Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Here are some highlights of what have we been up to over the past year to contribute to making a positive difference in the world. Accompanying the highlights are hints about some of what is in the works for the future.

A significant focus of mine has been an exploration of the relationship between design and activism. Are designers becoming the new activists? Is human-centered design itself a form of activism? What are the benefits of framing design as activism? Are there potential hazards? In what ways does such a framing help identify shortcomings of human-centered design and design education, as well as help identify ways in which human-centered design, at least as typically practiced, needs to change?

I addressed these and related questions in all sorts of ways over the past year, including via a panel I moderated during San Francisco Design Week, …

an article I wrote about some of the issues and the panel, a published conversation I had with Jon Kolko about some of the issues, and several talks I’ve given, including a talk I gave to personnel at Fjord ATX earlier this month, talks I’ve given to different groups of design students in San Francisco, and my talk at the Interaction Design Education Summit in Lyon France in February. 

Susan has also been addressing these issues, including via moderating a panel about the broader topic of what it takes to be an ethical startup. 

Look for work of this nature to continue, expanding to workshops of various types (e.g., how to move beyond human-centered design as typically practiced, how to be an ethical entrepreneur). Some of these workshops will be related to workshops we’ve already offered publicly over the past year in San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Austin on how to design more effectively for social impact.

And there is overlap between all of the above and what I do as a member of the faculty at the Austin Center for Design, which offers comprehensive study in interaction design and social entrepreneurship. The advanced theory course I taught most recently there is of the nature needed by more designers and design students (see my conversation about this with Jon Kolko). Look for us to explore ways of addressing this need.

Additional writing I’ve done over the past year on issues of relevance to the above includes “The dilemma of empathy in design” and two more subtle pieces, “Yet another dilemma” and “The benefits of riding the bus.”

Healthcare has continued to be another of our areas of focus. Susan’s work supporting Vayu has continued and has included helping Vayu design and implement a “shared value” strategy to support its healthcare mission (see her talk about this at the YOW! 2017 CTO Summit in Australia in the video below). Look for more work from us on helping organizations apply principles of shared value.

Among my efforts over the past year to impact this industry was my participation as a mentor in Health 2.0’s TECHquality program which is attempting to increase diversity among health technology innovators and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. This effort included remote workshop facilitation that enabled an important project breakthrough.

Susan has also been addressing diversity issues…

…and has continued her work helping people transition into and otherwise learn about the field of design. For example, she has continued to teach General Assembly’s UX Design Immersive course in both Sydney and San Francisco, …

...was one of the main speakers at UX Hong Kong 2018, …

…and spoke to undergrad and grad students of interaction design at the University of Technology Sydney just last week about what it is like to work in the profession.

I’ve done a bit of work along these lines during the past year, including teaching short introductions to UX design and interviewing a wonderful designer on-stage at the de Young Museum.

And there is more we’ve been up to, including advising designers and design firms, and more is in the works, but I’ll end by referencing how vigilant we are about being out there, learning about what people are doing, and connecting with people trying to make a positive difference in the world. We attend and in many cases participate in a variety of events in a variety of ways (e.g., last week’s REGEN18 during which I tweeted up a storm for them, and, tomorrow evening, a performance at Red Poppy Art House where I’ll be working the door!). We hope to see you out there.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Some of what we have been and are up to…

In my last blog post here, I described how we had spent “a month of exploring what OE Strategy is about, what we want it to be about, and different ways of better achieving that. We’re motivated to work in multiple areas and in multiple ways, but think it might be best to be more focused.”

Well, our path forward since then has certainly not been more focused, though we haven’t necessarily come to the conclusion that it shouldn’t be. Nevertheless, we’ve maintained our overall focus on working with people and organizations seeking to make a positive difference in the world.

Among our recent consulting activities: Susan has been mentoring an international design agency, while I’ve been working on design (process) strategy with the head of a department at an Austin medical center.

