Summer Internship IA Collaborative 2019

3 Questions with IA Collaborative’s Summer Interns

Our Interns Share What It’s Like to Work at a 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 conducting immersive research to design the future of cycling to testing physical prototypes using augmented reality, the IA interns spent the summer exploring the intersection of design and business innovation.

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

Meet the Interns

IA Collaborative Summer Interns
IA Collaborative’s 2019 Summer Intern Class. From left to right: Yujin Lee, Cristina Tarriba Villa, Jenni Lee, Rachel Huvard, Nathan Pilkenton, and Karan Jain.

Name: Youjin Lee
Title: Interaction Design Intern
Before the IA Internship, I… graduated from a Designation bootcamp. I previously worked as a paralegal.

Name: Cristina Tarriba Villa
Title: Research and Design Strategy intern
Before the IA Internship, I… was pursuing a master’s degree in design at the IIT Institute of Design. I have one year left.

Name: Jenni Lee
Title: Graphic Design Intern
Before the IA Internship, I… was finishing up my sophomore year at Carnegie Mellon University. I’m a design major with a concentration in communication design and a minor in human-computer interaction.

Name: Rachel Huvard
Title: Research & Design Strategy Intern 
Before the IA Internship, I… was working towards my Master of Design at IIT’s Institute of Design.

Name: Nathan Pilkenton
Title: Business Strategy Intern
Before the IA Internship, I… was enjoying my first year of business school at Columbia University in New York!

Name: Karan Jain 
Title: Research & Design Strategy Intern 
Before the IA Internship, I… was pursuing my master’s in industrial design at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

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

Karan Jain: The diverse variety of projects that IA takes on was very appealing. I knew I would get to learn a lot and work with talented interdisciplinary teams.

I wanted to learn from a company that believes in the power of human-centered design and approaches design with rigor and structure.

  • Cristina Tarriba Villa, Research & Design Strategy Intern

Cristina Tarriba Villa: I wanted to work at IA because it is one of the best independent innovation and design consultancies. I wanted to learn from a company that believes in the power of human-centered design and approaches design with rigor and structure.

Rachel Huvard: The cross-disciplinary team structure, the “whatever it takes to get it done” culture, and the breadth of client projects.

Cristina Tarriba Villa records a research participant’s interaction with a prototype digital interface to identify innovation opportunities for an international energy business.

Question #2: What inspires you most in the design and innovation space?

Youjin Lee: It’s inspiring to think about design’s application in healthcare and education, because it has the potential to affect so many people.

Nathan Pilkenton: After some exposure to the concept at IA, I’m really inspired by the idea of using behavioral economics to encourage people to make decisions and take actions that actually improve their lives. This concept has been explored and implemented in some small-scale cases, but I think there is so much more potential to imbue our designs with this kind of thinking in business.

Karan Jain (right) and Design Director John Foust collaborate on AR technology, integrating into research.

Karan Jain: My design philosophy is, “Design is an opportunity to root fiction in truth.” I believe that humans are gifted with imagination to think beyond the possible and design provides a medium to root this thinking in evidence, enabling us to turn our ideal world into a reality. This process of turning a vision into reality is what inspires me the most in the innovation space. 

Cristina Tarriba Villa: Being able to surround myself with people that are driven to transform the world around us. I love working with people from different backgrounds and disciplines. Amazing work can be achieved when multidisciplinary teams – like the ones at IA – come together to approach problems with a defined process, while simultaneously considering ideas that will challenge the status quo. 

Question #3: What’s the most important thing you learned during your time interning at IA Collaborative?

Karan Jain: Collaboration. I learned how to take a pause from the work I had been heavily involved in and ask the team for quick feedback. This has definitely made me a more effective worker and allowed me to produce better results. 

It’s not, ‘how can we get these people to want to use the product we’ve designed?’ It’s, ‘how can we design our product or service so that people want to use it?’

  • Nathan Pilkenton, Business Strategy Intern

Nathan Pilkenton: So much about the importance of designing for the user. In my past life, I would often be trying to implement new processes or tools within a company. We thought about our end users, but not usually through a design thinking lens. Going forward, I’ve learned that it’s not, ‘how can we get these people to want to use the product we’ve designed?’ It’s, ‘how can we design our product or service so that people want to use it?'”

Nathan Pilkenton (middle) out in the field on research for a project to design the future of cycling.

Jenni Lee: How to communicate your design choices through the lens of business strategy.

Rachel Huvard: A person’s title doesn’t have to define or limit engagement with a project. I loved seeing how people at IA are able to step into a huge range of roles depending on project needs and their own strengths and interests.

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.

If you’re interested in working at a consultancy that lives at the center of design and business strategy, learn more about our open positions here.


Original image found on

Designing for Children’s Success: IA Collaborative Leads Workshop During 2019 KIPP School Summit

A cross-disciplinary team from IA Collaborative is headed to the 25th annual KIPP School Summit in Houston, TX. KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program is a national network of public charter schools dedicated to preparing students in educationally underserved communities for success in college and life.

During the conference, IA Collaborative will lead a workshop that combines design thinking and equitable design called, “Hack-a-thon: Designing the Future of the KIPP Alumni Network.”

The IA Collaborative team will bring together 200 alumni from across the country to brainstorm, plan, design, and pitch ideas for the future of the KIPP alumni network. Over the next year, IA Collaborative will work with KIPP to activate the top ideas and begin piloting with alumni as partners with the purpose of designing a community network that enables KIPP students to succeed, regardless of the path they choose.

Learn more about the conference.


01:15 pm


George R. Brown Convention Center
1001 Avenida De Las Americas
Houston, TX, 77010