Kathleen Brandenburg Talks Designing for Health on “The Visible Voices” Podcast

IA Collaborative Co-Founder and Co-CEO Kathleen Brandenburg was recently featured on “The Visible Voices” podcast, in conversation with host and practicing emergency medicine physician, Resa Lewiss, MD.

The two discussed the illuminating, necessary power of systemic thinking to solve complex problems; the importance of keeping research creative; and how human-centered design can advance health equity and positive health outcomes.

Rather than stay in the insulated, speculative space of assumed user needs, Kathleen champions the IA maxim “live the problem to design the solution.

This can mean suiting up in PPE in a high-temperature environment to uncover the lived experience of aid workers; lacing up and running alongside athletes when designing for better performance; or, scrubbing into the OR to directly observe how surgeons navigate an operation. The goal: Uncover not only the pain points but the bright spots empowering users — athletes, patients, doctors, or otherwise — to access the solution they seek.

“Design allows us to look systemically at everything. We look at all Five Human Factors; we don’t just think about the physical issues. We think about the social, the cognitive, the emotional, the cultural.”

— Kathleen Brandenburg, IA Collaborative Co-Founder + Co-CEO

You can listen to the podcast episode on thevisiblevoicespodcast.com or on Apple podcasts.

About Kathleen Brandenburg, Co-Founder, Co-CEO of IA Collaborative

Kathleen was an early pioneer and advocate for human centered design and one of the first to link design, business strategy and innovation. In 2000, she co-founded IA collaborative, a global design and innovation consultancy based in Chicago. Fast Company has named her a “Master of Design” and one of the 50 most influential designers. She has been a Harvard Visiting Professor of Design for Social Innovation. 

About Resa E. Lewiss, MD + “The Visible Voices” Podcast

Resa is a practicing Emergency Medicine physician and the first woman Professor of Emergency Medicine and Radiology at Thomas Jefferson University. She is the Director of Point of Care Ultrasound. She speaks, publishes, and writes on healthcare, equity, and current trends. She produces the Philadelphia-based “The Visible Voices” podcast, which amplifies voices that are Visible and those that may be Invisible.

An Ebola aid worker holding a young child

IA Collaborative Lives the Problem to Design the Solution

The Vision

Employing a design approach to get as close to the user experience as possible when developing solutions in a crisis situation, resulting in an award-winning Core Cooling Kit to combat the Ebola outbreak. Flooded by news reports of the ever-growing Ebola outbreak – and believing that any challenge is a design challenge – IA Collaborative was compelled to marshal company resources to design a solution to fight the pandemic.

The Process

IA Co-Founder and Co-CEO Kathleen Brandenburg first called an urgent “all hands” meeting to assess interest and assemble a team. Serendipitously, while IA Leadership was mobilizing the team, they discovered that the USAID had issued a Grand Challenge to agencies across the country for innovative ideas that could minimize the spread of Ebola and help save lives. The team made it their goal to answer the call. Thinking systemically about what was happening on the ground in affected communities, the team uncovered critical contextual information to guide the development of a Core Cooling Kit.

The Result

This elegant cooling solution employs available, local, and sustainable resources to nearly double the amount of time aid workers could spend in their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when saving lives in the field.

Five-Time Featured Speaker Dan Kraemer to Again Headline Design Thinking 2022

The IA Collaborative Co-Founder & Co-CEO Will Present on 'The State of Design + Business 2023'

Five-team keynote speaker Dan Kraemer will again headline the Design Thinking Conference in Austin, TX, kicking off the second of the three-day event with “The State of Design + Business 2023.”

An early pioneer of human-centered design, Dan has sourced insights from 20+ years of the most impactful engagements with brands including Nike, Apple, Google, Airbnb, and others.

Identifying that the growth potential of design thinking has never been more critical to the CEO’s agenda in 2023, Dan will reveal how innovators and leaders can, and must, move from prototype to pilot at an ever-increasing velocity.