Susan has continued her work with Vayu, which recently received the attention of ABC News:

I took my students to an Austin Forum on Technology & Society entitled, “Transforming Healthcare Through Innovation”…

…as part of an advanced theory course that I taught at the Austin Center for Design, an educational institution focused on applying design and entrepreneurship in the space of large-scale wicked problems. I wrote about the section of the course focused on healthcare in “Applying anthropology, design, and theory to medical education and medical practice.”

The reaction of the Dean of the Dell Medical School:

I wrote about the course as a whole in “Teaching theory at the Austin Center for Design.”

Susan spoke on ways to address wicked problems at Pivotal Labs Sydney.

I facilitated part of a “social impact create-a-thon” in Austin focused on creating safe ways for people to engage in constructive political dialogue, while Susan led design thinking workshops at Semi Permanent Sydney 2017 and spoke at “Inside the Minds of Brilliant Designers.”

We both taught more for General Assembly, me in Austin and Susan in Sydney and San Francisco.

I’ve got involved with a nationwide group of people seeking to do something to fight ageism in the workplace, following up on a piece I wrote about my experiences of it. I also participated in the recent Design and Exclusion conference.

And much more. A couple more small examples:

That last photo is of me at a recent Creative Mornings ATX. I just can't get enough of that monthly event.

Finally, we’re both putting together two events to occur during the upcoming San Francisco Design Week:
  1. “Question Everything: Workshop to Help You More Effectively Design for Social Impact”
  2. “Are Designers Becoming the New Activists?”
Watch our tweets — @oestrategy, @riander, @susanjwolfe — for more on these events and for more on what we are up to and care about.


Sunday, November 27, 2016


This past month has been a month of exploration for OE Strategy — a month of exploring what OE Strategy is about, what we want it to be about, and different ways of better achieving that. We're motivated to work in multiple areas and in multiple ways, but think it might be best to be more focused.

Some of our exploration was facilitated by several professional events one or both of us attended (not surprising, given the importance we place on such events). After attending a talk by Jen Pahlka (Founder & CEO of Code for America) at Creative Mornings Oakland, I attended her Code for America Summit the following week — an event that repeatedly emphasized the need for and the importance of user experience research and user-centered design in civic tech. 

We’ve worked in this space before. For example, here is a subset of the projects of this sort on which Susan and the staff of the consultancies which Susan led in Australia worked:

Should we attempt to concentrate our work in this space?

We both attended a talk by Brett Hagler about the history and status of New Story Charity, a small non-profit which outperforms the large non-profits in building low-cost homes and communities in third-world countries. Brett emphasized the importance of co-design to their success thus far and revealed that they want to do much more.

Some of our work has focused on third-world countries. Should we concentrate our work on teaching or facilitating co-design to or for these kinds of startups?

Susan attended a panel on designing for social innovation which featured multiple examples during San Francisco’s Social Innovation Week, while I attended the Apps 4 Change Demo Day at UC Berkeley as well as a panel on designing to bring people together. Some of the presenters at all three events focused on health(care), which has been the focus of some of our work. Should all our work be in health(care)? If so, in what way?

I also attended a session on the challenges of shifting to co-design and of designing for recipients of research findings, and a session on organizational design for design organizations, some of many key issues faced by design leaders world-wide.

Both Susan and I have held multiple experience research & design leadership positions during our careers, and I’ve taught design leadership courses and workshops while writing a lot about design leadership issues. Should we concentrate our work on design leadership for organizations striving to make a positive difference in the world?

We’ve also been contacting other individuals and organizations working in the above areas, inquiring about potential partnerships and soliciting their advice.

What advice do you have for us? Should we concentrate our work on a particular area such as one of those mentioned above, and if so, which one and in what way? We’d love to hear from you. (See our website for current contact information, or just leave a comment below.)


