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In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last year, Detria Williamson, former Chief Marketing Officer of IDEO, said that “diversity can be engineered and inclusion cannot.” In this episode, we dive deeper into that statement, and also ask Detria what roadblocks she encountered over the course of her career—from working as a head of marketing in Dubai, to her most recent role at IDEO. We also ask her about what it means when design becomes commoditized, and how remote and hybrid work impact inclusivity. Bio Detria Williamson is an internationally recognized digital marketer, who for over 20 years has helped category-leading companies become experience-led and content-driven. Informed by her experiences living and working from the U.S., London, Singapore, and the Middle East, she created the ICX (inclusive customer experience) approach, enabling visionary leaders to embrace inclusivity as an end-to-end element of their business ecosystem.
Guy Kawasaki has certainly had a remarkable career. From gaining popularity as the Chief Evangelist at Apple for the Macintosh computer in the 1980’s, to authoring fifteen books, to hosting the Remarkable People podcast, Guy has made a habit of trying new things  During our conversation with Guy, we talk about why it’s important to be able to make a sale, no matter what your role is. We discuss the start of his career at Apple, and how he got developers to write software for a relatively unknown platform. And we ask his advice for people just getting started in their own careers, whether that’s in tech, writing, or entrepreneurship.
In his book The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda says that “simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.” Our final guest this season, Eileen Fisher, is a master at making the simple, meaningful. Eileen is the founder of her eponymous and iconic fashion brand Eileen Fisher, Inc., which is known for its ethical & sustainable practices, and elegant yet simple clothing. She started the company in 1984, and grew it from her first sale of $3000, to annual revenue of over $300 million. We speak with Eileen about her design principles, how she thinks about form, function, and sustainability, and how systems thinking has helped her develop a brand that stands the test of time. We’re so glad you joined us for the sixth season of our show, and hope you were inspired along the way. Stay tuned for the next season, and in the meantime, we’ll be sharing some of our best episodes from past seasons, in case you missed them. Thanks for listening. Bio Eileen Fisher founded her women's fashion brand in 1984, with $350 of startup money. It's since grown into a company with over 1200 employees and hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue. The company focuses on producing simple, timeless clothing, with sustainability initiatives including selling used pieces in excellent condition, resold through their Renew take-back program, as well as a Waste No More program which transforms damaged clothes into a new felted fabric, used to create wall hangings, pillows, and other accessories.
If you’re a fan of architecture and design, you’re probably familiar with the mid-century modern movement. It brought a simple, clean aesthetic inspired by the Bauhaus and International movements to the US. Heath Ceramics, founded by Edith Heath in 1948 and influenced by mid-century modern principles, is still making beautiful hand-crafted tableware and architectural tile in Sausalito, California.  We wanted to chat with Heath’s current owner, Robin Petravic, to find out how they approach designing within the legacy of the Heath brand, as well as the story of how he and his partner and co-owner Catherine Bailey came to be owners of the company.  We also talk with Robin about how the pandemic affected their business, and some of the collaborative challenges and opportunities they faced in transitioning to a hybrid-remote scenario. Bio   Robin Petravic runs the day-to-day business of Heath Ceramics with a focus on operations, manufacturing, and retail. As co-owner, he also sets the long-term vision and goals for the company which is led by design and a passion for creative opportunity, with the responsibility to ensure they are met while maintaining financial viability and the ability to continue to invest for the long term. In business since 1948, the company has 130+ employees and is headquartered in Sausalito, CA, where all design, marketing, and administrative functions are based, and has two factories in Sausalito and San Francisco which produce all of is ceramic dinnerware and tile. Prior to Heath Ceramics, Robin studied product design in the MFA program at Stanford University, and worked as a product designer and mechanical engineer at several companies.