His keynote will speak to the imperative faced by innovators to:

  • Strengthen the core while supplementing with recurring revenue services
  • Create virtuous feedback loops to drive consumer loyalty and longevity
  • Accelerate the velocity and hit rate of new offerings
  • And more
IA Collaborative Dan Kraemer Design Innovation Speaker
IA Collaborative Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Dan Kraemer, presents on leading the forefront of design and innovation.

Dan joins a distinguished speaker lineup for the 2022 Design Thinking Conference in Austin, TX. Speakers and attendees include design leaders from Morgan Stanley, Mastercard, Amazon, IDEO U, and others.

Read More

Dan regularly connects with leaders of the design innovation community. Read his Speaker Spotlight Interview with Netflix’s Fonz Morris, Lead Product Designer, Global Conversion, for more insights on how large, established organizations can continue to Find New Growth, Create New Offerings, and Empower a Culture of Innovation.

About Dan

An expert on global design and innovation, Dan has long championed the power of a human-centered design for business. He is the author of the 7 Elements of Design Innovation™ and the Four Decisions of Growth framework.


The 7 Elements of Design Innovation™

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Nokia Global Factors Human Conference IA Collaborative

Why Empathy Isn’t Enough: Katie Schlott on Tapping the Power of Inclusive Design

Client Growth Partner Katie Schlott has been published in Fast Company, championing inclusive design principles as the timely and necessary pathway for business leaders to build affirming workplaces that work for all.

The article, titled “Empathy isn’t enough. Why inclusive design principles unlock what leaders need,” invites business leaders to think beyond empathy and instead implement inclusive design principles in their organization.

Extending the possible uses and needs of products and environments to the widest variety of people is not only the right thing to do; it’s the only way we’ll create a fair, just, and ethical world. It’s also the best way to uncover new opportunities for growth innovation.

— Katie Schlott, Partner, IA Collaborative

Whereas empathy runs the risk of serving as an imaginative exercise only, inclusive design gives leaders the frameworks they need to affirm and strengthen their teams. As Schlott writes, leveraging inclusive design helps leaders to challenge unintentional exclusion, center diverse experiences, and design for all.

Challenge unintentional exclusion

Build spaces intentionally designed for collaboration and knowledge-sharing among those who have been historically excluded or minimized at work.

At IA Collaborative, we emphatically believe in the strategic business value of inclusive design. To this end, we created a Design for Women capability: A roundtable series and connector network serving to illuminate topics and situations that are acutely experienced by women but under-addressed by design. Attendees of the inaugural roundtable event included more than 25 executives from high-impact brands such as Airbnb, Johnson & Johnson, Google, USAA, Microsoft, Nike, and more. 

Put people at the center of the experience

Apply a “human-centered observational approach to fact-finding.” As Schlott writes: “You can apply it at work by observing and listening with your colleagues serving as the experts. This approach allows you to better understand their day-to-day realities and challenges they need help solving.”

Solve or one, expand to many

Consider the different abilities of your workforce. Ask who traditional work structures support—and who they leave out.

In Schlott’s words: “Inclusive design applied to leadership is essential for designing solutions and creating workplaces that affirm everyone on [y]our team. ”

For business leaders, designing more equitable futures is intrinsic to strategic growth and innovation. When all voices are heard, impact is greatest.

Read the full article HERE.

IA Collaborative Summer 2022 Interns

4 Questions with IA Collaborative’s 2022 Summer Interns

Our Interns Share What It’s Like to Work at the Intersection of Design and Business

IA Collaborative invited a multi-disciplinary class of interns to learn from and collaborate across multiple projects this summer. From supporting the creation of client product architectures, to designing supporting interactive visualizations, to presenting final recommendations to a client’s parent company in Japan, the IA interns spent the summer exploring the intersection of design and business innovation.

At the end of their internship, we posed four questions to understand how their experiences at IA Collaborative are shaping their perspectives on design and their future careers.

