The sad state of news media, the hunt for good content & more on UX Discovery Sessions

In this episode of UX Discovery Sessions, Gerard Dolan and I talk about some of the workshops I teach at Cooper (Design Leadership, Designing Culture, UX Boot Camp), what’s been happening with news content (the sad degradation of it), some sources I like for better content/stories, and my fantasy of creating a designing culture conference for startups. Thanks, Gerard, for a lovely conversation!

From Superman to the Avengers: Rethinking Bruce Mau Design

[Excerpt from an article I wrote for UX Magazine. Full article here.]

Everyone loves a hero. But what happens to

organizations when their heroic leaders retire?

Four years ago, Bruce Mau Design (BMD) faced this dilemma. The company’s infamous founder, Bruce Mau, left so that he could create a platform to address bigger global issues that were meaningful to him called the Massive Change Network. Those who remained at BMD and its new President and CEO, Hunter Tura, were presented with an interesting opportunity: reinvention.

Curious about the culture of BMD today, I interviewed Tura in his Toronto office. Here are some takeaways for teams and organizations from their evolution.

Rethink Your Mental Model

Bruce Mau Design was founded upon what Tura describes as the “Superman model,” which meant the founder was seen as the “creative auteur” of the company. Mau’s exit gave the BMD team an opportunity to rethink how they positioned themselves, what services they wanted to offer, and how they wanted to work together. Read the rest of the article here.

What’s Culture Got to Do With It?

In short, everything.

Does your work culture make it challenging for your team or organization to do great work? Well this could be the year you make it better. Have a look at this talk I gave at Fluxible 2013 about the role and impact of culture on organizations…and tips for improving yours.

Make Culture, Not War: The Secret to Great Teams & Organizations

If this talk inspires you, perhaps you and a few folks from your team/organization might want to check out our newly launched 1-day Designing Culture Master Class at Cooper. This training aims to help people intentionally approach their team or organizational culture – through a cultural assessment, visioning and goal-setting exercises, and development of a tactical plan to improve their culture (some of the topics I hits on in my talk below). I’ll be facilitating this workshop along with Susan Dybbs, Managing Director of Interaction Design at Cooper, in our San Francisco offices on Friday, January 31st.

We are also offering Designing Culture in-house training for organizations that would benefit from having a larger group (management, teams, etc) go through this process together. Contact us at for details.

Soul+Mates: My latest creative project, Dec 4-7 in San Francisco

For the last 6 months, I’ve been creating a short film, Amalga(mate), as part of a collaboration with Choreographer Stacey Printz and her dance company, Printz Dance Project. The entire project is about the concept of soul mates — are they real, how do you find them, what form do they come in, etc. The evening starts with an exhibition of my film + photography by Andre Hermann. Then everyone moves into the theater space for a dance performance by Printz Dance Project. The set alone is worth coming to see (designed by Sean Riley). I also interviewed 8 people about soul mates & audio clips from that conversation will be integrated into the film soundtrack and the live dance performance. Lastly, electronic music artist Kraddy is creating the music score for my film and the dance performance. This short video about the entire project that will give you a sense of all the players involved. Please come, and bring friends!

Dates: Dec 4-7
Location: Z Space, 450 Florida Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Time: Exhibition from 7-8, Dance performance starts at 8. On Saturday Dec 7 there is also a matinee (3pm exhibit, 4pm dance performance).


Design, art, film and bicycle safaris

Excerpt from a fun little interview I did with the Fluxible folk to promote a talk I’m doing at their conference, Sept. 14th: Make Culture, Not War: The Secret to Great Teams & Organizations. I’m really looking forward to this event; they are doing a great job of thinking of ways to make the experience much more fun and engaging than your average (boooooring) conference. You should come play with us in Canada!


We have to admit we have a bit of a crush on Teresa Brazen. This super talented multimedia whiz is a Design Education Strategist at Cooper, where she draws upon experiences from a wide range of disciplines to inspire curriculum, teach, and build community.

Teresa’s interest around questions like how we might invest in relational chemistry or integrate new team members have driven her most recent work on designing culture, a topic on which she has both spoken and blogged. She also uses film to explore her curiosities, some of which have been featured in galleries around the world, including the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

And oh yeah — did we mention she’s also a talented artist? Swoon! It’s easy to see why we’re thrilled to have Teresa joining us at Fluxible this year.

We recently chatted with Teresa about design, culture and a few things Canadian.

Q: What’s the one UX tool you couldn’t live without? 

The honest answer is empathy. This industry has taught me a great deal about how to step outside of my own shoes so that I can really see and understand the experience of others. That has come especially handy in my culture work, because one of the foundations of a healthy team culture is having empathy for your collaborators. Really understanding what they need, their point of view, what they listen for in conversations. It’s funny — we spend an awful lot of time learning about users, but we don’t apply those same skill sets to the people we work with every day.

