Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on June 18, 2018

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Embracing Design Thinking for Your Brand with Jon Kolko

jon kolko on brand

“Many have seen a TED talk about design thinking but they don’t know what’s next — what it looks like.” This week on the On Brand podcast we unpacked design thinking, magical experiences, Nordic design, and how to criticize creative work with Jon Kolko, author of Creative Clarity and Partner at Modernist Studio.

Enjoy This Episode Now

About Jon Kolko

Jon Kolko is the author of Creative Clarity, Partner at Modernist Studio, and the Founder of Austin Center for Design. Previously the Vice President of Design at Blackboard, he has worked extensively with both startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been a Professor of Interaction and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Design Studies of Monterrey, Mexico, and Malmö University, Sweden.

Episode Highlights

How is teaching in the US different than teaching abroad? Jon has taught in some of my favorite places. But how is teaching Austin, Texas different from teaching in Malmo, Sweden? The work ethic is a little different to say the least. “Sweden is committed and motivated. They respect design and humanity ahead of business.”

More on Nordic design. As a frequent visitor to Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, I am a huge fan of Nordic design. “They take it very seriously. They roll up their sleeves and work on something until it’s done.”

How can your brand embrace design thinking? Jon shared his two core pillars. First, vision/narrative. Design thinkers have a knack for embracing the world as it could be and sharing that vision. Usually through storytelling. Second, criticism/iteration. We need to get better at talking about why something doesn’t work.

How can we get better about talking about things that don’t work? “There are rules! First the person being critiqued shuts up. This lets everyone be heard. But they also get to filter. We also make sure the language is aimed at the work product.” As opposed to critiquing the person behind the work.

What brand has made Jon smile recently? An experience buying a washer and dryer. That’s all I’ll say here. You have to listen for the smile.

To learn more, go to jonkolko.com and moderniststudio.com.

As We Wrap …

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

On Brand is sponsored by my new book Brand NowDiscover the seven dynamics to help your brand stand out in our crowded, distracted world. Order now and get special digital extras. Learn more.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!



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Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.


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