Meet the Interns

IA Collaborative’s 2022 Summer Intern Class. From left to right: Bill Guo, Fahvyon Jimenez, Allie Newell

Name: Bil Guo
Title: Interaction Design Intern
Before the internship, I… was finishing my third year at Carnegie-Mellon University, where I’m pursuing an undergraduate degree in human-computer interaction (HCI). At CMU, I have been an active research assistant in different labs, helping students with machine learning, smart homes, and AI-enhanced education. 

Name: Fahvyon Jimenez
Title: Design Research Intern
Before the internship, I…  was at the University of Pennsylvania, where I’m pursuing my Masters in Integrated Product Design – a multidisciplinary program that trains students in engineering, design, and business. While in the program, I reimagined the architectural and spatial experience of one of the city’s top hospitals. Before graduate school, I worked for Deloitte, then pivoted to the educational sector where I worked for several years at Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School as their Chief Technology Officer, helping accelerate the school into the 21st century with new technologies and forward-thinking initiatives.

Name: Allie Newell
Title: Business Strategy Intern
Before the internship, I…  was attending the MMM program at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, where I just finished the first year of my MBA + MS Design Innovation dual-degree program. Prior to pursuing my MBA, I worked as a consultant specializing in human capital at Deloitte, focusing on growth strategy, organizational design, and communication strategy.

Question #1: What made you want to intern at IA?

ALLIE: IA leads with a human-centered lens and business rigor, and has united some of the best minds across many disciplines to make a real impact on the human experience. I knew that I would learn best-in-class design thinking and business strategy at IA alongside people who are down-to-earth and eager to collaborate. 

BILL: I was attracted by the opportunity to practice design through a realistic project, excited about trying on different hats during collaboration with interdisciplinary teammates, and convinced by the professional excellence among practitioners and the learning culture across the organization.

FAHV: One of the upperclassmen in my master’s program spent last summer at IA, and she spoke so, so highly of the experience and the people. She described a team who went out of their way to welcome her, a variety of projects that kept her engaged, a methodological rigor across projects that made her a better problem solver. These are the things that brought me to IA and I feel very much like the internship has delivered on them.

Synthesizing ideation for a project
Business Strategy Intern Allie Newell synthesizing a client project in the IA Collaborative office

Question #2: What was the most important thing you learned during your time at IA?

ALLIE: IA Collaborative taught me collaboration as a strategic, competitive advantage. IA attracts people who are experts in their craft and committed to continued growth, curiosity, and learning from others.

That means bringing together world-class visual designers who lean in on research, design researchers who help shape the business strategy, business strategists who work with interaction designers and product strategy experts, and content strategy experts who bring the work to life throughout the journey–IA is truly multidisciplinary in this way. These examples just scratch the surface, but they illustrate one of IA’s differentiators: deep collaboration. The process is better and the end result more powerful with the radical collaboration model at IA. 

BILL: Embrace the challenges I am facing, plus fall in love with the problem I am tackling. I observe this happening from time to time as my collaborators and mentors fearlessly zoom in and out of abstract problem spaces and consistently share excitement around ambiguity and uncertainty.

FAHV: I came to IA with a very specific list of things to learn. I showed them to my amazing Career Manager and my incredible Collaborator and they immediately got to work. It’s tough to pick a favorite among these goals, but I think learning how IA consistently goes through a rigorous synthesis process tops the list on long-term value. From the outside, it looked amorphous and even “hand-wavey.” Today, I feel very much like an insider on the process. I can see plainly how to do it and  why it’s so important.

Three IA collaborators brainstorm a prototype
Interaction Design Intern Bill Guo (right) works with IA team members on a “Designing Your Next Competitor” workshop

“Design and innovation is about uncovering [user] needs and using them as the north star to guide the innovative ideas and solutions we explore.”

— Allie Newell, Business Strategy Intern

Question #3: What inspires you the most in the design and innovation space?