Vicki Tan has worked at companies that change the way we travel, think about our mental health, and access music from around the globe. To each of these roles she has brought her background in psychology, to better understand the needs of the people using these products. We chat with Vicki about some of the things she has learned over the course of her career, from Lyft to Headspace to Spotify, the ways that the pandemic has changed her work and her creative process, and how her team does research.  Vicki also talks about why she regularly takes a sabbatical from her work, and why “finding umami” is important to figuring out the core mission of a company.  Bio Vicki Tan is an Associate Principal Product Designer at Spotify Earlier in her career, she was a senior product designer at Headspace, worked on communication and UX design at Google, and product design at Lyft. According to Frank Yoo, design director at Lyft, Vicki “is positive and thoughtful and puts as much care into people and teams as she does creating the artifacts themselves.”  
The way that we work has been disrupted by the global pandemic, and for those of us who are fortunate enough to have kept our jobs, it’s also caused many of us to question why we do what we do, and wonder if there are ways we could have a more positive influence on the world. We thought it would be great to speak with Judy Wert, co-founder of the executive search agency Wert & Co, who has guided many leaders through navigating career changes, and who shares her perspective on knowing when it’s time for something new, and when it might be better to stick it out. We also chat with Judy about pay transparency, the kinds of skills that individual contributors should cultivate to advance in their career, and tips on negotiating your salary. Bio Judy has been working with the leadership of innovative companies for over 25 years. She has earned an international reputation as a pivotal force in executive search. A trusted authority in the world of design and business, Judy is also known for bringing an added dimension to her work—a humanistic approach—fostering deep relationships through empathy, intuition, and curiosity.
Do you have a colleague who just doesn’t get what design is all about? Or maybe you’ve tried explaining it to your parents, but they just respond by asking you to fix their printer. If that’s the case, then Scott Berkun has written a book for you, to give to them. It’s called How Design Makes the World, and it’s a great beginner’s guide to how design shapes just about everything we interact with in modern society, for better or for worse.  It is also a good refresher for those of us who are more well-versed in design. Scott—who has written other bestselling books like The Myths of Innovation and Making Things Happen—does a great job of distilling design concepts down into everyday examples that are accessible and engaging. In our conversation, we chat with Scott about the differences in thinking between designers and engineers, what UX design has to do with deep-sea anglerfish, and how good design is often shaped by understanding the constraints on a product. Bio   Scott Berkun is a bestselling author and popular speaker on creativity, leading projects, public speaking, design and many other subjects. He’s the author of eight books, including  How Design Makes The World, The Myths of Innovation, Confessions of a Public Speaker, and The Year Without Pants. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Guardian, Wired magazine, USA Today, Fast Company, National Public Radio, CNN, NPR, MSNBC and other media. His popular blog is at and he tweets at @berkun.
The most innovative electric car announced in 2021 was not a Tesla, but a Ford. The new Ford F-150 Lightning, a fully electric version of the best-selling vehicle in America for the past 30 years, is the culmination of thorough user research and fresh thinking on a familiar product. We were curious to learn how design and innovation are playing a role in Ford’s transformation, so we’re excited to bring Sandy Fershee, lab director at D-Ford Detroit, on to the show.  Sandy talks about her role at D-Ford, and we also discuss the challenges of doing research & development in a large organization, how her team shares their design and innovation tools with the whole company, and how they approach design at the intersection of hardware and software. Bio   Sandy Fershee leads a human-centered design team at At D-Ford Detroit, pushing the edge of Ford’s future strategies. They design new products, services, and ventures that customers love and drive business profitability. Prior to this role, Sandy was the global leader of Experience Design at Ford, transforming Ford’s ways of working through human-centered design and creating new possibilities for future customer and business value. Sandy was also Managing Director at the agency Punchcut, and Design Manager at Motorola.
Over 50 years after humans first landed on the moon, it’s still extremely difficult—and expensive—to get anything into orbit. But imagine if there were a more affordable way to give scientists and entrepreneurs access to space. We could develop more efficient agriculture to feed people more affordably and sustainably, or more closely monitor the evolution of dangerous storm patterns to save lives. The company Astra is on a mission to do just that, by creating a lower-cost platform that offers smaller, more frequent launches to get satellites into space. We sat down with Astra co-founder and CEO Chris Kemp to learn more about how his teams collaborate on the immense technical challenges involved, and how design is playing an increasingly important role as traditional control room roles become automated. Chris