Hello, IDEO. We first met four years ago on a sunny day in Palo Alto.

I was a student attending the inaugural a2ru Emerging Creatives conference at Stanford. Day 1 was the infamous Introduction to Design Thinking workshop at the d.school. And it was love at first prototype.

11 brands, 3 cities, and a myriad of sticky notes later, I’ve discovered that catalyzing groups through design is what I love most. Bringing people together. Inspiring curiosity. Active listening. Doing.

Design for Change is my calling.

Taking Ownership

The X-Factor in Design

I had an epiphany this year. My client didn’t need a designer, they needed someone to unite product and engineering.

Over the past six months, I’ve been working closely with a cyber security startup. They affectionately describe themselves as the “world’s biggest little company.” This meant most of the team came from an enterprise background—not a conducive environment for the needs of a growing startup. It explained the strained and siloed relationship between product and engineering.

As the only designer, pitted between clashing interests, I took it upon myself to understand the friction points of each stakeholder. Engineering was concerned because they weren’t given ample time to scope new features. Product was upset because every time they presented a new user story, engineering would tear it apart.

Root problem? Collaboration.

Since change happens over time, I decided to try an experiment. How could I facilitate an environment that would foster more communication and trust? A weekly UI/UX work share emerged. It was positioned as an open door gathering for anyone to come see what we’ve been working on, ask questions, brainstorm, and participate in the feature refinement process.

One month in and it’s already improving the quality of work. By taking initiative through design, we’re seeing more iteration, more efficient grooming sessions, and most importantly, developed trust between teams. After all, we all want the same thing—to build a better product.

Consulting is more than just being a creative strategist or an advocate for design. Sometimes, you also need to be part therapist.

Talk Less, Do More

Building a Creative Community

Amongst all the React Meetups, Startup Weekends, and Code Bootcamps… something was missing.

We’ve all been to happy hours, presentations, and panel discussions. For me, they leave something to be desired. There’s an inescapable dry formality. Too rehearsed. Too polished. Too predictable.

Yawn.

If there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I like to do unorthodox things. This got me thinking for Design Hour… what if we tried something different? Say, for example, creative-tailored improv?

From that reflection, Pitch Masters came to life. The premise is: a presenter gets up and gives a 1-2 minute pitch on a surprise topic. As in, you have no idea what you’re going to be talking about until you’re on stage. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying.

I set a date and got down to planning. This included everything from securing sponsors and directing competitors, to getting the community psyched. I even brought in two improv experts from Denver to judge and award prizes.

My favorite part was seeing the deck each competitor created. They were assigned to one another Secret Santa style, so you could play up the other competitors’ strengths or weaknesses. They covered everything you can imagine from art-based cryptocurrencies and mock apps to Why Raccoons are Man’s New Best Friend.

Pitch Masters was a hit. Several weeks of logistics culminated in an incredible evening of roaring laughter, pizza, and libation-fueled professional development.

Embracing Ambiguity

Designing in the Dark

In an uncharted industry, where do you start?

I discovered WebVR at a conference last summer in Los Angeles. Josh Carpenter, the UX Lead for WebXR at Google, gave a perspective-shifting analysis on the future of the web. Before the talk was even over, I was messaging our CEO on Slack… “We have some Google Cardboards in the Virginia office, right? Will you ship one to Boulder? I have an idea.”

Four weeks later, we launched our first WebVR project—Lights Out. Six weeks after that, we built Vigeverse. Then, I went to an AR/VR hackathon at MIT, where we built Luminate. It was an amazing whirlwind.

Diving into the world of XR (Extended Reality) wasn’t all roses and demos though. For every ounce of motivation, there was an equal sense of overwhelming doubt. What am I doing? Where do I even start?

In an industry dominated by hardware and engineering, there are tons of resources for developers, but very little for design. It was intimidating, but I saw it as a call to action. That’s the challenge of trying something new—you just have to embrace the unknowns and start making.

Since then, I’ve set out to lower the barrier for others. I’ve been busy writing articlesfacilitating community discussions, teaching microclasses, and presenting at universitiesSpeaking at Denver Startup Week last year was a definite highlight. Together, Prayash and I have become an emerging tech presence in the community and the face of XR Design and Development at Viget.

I’m still making. Still learning. Currently, I’m building a virtual dictionary of my favorite obscure words.

The Epilogue & The Prologue

There’s always a new perspective, a pattern, or a story waiting to be uncovered. Nothing is more powerful than when you combine that mindset with the right people, at the right time. That’s the beauty of Design for Change. The process is elusive, messy, and awe-inspiring. It sets my soul on fire every time.

Whether I’m prototyping with clients, bringing the community together, or pursuing a passion project—that innate curiosity is intertwined with everything I do. I’m ready for the next chapter.

And that adventure begins at IDEO.