Trained originally as a cultural anthropologist, I have spent years immersed in other cultures and creative spaces. I excel at understanding how people relate to and make meaning of the world they live in, and I bring this expertise to design research and practices. I invite you to explore the gallery below, which highlights fieldwork with amazing people all over the world.
My main work is UX research and design, getting in the field to understand users and then applying my skills to deliver insights and create new and improved products and services. There is nothing quite like traveling the world, studying people, and then using that knowledge to create. I bring to design the cultural sensitivity and global perspective that more and more companies are finding essential to success in an increasingly globalized world. Several innovative companies (Google, Apple, IBM, IDEO) already employ experts with an anthropological skillset in end-user ethnography (e.g. UX) and design strategy. That is part of what I offer.
I also work as a creative catalyst and coach for the Eliad Group (https://eliadgroup.com). Our goal is to help organizations and communities become more healthy and innovative. This expertise derives from years of research into innovative ecosystems, which led to the publication of “The Art of Co-Creation: A Guidebook for Practitioners.” The text is a user guide to designing for and facilitating collective intelligence. In it, co-author Matti Hamalainen and I layout how to design for and lead design or organizational teams through the creative process. These human-centered, co-design methods serve as the foundation for how I approach design practices.
As if this wasn’t enough to do, I also teach design courses at the New School of Architecture & Design and UCSD. I have been teaching for a long time, and I truly love passing on my skills and mentoring students to succeed. Being connected with design education and local initiatives like D4SD and Design Forward Alliance helps me realize one of my social impact goals – fostering a collaborative, supportive design community. Together I believe we can shape the world to be whatever we want it to be, and I am glad to be one of those people that helps make it happen.
My history with design began working in the music industry as a lighting and sound engineer, as well as DJing. I helped design and produce events, and have since consulted many musical and other immersive multimedia environments (IME) projects.
In graduate school, my MA thesis was a 2-year study of an IME –the rave musical culture in the 1990s. An ethnographic study aimed at understanding how such experiences could shift worldview, the end product of this research was an experience design manual on how to create transformative spaces. I have since published and spoke about designing musical IMEs, including at the Ableton Loop event in Berlin, which brings together the best minds in the electronic music industry.
For my Ph.D., I spent two years in Japan studying how modern-day businessmen and women found meaning and power in an ancient religious system. While perhaps not traditionally thought of as design research, religious systems are incredibly effective at transforming the mundane into sacred, a lesson not lost on Steve Jobs with Apple keynotes. I have since used this knowledge to design and facilitate creative leadership and other growth-oriented programs.
In 2013 I took a position in the School of Design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Assistant Professor of Digital Media for the MSc in Multimedia Entertainment Technology program. There I taught design psychology, user research methods, global marketing strategy, sound design, and other design-centered courses. I supervised intercultural design teams from project inception to prototype, mentoring them in teamwork, design methods, and project management. Projects included mobile applications, web platforms, game development, and IME design. This was a pivotal time for me, helping me transition into an applied design professional.
While at the School of Design, I was able to express my own creative ideas. I designed and built a unique sound design classroom, one of the first using Ableton and real-time collaboration across all workstations. I also designed and built a flexible, reworkable collaborative work environment in the Innovation Think Tank. This served as the home for the Co-Creation Initiative (CCI), where we experimented with spatial arrangements and processes to explore how to build cultures of innovation.
In 2016 I returned to the USA to write my book on co-creation and co-found the Eliad Group, with the aim of bringing what we had learned in CCI to the world. Now I find myself a bit hard to define, because I don’t fit into typical career trajectory boxes. Am I a design researcher? Yes. But I am also so much more..and my diversity is my strength. I am a transdisciplinary scholar-practitioner that integrates ethnographic methods, design practices, and creative team development in my design and consulting work. Deeply engaged with work that integrates UX & CX research, design thinking, and facilitation, I help create insightful and engaging user experiences, products, and services.
If you need design research, facilitation of creative workshops, team development, experience or brand design, I am here to help.