has an impressive background, from founding 3 companies to being the CTO of NASA, and we dive into the arc of his career, the lessons he has learned in leading people, and how he communicates mission and vision to his teams. Bio Chris is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Astra. Previously, Chris founded several tech start-ups and served as the Chief Technology Officer of NASA, where he introduced new technologies into America’s space program and founded OpenStack, the largest and fastest-growing open-source project in history. While at NASA, Chris worked at the White House to develop the cloud strategy for the United States. Chris has been recognized in the Silicon Valley Business Journal "40 under 40," the CNBC Disruptor 50 list, and received the prestigious "Federal 100" award for his service at NASA.
In its 144-year history, the Rhode Island School of Design—also known as RISD—has graduated numerous notable designers and creatives, from graphic designers Shepard Fairey and Tobias Frere-Jones, to painter Kara Walker, to cartoonist Roz Chast, to Airbnb co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. Rosanne Somerson became president of RISD in 2015 after a distinguished teaching career there (and after John Maeda’s departure). We speak with her about some of the common traits of RISDs most successful graduates. We also learn what she brings from her own studio practice of furniture design to her current work, how COVID has changed higher education, and about the power of a degree in the arts. Rosanne also talks about how the overlap of disciplines leads to innovation, and the importance of staying connected to your craft.  Bio An accomplished educator, academic leader and furniture designer, and a sought-after speaker and juror, President Rosanne Somerson is an advocate for the arts and the relevance of RISD’s unique type of studio-based education. As the 17th president she is committed to expanding inclusion, equity and access to enhance a genuinely rich learning environment full of diverse experiences, viewpoints and talents. Somerson is also a practitioner with three decades of experience directing her own furniture design studio. Somerson has deep roots at RISD—extending back to when she was an undergraduate student at the college in the 1970s. In 1985 she returned to campus to teach furniture design, and in 1995 became the first leader of RISD’s new Furniture Design department, helping to establish its strong reputation in the field. After subsequently serving in several academic leadership roles on an interim basis, Somerson emerged as the top candidate in two separate international searches, which led to her appointment as provost in 2012 and then president in 2015. An interview with Somerson is included in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art Oral History Project and she has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts along with the James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Crafts Educator Award and a 2019 Pell Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Arts.
If you’re lucky enough to look up into a clear night sky and see the thousands of stars visible to the naked eye, it’s hard not to wonder, “are there other planets like ours out there?” Our guest for this episode, Professor Sara Seager, is on a mission to discover potentially habitable planets outside our solar system.  Sara is an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT, and to discover these exoplanets, she relies not only on her own brilliance—she’s the recipient of a Macarthur Fellowship, otherwise known as the “Genius Grant”—but also on some pretty extreme collaboration across different disciplines. In the course of our conversation, we talk to Sara about how these teams push beyond initial friction, and how giving herself permission to fail has driven much of her success. Sara is also the author of a memoir titled The Smallest Lights in the Universe, and we talk to her about the book and bringing her full self to work Bio Sara Seager is the Class of 1941 Professor of Planetary Science, Professor of Physics, and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her past research is credited with laying the foundation for the field of exoplanet atmospheres, while her current research focuses on exoplanet atmospheres and the future search for signs of life by way of atmospheric biosignature gases.  Professor Seager is involved with a number of space-based exoplanet searches including as the Deputy Science Director for the MIT-led NASA mission TESS, as the PI for the on-orbit JPL/MIT CubeSat ASTERIA, and as a lead for Starshade Rendezvous Mission (a space-based mission concept under technology development for direct imaging discovery and characterization of Earth analogs). Having authored three of her own books (’The Smallest Lights in the Universe: a Memoir’, ‘Exoplanets and the Search For Habitable Worlds’, and ‘Exoplanet Atmospheres: Physical Processes’) and edited a fourth, Sara has experience consolidating years of research into an authoritative resource and is credited with producing a book that “will be a bible for students and professionals interested in exoplanet atmospheres.”
