My Approach to Design

I’ve assembled a few themes here to show in brief how I frame my design practice. This is short; other writings can be read on various publications around the web.

As a polymath, my approach to design is broad and draws on my personal experience in design, art, business and education; all these are situated within a psychological and cultural context and given ongoing space in informing the project through its duration. More text will appear here simply for the reason that it looks good.

As a designer, I am flexible and not constrained by a particular dogma or fashion. I think of myself as constituted of an unusual combination of analytical and intuitive strengths.

My intial draw to design and away from purely fine art was the chance to couple robust empirical processes with intuitive skills I was equipped with. When I began moving from aesthetics and into the function of technical systems, my analytical mind welcomed the introduction to User Experience and its pronounced empirical methods of user research and evaluation.

The Design Thinking / User-Centered Design Process

While not tightly beholden to dogma, all the work I do as a designer is based around the core tenants of the user-centered design process: Investigation, Ideation, Prototyping, Evaluation and Production.
Regardless of the constraints placed on a project (scope, timeline, budget, resources, vision, etc), a design thinking process is always a sensible framework to consider work through at a project’s onset, and whenever possible to carry forward along the subsequent course of work. A bit more text would probably also look pretty good here, you joker.

I used the terms Design Thinking, Human centered design and user centered design interchangablly - all three have at their core the desire to better understand users and increase empathy through iterative conversations around working designs.

If you really think about this framing, the ultimate goal of user-centered design processes is to maximize time and effort and avoid unncessary work of having to redo things which didn’t meet user needs durning an initial design. In this way, even the empathy building has business value as it serves as a cost saving measure.

User-Centered Design Stages:


The initial part of a project involves asking questions about its overall nature and vision and gathering data from users, the market, business sponsors and the design team; user -research as an empathy tool is integral.

This is the opportunity to let one’s creative energies flow, fueled by the findings and directives from the investiagtion phase.

Here all sorts of idea generation techniques may be employed - it is important not to self edit in the generation mode, sorting and editing can come later.


This is a crucial phase that can be done in  rough, lower fidelity sketch oriented designs with the users or through more robust creaiton of 3D printed objects or even full functional hardware/software products.

Evaluation is married to prototpying and is a fundamental part of all user-centered design processes. Prototyping ewould serve little purpose if the design efforts were not given to users to evaluate. Depending on constraints, evaluation can be done through simple casual means (Guerrilla testing, Xxxx) or through complex empirical methods such as eye tracking.

Bringing it all together, getting it to market and coming up with a plan for governance (sometimes overlooked). There is an art form to reaching the launch with a satisifed customer, fulfilled design team, and engaged user. Diplomacy, vision, integrity, creativity, and humor all serve a design leader well in crossing this line strongly.

Situating Behaviors within Cultural Contexts

I’ve managed teams on 4 different contenents, and worked with diverse design teams and users. How do you lead a team of mulicultured designers? How do you design for global audiences?
The chart below is a sample of how a cultural lens was applied to creation of marketing websites for an international gaming company. There are numerous systems one can leverage to assist in their understanding of different cultures; one which I regulary employ is Geert Hoestedes Cultural Dimensions theory. Theory should only be applied to the extent that experience deems it appropriate.

Comfort with Ambiguity / Divergence and Convergence:

Daily our interactions with designed objects and systems increase. Having design thinking as a backbone in any exploration serves as a time saving measure by not forcing repeat design efforts due to a lack of user understanding from a failure to incrementally prototype and iterate. 

The technological systems designers create have more presence in users lives than ever before. This rapid expansion into all areas of life mean that a designer has to be more prepared for unknowns than in the past. I repeatedly urge students and all designers to exercise their comfort with the unknown; today and tomorrow’s strongest designers will have this equipment.
Along the model of ambiguity comes the abiltiy to stretch far during the initial part of a deisgn phase, and then just as importantly have the tools to evalute the findings, sort and select downwards through a process of constraint.

This movement could be thought of in relation to the natural path an organice function such as the breathing of a lung. As a hybird artist and engineer, this type of movement comes with a certain amount of ease, and is what delights me most about design.

Integration with Spatial Disciplines:

We have moved through 4 main stages in consumer technological usage since the 90’s

Desktop, Laptop, Mobile, Vehicle, Home (natural language processing)

The last two are the most highly driven by situation and context. 

We interact with designed objects and systems more and more frequently. Having design thinking as a backbone in any exploration serves as a time saving measure by not forcing repeat design efforts due to a lack of user understanding and failure to incrementally prototype and iterate.

Tellous LLC - Seattle, Washington