ALLIE: I’m inspired by how deeply IA holds the user needs – whether the user is a C-suite innovation lab participant, an international cancer patient, or simply someone who receives packages (which would be many of us!). Design and innovation is about uncovering those needs and using them as the north star to guide the innovative ideas and solutions we explore. Even when we’re downstream in the process thinking through execution details, it all comes back to, “What does this mean for the user? How does this solve their biggest needs?” 

BILL: I appreciate and feel inspired by how practitioners at IA creatively leverage design tools such as persona, customer journey map, service blueprint, and research stimuli. They creatively manipulate, break down, mix up, and repurpose these tools to most effectively fulfill their objectives.

FAHV: So many people (maybe everyone?) at IA have a personal realm of design that they spend their private time pursuing. It might be oil painting or education, it might be something further afield like paper-folding. Seeing how many people take design into the rest of their lives inspired me more than anything else this summer.

IA Collaborators prototyping with paper
Design Research Intern Fahvyon Jimenez, right, exploring fractals using paper as a medium. In viruses, protein structures determine their function; emerging nanotech research suggests that viruses could one day be turned off by disrupting their fold patterns.

Question #4: What is a key learning you’ll carry forward from your time at IA?

ALLIE: One of IA’s maxims is “make it now.” That means we start making things, sketching ideas, building prototypes as fuel for the work to get input and collaborate. In my first week, I saw my entire team embody this. Everyone — even senior leaders — printed out work-in-progress materials and cut them up and re-ordered the content based on iterative feedback. We moved faster and collaborated better because we “made it now,” which is something I’ll continue to do in my work.

BILL: To genuinely care about others at work and proactively discover opportunities to empower collaborators. Through observation, conversation, and reflection, I was fortunate to learn this from the best, my career manager. As an aspiring designer, I’d love to offer care and support to make a positive and direct impact.

FAHV: Aside from how to turn hundreds of post-its into a market-altering product strategy, I learned invaluable lessons about extracting maximum value from collaborative environments. We recently engaged in an immersive learning experience all around how to keep client alignment meetings and workshops inclusive, generative, and engaging. It goes way beyond just general communication best practices. We dove into the “sport” of meeting facilitation, from “creating a home court advantage” by optimizing the physical meeting space for the desired outcomes, to “practicing your passing game” by engaging all participants and summarizing responses before transitioning into new topics. 

This is the content they never teach you in school. This is the kind of stuff you must live and experience to learn!

Over the past few months, the IA Collaborative interns have gone on research, designed interactive workshops, helped create key assets for clients, and immersed themselves in the our interdisciplinary, creative, and business-minded culture. We can’t wait to see their careers continue to flourish as they apply human-centered design to business innovation.

Close-up, abstract view of architecture.

Want to Collaborate?


Design for Women: Katie Schlott Talks Inclusive Design

To celebrate International Women’s Day, IA Collaborative Partner Katie Schlott sat down with Bill Staikos of the Be Customer Led podcast. In the conversation, Katie explains why inclusive design is so important today. She talks about why she started a Design for Women capability at IA. She talks about ways that companies can innovate to meet women’s needs now and in the future.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day…think about, how are you integrating your various products, services or solutions to solve bigger, more systemic challenges facing women?

Katie Schlott, Partner, IA Collaborative

During the podcast, Katie explains what inclusive design is more broadly. She talks about what inclusive design means for women. She emphasizes the importance of including the perspective of all women when designing new products and services.

Katie mentions statistics from the book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. This book illustrates the many opportunities we have create new and better products and services for women.

When you’re designing for and marketing to the same homogeneous demographics time and time again, you’re missing out on huge areas of opportunity for equity and innovation.