To Sell is Human. That’s the title of one of Dan Pink’s books, and also the foundational concept for his recent Masterclass on persuasion. Dan is also the bestselling author of books like When, Drive, and A Whole New Mind, and we sat down with him to discuss how we’re all tasked with selling something in our day-to-day roles, and why collaboration is the key to being persuasive. We chat with Dan about creating meaningful connections in a Zoom-dominated workplace, and giving teams a sense of purpose given all that is going on in the world today. Dan also dives into the reasons that design literacy is critical for all business leaders who want to remain relevant. We hope you enjoy this mini-masterclass with Dan, and thanks for joining us as we kick off the sixth season of the show.
If you’re anything like us, you’ve been watching more than your fair share of Netflix this past year. And with such great original content, from The Queen’s Gambit to more obscure shows like Midnight Diner, we were curious what it takes from a product design perspective to create and deliver these shows to a massive audience, in a way that’s accessible not only to audiences here in the US, but all around the world. So we sat down to chat with Steve Johnson, Vice President of Design, and Rochelle King, Vice President of Creative Production at Netflix, to talk about how they approach inclusive design for a global audience, how they use a data-informed rather than data-driven product strategy, and why looking for passion rather than for credentials might be the key to your next great hire. This is the last episode of Season Five of the Design Better Podcast. But don’t worry, Season Six is just around the corner, where we’ll be sharing interviews with guests like bestselling author Dan Pink, who will teach us how to use persuasion to be better at our jobs, and Professor Sara Seager, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist whose research on exoplanets can shed light on how we can be better collaborators here on Earth. Also, in-between seasons we’re going to do a bonus Q&A show, where you’ll have a chance to record your questions about design, creativity, leadership, or any of the topics we cover here on the show and we’ll do our best to answer them. Just head over to and fill out the short survey there to submit your question.  Takeaways: Learn about the ROI for inclusive design Hear how the design team at Netflix approaches the power dynamics between product and design Understand how to prioritize and say no to work that won’t impact the business
Of the designed objects we interact with on a daily basis, our homes are probably the most influential on the way we live our lives. In Apple’s new series Home, the creators investigate the ways that some of the world’s most imaginative dwellings help their occupants reframe the way they live and work. In this episode, we chat with Matt Weaver and Doug Pray, who are both executive producers for the show. Matt also produced several other notable documentaries, including Chef’s Table and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. In addition to directing several episodes of the Home, Doug has directed or produced a number of documentaries including The Defiant Ones, and collaborated with Doug on the documentary Surfwise. We’re always curious how creative folks in different industries address challenging design problems, so we asked Matt and Doug about how the subjects of Home used their own stubbornness and resilience to push their projects forward, how constraints of location and material encouraged creative solutions, and about some of the common threads they see across creative disciplines.  Takeaways: How the creators profiled in Home think about seeing: seeing in detail, seeing the unseen, seeing opportunity where others don’t, seeing a better way. How design can shape behavior by building community, connecting us to nature, and calming and shifting emotions. The benefits of bringing professional life into personal life, and living an intentional life. Bios Doug Pray is best known as a director of feature documentary films about American subcultures and maverick individuals. He has also directed short films and documentary-style commercials for a wide range of major clients and causes. He received a BA in sociology from Colorado College and an MFA from the UCLA School of Film and Television. He recently wrote, edited, and executive produced The Defiant Ones (2017), a television documentary mini-series that aired on HBO and garnered a Grammy Award and five Emmy nominations. Matt Weaver is an executive producer of Apple’s TV series Home, and also produced many other notable documentaries such as Chef’s Table, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, The First Monday in May, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
