1)

South Dakota Advertising Federation
Sioux Falls, SD
March 21, 2019

In the beginning… teams start out aligned. Startups with design leaders or design co-founders have more value and impact than those who don’t. How might we keep this alignment during a business’s growth phase? By taking an integrated, holistic approach to our work – and ourselves. And by being X-shaped humans, not T-shaped. As it turns out, this holism means there’s no difference between brand, product, marketing, operations, or other teams.


People Persist

Global Innovation Forum (GIF) London
London, UK
November 15, 2018

Continuing on the People Layer journey, I presented 15 lenses through which we can all Be More Human – the theme of this year’s Forum. Below is a live-sketched capture of my talk, enmeshed with others.

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Then, Now, Next: The Evolution of the Design Business

Bucharest Tech Week
Bucharest, Romania
May 15, 2018

I looked at three distinct eras of the practice of design, talked about how teams have organized or (re)configured in each era, and unpacked the benefits and opportunities within each. It was fun to be the sole designer (and American!) in a day of technology-focused talks, including one that featured robots. 

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What Persists: People, Process, and Performance

HOW Design Live
Boston, MA
April 30, 2018

It was so great to be back in Boston, the home town of my first business, Schwadesign. I shared an updated People Layer framework, diagnosed why “process” is resisted in the world of startups, and shared half a dozen resources to optimize individual, team, and organizational performance. 


Get Shit Done Club

Designers + Geeks
San Francisco, CA
April 5, 2018

I love to get shit done and help teams do the same. I’ve been a member of the GSD club since I was a kid. But these days, there’s so much demand on getting things out the door and so much focus on the numbers (not to mention quality control) that it can feel, well, shitty. This talk shared proven methods of shipping without the shit.


14 Lessons x 22 Years

Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
Arizona State University
Phoenix, AZ
October 25–26, 2017

I shared with students some 14 lessons I’ve learned over 22 years of work, with a bonus 15th lesson on a few commonly overlooked (and fundamental) professional practices, such as writing thank you notes. The next morning, I met separately with faculty from various departments and shared with them some lessons from the field. Kudos to my pal Jason for taking on the challenge of redesigning the largest design school in the country.


The People Layer 1.0

Clarity: A Design Systems Conference
San Francisco, CA
November 28–30, 2017

A design systems conference is a great place to talk about the o.g. atomic units of the design practice: people. 


The People Layer (beta)

Hopscotch Design Festival
Raleigh, NC
September 6–9, 2017

The People Layer is the deepest, most complex layer of any organization. It persists beyond changes in aesthetics, code, UX, UI, operating systems, devices, tools, and trends. Diagnosing and identifying problems on this layer will make you more empathic, a better collaborator, and will ground you with skills that persist.