Design for Women: Learn More and Connect with Us

If you’re interested in learning more about IA Collaborative’s Design for Women capability, visit www.iacollaborative.com/women

To listen to the podcast, visit Katie’s Be Customer Led show page: https://becustomerled.com/captivate-podcast/katie-schlott-talks-inclusive-design-designing-for-women/

You can also watch, download, or listen to the episode here: linktr.ee/becustomerled

7 Elements of Design Innovation

The 7 Elements of Design Innovation™

The Practice of User Centered Business Design

Design Innovation Overview

For design innovation to succeed, it has to be Desirable, Possible and Viable. Desirable – wanted by users. Possible – technically feasible. Viable – able to support future business goals. We’ve been doing innovation consulting for more than 20 years. We’ve learned that it’s critical to understand, explore, and prioritize the overlaps between these three lenses to successfully innovate.

We call this the 7 Elements of Design Innovation™. It’s a tool to ensure that every new design innovation, or human-centered offering, is integrated into business strategy.

Download the Framework

The Key to Successful Innovation: Systemic Thinking

In traditional corporate structures, it’s common for teams to focus on just one or two of the seven elements in isolation. At IA, we consider all design innovation elements systemically — helping our clients collaborate across their organizations to create new offerings that end users value, stakeholders can feasibly implement, and leadership can be confident will deliver business impact.

User Experience

What to ask: What are the user’s wants, needs, and potential?

What it is: User experience design begins with determining our most important users and then diving deep to understand their wants and needs. By observing patterns of current activities, workarounds, and aspirations, insights are derived to guide the creation of new offerings.

Whether insights prescribe entirely new business models or re-tooled elements, a foundational user understanding enables concepting, design, and mapping of ideal future experiences.

User Experience Owners: Consumer Insights, Digital & User Experience

Process & Capabilities

What to ask: What systems and internal capabilities will we leverage or evolve?

What it is: Process and capabilities design are paramount in building a culture focused on design innovation. Through capabilities design, a company’s financial, physical, intellectual, and human resources can be connected in more agile and elastic ways to inspire dynamic and unexpected value creation, improving core functions and driving a healthier workplace.

A company’s core process design can also leverage a user-centered approach to challenge organizational conventions and prototype new approaches to corporate strategy, R&D, knowledge management, and skills development.

Process & Capabilities Owners: Engineering, Manufacturing, IT/Technology

Profit Models

What to ask: What will users value and how will we derive profit?

What it is: User-centered profit models are based on a rich understanding of what users truly value. By uncovering genuine motivations for purchases, new and tailored revenue models can be established. Often, multiple models are created to provide users maximum access to offerings while keeping competitors at a distance.

Considerations around pricing are driven by user value creation and willingness to pay, versus competitive pressures. Because this framework is user-centered, rather than competition-driven, typical purchase patterns are routinely disrupted, delivering new options and opportunities for buyer engagement.

Profit Models Owners: Corporate Strategy, Finance


What to ask: What relationship will users want to have with us?

What it is: Strong brands are based on establishing meaningful relationships with users. The scale of most corporations necessitates a broad range of brand interaction methods — from one-to-one conversations to mass communication.

Regardless of tactic, a company’s communications, language, imagery, and iconography must be consistently aligned with user values. Key innovations in the Brand element explore brand position, brand image, customer relationship management, and customer engagement.

A coordinated, user-centered brand practice will distinguish offerings, maximize recognition, and drive preference among current and future users.

Brand Owners: Brand Management

Partners & Resources

What to ask: What user needs will be served if we leverage other’s capabilities and profit models?

What it is: The value we create for users should not be limited to our own process and capabilities. From infrastructure to open innovation, collaboration with complementors or competitors can disrupt a market by quickly enabling access to new expertise, customers, capital, and other resources.

Networks can be short term alliances to execute a special project, or enduring partnerships to establish new entities. These relationships can reduce cost and risk or enable the creation of otherwise unfeasible offerings. The Partners & Resources element seeks to tap latent marketplace potential to deliver lasting user and business value.

Partners & Resources Owners: Strategic Partnerships, Sourcing


What to ask: Where will users engage throughout their purchase journey?

What it is:  Of all seven elements, user expectations are perhaps changing most rapidly in Channel. Physical stores are polarizing: some becoming physical showrooms for their e-commerce competitors; others, highly immersive flagships for powerful brands. Users demand both speedy self-empowered check-outs and highly tailored consultation.