As we head into a new year—and leave behind a year that was challenging for just about everyone on the planet, with the hope that this year will be better for all—we wanted to share an interview with one of the most optimistic, creative, and insightful people we know: designer, entrepreneur, and educator Jason Mayden. When we first interviewed Jason in 2018 for one of our Design Better Conversations, we knew we had to get him on the podcast. He had such a unique perspective on design as a service to humanity that we sensed our audience would love to hear his story. We spoke with Jason on a wide range of topics, from how a near-death experience in childhood shaped his career and life, to how he maintains his energy and focus, to why being a polymath is an enormous advantage in today’s job market. We finish the interview on a topic that strays a little from our usual subjects but is ultimately more important: how through all of our individual struggles we can benefit from recognizing our shared humanity.  Takeaways: Learn what drove Jason to create his company SuperHeroic, and what he took away from the process. Hear how servant leadership shapes his work and creativity. Understand how Jason designs his life using tools like creative direction and brand strategy, Bio In his previous role at Nike, Jason oversaw the design and execution of all conceptual products, data-driven innovations, and inline lifestyle and performance product for Jordan Brand, as the Senior Global Design Director. During his 13+ year career at Nike, Mayden led and contributed to the creation of innovative sport performance products for athletes and cultural icons such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Derek Jeter, and Michael Jordan. In 2011, Mayden successfully received his Master’s in General Management and Social Innovation from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and shortly thereafter he returned to Nike as the Global Director of Innovation for Nike's Digital Sport division where he was responsible for the strategic investigation of new technologies and services, such as the Nike Fuel Band and the Nike+ platform. Currently, Jason is an advisor, d.Fellow and Media Designer at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, a frequent lecturer at Stanford University’s prestigious Graduate School of Business, and an advisory board member to his undergraduate alma mater, the College for Creative Studies.  
It all started with a box of cereal. Well, that’s not exactly the beginning, but when Brian Chesky and his roommates had maxed out their credit cards while starting up what would become Airbnb, they had a crazy idea to continue funding the company by designing and selling limited-edition cereal boxes during the 2008 presidential election, and call them Obama O’s & Captain McCain. Now, 12 years later Airbnb just made its initial public offering—IPO—on the Nasdaq on December 10th, and what a ride it’s been. In this interview we speak with Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, and learn how being a designer has influenced the arc of his journey, leading a company from a 3-person startup to a public company. We talk about what it’s like to design for trust during a pandemic, and the power of having a clear company mission that all can align to. If— like some of our colleagues— you’re living in or working from an Airbnb right now, or have taken your family on a holiday made possible by them, we hope Brian’s story will be especially inspirational. As always, thanks for listening, and enjoy the show. Takeaways: Learn how Airbnb designs with a mission of belonging, to counteract the loneliness so common in our digital-first era. Hear why Airbnb organizes their teams by customer journey Learn about Project Lighthouse, Airbnb’s effort to combat discrimination.  
As designers and design leaders, most of us understand the ethical importance of making our products accessible and inclusive for all the people who use them. But we don’t always understand the best way to go about doing this, or the business case for making it a priority. That’s why we were excited to speak with Annie Jean Baptiste, Head of Product Inclusion at Google. Our recent guest John Maeda said, "If there is one voice in tech to listen to right now, it is Annie's on the material impact of inclusion in business today and in the future."  Annie recently wrote a book called Building For Everyone: Expand Your Market With Design Practices From Google's Product Inclusion Team. We ask her about what spurred her to write the book, along with some of the strategies she uses for researching, designing, and shipping inclusive products. We hope you come away from this conversation with some ideas you can bring back to your own team, to make better products for everyone. Thanks for listening. Takeaways: Learn about the "ABCs of Product Inclusion" which Annie writes about in her book Hear about hiring practices to build inclusive teams Get guidance on how to build this role into your own team.
In the wake of a worldwide pandemic and economic catastrophe, many of our friends and colleagues in the world of digital product design are fortunate to have kept their jobs, but there have also been many who were not so lucky. We thought it would be timely to bring in an expert who has been using a designer’s mindset to help people reframe their approach to their careers. Bill Burnett, co-author of the bestselling book Designing Your Life, has written a new book called Designing Your Work Life. Bill has been the executive director of the design program at Stanford for 13 years and has also taught one of the most popular elective classes there (which his first book was named from). He and his co-author Dave Evans have taken what they have learned from teaching and running workshops for adults in the midst of a career or life transition to come up with a framework for using tools like curiosity, reframing, radical collaboration, and a bias to action to transform your work life and find the best job for you. In this interview,  we speak with Bill about how adopting a designer’s mindset can help you through your current challenges if you’re searching for work. We also chat about how grit and perseverance maps to happiness at work, and how setting aside time for reflection can help you understand what changes you need to make to find a better job (which may even be in your current company).  