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Education & training as experience strategy

Appreciation for the experience design profession is rapidly increasing, as more and more organizations are elevating and often differentiating their products and services via the user/customer experience. Now, more than ever, the world needs professionals who understand experience design and can execute on it.

Susan and I have been teaching experience design and related topics for years. Susan used to teach undergrad and graduate user experience courses at San Francisco State University, Latrobe University, and the University of New South Wales. I taught user-centered design courses via the University of California Berkeley Extension and user experience management courses via the University of California Santa Cruz Extension. We’ve both taught experience design and management workshops at a variety of conferences and companies, and we’ve both written numerous articles and made presentations at numerous professional events. I was Co-Editor-in-Chief of interactions magazine for 3 years.

We continue to make contributions of a related nature. For example, we both teach graduate level user experience courses for the Academy of Art University, and we both teach experience design courses — one of them a 10-week, 5 days/week, 8 hours/day immersive — for General Assembly.  I’m also likely to co-teach another user experience management course later this year.

Healthcare projects are one of OE Strategy’s priorities (e.g., Susan is involved in two projects seeking to improve access to healthcare in developing countries), and many of my recent writings and presentations have been about how designers can maximize their impact on healthcare design projects. Here is a partial list:
My most recent presentation took place just last month during a meeting of the Stanford School of Medicine Design for Health course (ANES 206). The topic for the evening was design with empathy, and I shared the instructor podium with IDEO’s Annie Valdez.

Susan and I will continue to teach about experience design, and I encourage you and your organization to take advantage of the increasing number of opportunities to learn more about it. Doing so would be a part of an optimal experience strategy for any individual or company.


Friday, January 10, 2014

The value of local professional events

Susan and I take the opportunity to attend lots of local events of relevance to the work we do. We are fortunate to be based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where many such events are held. Years ago, both of us contributed to the start of these local events by being on the founding committee for BayCHI, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of SIGCHI (the ACM Special Interest Group in Computer-Human Interaction). I had the privilege of serving as BayCHI's first program chair, responsible (for 12 years) for BayCHI's monthly speaker series most often held at Xerox PARC. Susan programmed events for the local chapter of the Human Factors Society.

Today, the BayCHI monthly speaker series is still going strong, but it has been joined by many others. Programs that one or both of us attend include those focused on the quantified self, lean UX, online community management, enterprise UX, design strategy and research, homeless innovation, healthcare redesign, social media, interaction design, entrepreneurship, mobile UX, health technology, creativity, service design, patient engagement, and leveraging technology for social impact.

We particularly like the programs in which we can participate. We've both led such programs, including my interview of Jon Kolko and Don Norman at the Academy of Art University (see photo above), and Susan's hosting the Stanford's crash course in design thinking in Sydney (see photo at left). And we enjoy participating in design jams -- often two day workshops in which multidisciplinary teams identify and design potential solutions to real-world wicked problems. I've participated in six design jams, one of which focused on healthy food access and preparation problems experienced in a poor and rough neighborhood of San Francisco, one of which addressed how Goodwill might repurpose textiles they collect that are currently going to waste, and one focused on redesigning the business model for Fair Trade USA. We both participated in a design jam focused on easing the challenges student immigrants face when navigating the U.S. legal system, and Susan participated on the winning team in a design jam focused on helping corporations and city management embrace the new peer-to-peer economy.

All these events help keep us fresh and current. We embrace them as an important extension of our worklife, and we encourage others to do the same. If you don't live in an area with lots of these kinds of events, consider making your contribution to the growth of the peer-to-peer economy by organizing one or more. You'll be glad you did.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Open for business!

We are pleased to announce that OE Strategy is open for business!

We've been readying for this announcement for some time. Among our recent activities: preparation of a simple website describing our services and some of our past and present work. Our tagline: "Experience research, strategy, & design thinking for organizations seeking to make a positive difference in the world."

Should you be interested in learning more about what we do, we'd love to talk with you. Just give us a holler. See our website for current contact information.