Through the right mix of technology, experience, brand, and commerce, channels can deliver on users’ fragmented tastes and time constraints. This element considers trade-offs of owned versus partner; direct versus indirect; physical versus digital; as well as earned versus paid media to build awareness and motivate user purchase.

Channels Owners: Sales, Strategy


What to ask: What platforms, products, and services will be rewarding to deliver?

What it is: User-centered offerings span products and services that align to deliver compelling and seamless experiences. Each product or service within an ecosystem executes against one or more specific unmet need. Individual offerings deliver a quality experience, yet they become better together.

Whether delivering product enhancements or truly disruptive offerings, this platform approach drives ongoing sales, establishes competitive barriers, increases presence in channels, builds brand equity, and enables the company to create longer-term customer relationships.

Offering Owners: CEO/Senior Leadership, Product Management

A Practice of User-Centered Business Design

IA Collaborative’s Seven Elements of Design Innovation™ combines human-centered, iterative design thinking with holistic, rigorous corporate strategy to engage and connect all areas of company leadership.

By activating this systemic framework, leaders can confidently place strategic bets on future options, better serve their users, and enable new business growth.

Download the Framework

Interested in learning more on how IA Collaborative enables innovation for some of the leading businesses in the world? Contact us.

Design + Health:
Kathleen Brandenburg Featured on
Design Lab Podcast with Dr. Bon Ku

The Pair Discuss Design for Behavior Change, Designing for Wants vs. Needs, and Applying a Design Mind to Medicine

Kathleen Brandenburg, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of IA Collaborative, sat down with Dr. Bon Ku for Episode 20 of his Design Lab podcast.

The pair discussed everything from designing for behavior change to bringing a design mind to the medical world.

Brandenburg shared stories of doing research for healthcare clients where she and the IA Collaborative team had to get creative with their research methods to truly understand the user experience – and in the case of an orthopedic client, even going so far as to scrub in for surgery and “operate” on fake bones.

The people that are designing the tools, the experiences, the environments – these people aren’t surgeons or doctors, they’re designers. So the only way to do a good job – a lifesaving job – is to live the problem to design the solution.

-Kathleen Brandenburg, CO-Founder, CO-CEO, IA Collaborative

Although it goes against traditional ways of thinking within healthcare, getting people to adhere to new regimens or change their health behaviors starts with designing for their wants just as much as designing for their needs. As Brandenburg said, designing to make things easier for patients is a pretty low bar. We should also strive to make the experience enjoyable – even joyful.

“Rather than just making experiences easier [in healthcare], why don’t we make them enjoyable?
Why don’t we make them joyful?”

Both Dr. Ku and Brandenburg have experience teaching design methods to medical students, and those students without backgrounds in design. They talk about how bringing design thinking and methods into your approach can add significant impact to your work. 

“I think a lot of healthcare systems can benefit so greatly from working with creative minds and companies like [IA Collaborative]. I would love to see a lot more of those partnerships happening.”

-Dr. Bon Ku, Director, Health Design Lab, Thomas Jefferson University; Host of the Design Lab podcast

Listen to the whole episode below, or check it out here.

IA Collaborative Presents the Accelerated Futures
That Will Impact Every Industry

Dan Kraemer, Co-Founder and Co-CEO at IA Collaborative, was a recent presenter at DTVX 2020, the Design Thinking Virtual Conference.

In his talk, “How to Protect Your Business and Accelerate Innovation in the New Normal,” he gave a preview of IA Collaborative’s new Accelerated Futures Model™ and 4 hyperaccelerated trends coming out of COVID-19 that will leave a lasting impact on every business.

Further, he explained the specific implications for each hyper-accelerated trend, and provided tools for prototyping new business offerings to capture new value while demand is rapidly shifting.

“Every design leader’s new charter is to anticipate accelerated change in their industry and determine what new business offerings to prototype as a result.”

-Dan Kraemer