Takeaways: How setting micro-goals can help you achieve positive change at work. Why you might think about redesigning and iterating on your role at your current company if you’re unhappy. What the idea of “generative quitting” is, and why asking the question “What am I doing wrong?” might be a good idea before you decide to quit. Bio Bill Burnett is the co-author of the NYT Best-seller Designing Your Life. He’s also co-director of the Life Design Lab at Stanford University. He’s a designer, educator, and an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University. He’s also the Executive Director of the Design Program where he manages the undergraduate and graduate degree-granting programs and advises 70 -100 students annually.  
We’re not ashamed to admit that, when we booked Debbie Millman for our show, we were a little intimidated. Not by Debbie herself, who always comes across as kind, smart, and thoughtful in the interviews she does for her own show, Design Matters.  But just knowing that we were interviewing a pioneer in the podcasting space, someone who has been interviewing designers and creatives for over 15 years, and who spends a huge amount of time and effort researching each of her guests… that had us a little nervous. That fretting turned out to be completely unwarranted, as Debbie is as gracious and entertaining a guest as she is an interviewer. In addition to her long-running podcast, Debbie is the President Emeritus of AIGA and chair and co-founder of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.  We spoke with her about the role that teaching plays in her learning process, and covered a range of topics from ethics in design to the differences between being a designer and an artist.  Takeaways: Learn why it’s important for design to be personal, even when you’re designing for other people. Hear how digital product designers can learn from other creative disciplines that have a long history. Find out how to stay in better “career shape,” whether you are a recent graduate or further in your career.
  Over the arc of his career, John Maeda has been many things: a professor at MIT, president at the Rhode Island School of Design, a Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins, head of Computational Design and Inclusion at Automattic, and now Chief Experience Officer at Publicis Sapient.  In our interview with John, we learn how curiosity and humility have driven his wide-ranging and accomplished career. We also dive deep into his recent CX Report, which was formerly called the Design in Tech Report (we ask him about the name change). We discuss why algorithms have the potential to narrow our point of view, and why digital transformation is so hard for companies that are lower on what he refers to as the “Kardashev Scale.” Takeaways: Why “shipping your org chart” may not be a bad thing. What “L.E.A.D.” products are (Light, Ethical, Accessible, Dataful). How design becomes more important as the frequency of interactions with digital products increase Bio John Maeda is an American technologist, designer, engineer, artist, investor, author, and teacher. He is Chief Experience Officer at Publicis Sapient, the technology consulting and delivery arm of communications and marketing conglomerate Publicis. Maeda serves on the Board of Sonos and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.  He has held positions with Automattic, the parent company of; the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins; served as president of the Rhode Island School of Design; and began his early career at the MIT Media Lab at the intersection of computer science and visual art. Named as one of the “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century” by Esquire, Maeda draws on his diverse background as an MIT-trained engineer, award-winning designer, and MBA-community translator to bring people and ideas together at scale.  He is the author of several celebrated books, including The Laws of Simplicity and Redesigning Leadership. He has appeared as a speaker all over the world, from Davos to Beijing to São Paulo to New York, and his talks for TED have received millions of views. 
Comments (6)

Shilan G

There's something wrong with this episode, I can't play it.

Jun 15th

Samson Kirigua

Nice! I learnt vital stuff on this episode from the discussion with Affoneh especially on the part about a seat at the table.

Mar 18th

Lara Templemore-Walters

Then I must be the second designer on the planet who is a certified scrum master 🤣🤣

Dec 4th

Lara Templemore-Walters

Very motivational, thank you!

Oct 25th

Franziska Franz

most interesting

Feb 1st
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