Read the rest of the interview on!



Interview on CBC’s Spark: Designing Workplace Culture

I’m thrilled to be a part of this episode of “Spark” (A show about culture and technology with the lovely host Nora Young, for those not familiar. It’s a popular show on CBC radio, essentially Canada’s NPR.). I discuss how workplace culture impacts the ability of teams to be creative/innovative – and what you can do about it. I’m on at about 25 minutes into the show.


Why it’s still as important as ever to build and nourish community online. Designing workplace culture to foster innovation. The NSA is watching you, what can you do? And, if this is the age of global connection, why are we still hanging out in our own digital backyards? Listen here.

Fundraiser for a new project: Soul+Mates

Join us this THURSDAY, Sept 12th as we drink wine, share good eats, watch snippets of dance, and raise money for an exciting new collaboration! Tickets:

I’m excited to announce that I’ve been invited to work with choreographer Stacey Printz on a new dance performance + art exhibit. The show, “Soul+Mates”, explores longing, love, and its longevity in our 21st century reality through visceral contemporary dance.

For this project, I am writing, directing and acting in a short film about the search for “the one”. Electronic artist Kraddy is creating a musical score, using audio snippets from an interview I conducted with eight intriguing individuals about their own search for love. I’m also working with my long-time favorite cinematographer, Brandon Hopp, who has been my creative partner-in-crime for many of my short films.

The film will be shown on the night of the Soul+Mates dance performance, along with photography by the talented Andre Hermann, at the awesome Z Space in San Francisco. Tickets aren’t on sale YET (show will run November 30-December 8), but if you are Bay-area-based, you are invited to join all of us in a fun evening to raise $ for the entire project . Details below:

Printz Dance Project’s Fall Mixer and Performance

Join the dancers and other prominent guests from the Marin and SF art community for drinks, hors d’oeuvres and conversation at Servino’s in Tiburon. 

When: September 12th, 6:30-9:30pm

Where: Servino’s, 9 Main Street, Belvedere, Tiburon, CA 94920


Enjoy live music, a preview dance performance by Printz Dance Project at 7:30PM, and bid on a wide variety of silent auction items to support Printz Dance Project and their upcoming production. Find out more about this hot up and coming dance company that is taking SF by storm, and get the early buzz about its next production: Soul+Mates.

Designing Culture: New Ways to Think About Work

How might we…

  • invest in relational chemistry?
  • encourage personal leadership?
  • integrate new team members?
  • gain alignment around vision?

These are just a few of the questions I pushed a thoughtful group of folk to explore (with the aid of the fabulous Kendra Shimmell. Thanks, Kendra!) in July’s Cooper Parlor, Designing Culture. The evening was focused on ways to be intentional about creating a creative culture and work environment. 70 attendees from design, digital technology, city government, engineering firms, art museums and more shared their desires, challenges, and experiences in shaping the culture of their workplaces.

We also looked at case studies of companies taking  innovative approaches to culture, such as:

  • Morning Star’s practice of asking staff to write personal mission statements for how they will help the company achieve its goals (side note: they don’t have managers; they are beholden to their mission statement and one another). Read more about them in this fantastic article by Gary Hamel.
  • Whirlpool’s “The Real Whirled”  (yes, a play on MTV’s The Real World) deep-immersion onboarding program. Seven new employees lived in one house outfitted in Whirlpool products for 2 months, visited manufacturing plants, research centers, stores, service calls, and more, to gain a deeper understanding and empathy for customers and colleagues.
  • Salesforce’s Personal Excellence Program, based on the philosophy that when staff value personal development, teams benefit. Select staff focus on an area of personal development for eight months through facilitated groups and individual coaching.

We all walked away from this Cooper Parlor with new ways to think about work. See for yourself in the video of the event below, and if you feel so inspired, share a culture tip or trick in the comments so we can all benefit and grow from your knowledge. If  your team would benefit from a workshop like this one, drop us a line about custom training at We love making house calls. 

Designing Culture at Interaction 13

I had an amazing opportunity to lead a group of designers and managers through a Designing Culture workshop at the Interaction 13 conference this year. They dug into their team/organization culture, their current impact upon it, and uncovered opportunities to make change. Then, they created new practices to take back to work and try out (gleaned from examples of experiments that other companies are trying, techniques they heard from other participants, and individual brainstorming exercises).

Here’s a 1 minute snapshot to give you an idea of what the day was like:

And here is just one of the fabulous participants (the lovely Angel Anderson) who made the experience so special (with a worksheet of new practices).

Thanks to the Interaction Design Association for the opportunity to meet such great people and help them cultivate healthier, more engaged cultures.