My design practice is focused on triangulating the sweet spot where business goals, customer needs, and technology meet. My practice areas include business analysis, design research, design strategy, experience design, content strategy, IA, digital UI design, software product design. I bring to every design challenge a diverse background: from academia to classical advertising, digital UI design to system and experience design.
My current interests are in developing methodologies to support the work of designing for and within complex systems and at scale, as well as supporting and nurturing the next generation of designers into future design leaders.
What follows is a recap of my professional path since completing my B.A. with a double major in English Literature and Economics, my M.A. in English Literature, and the course work portion of my Ph.D. in Medieval and Renaissance English Literature.
Loblaw Digital, 2017 – present
Landing at Loblaw Digital was really the result of an alignment of the stars. For some time now, one my personal goals has been to nurture and support the next generation of design leaders. Coincidentally, Loblaw Digital had been looking for a product design lead to elevate and grow the team. Loblaw Digital’s scope and complexity were two cherries on top.
Despite our moniker, Loblaw Digital’s scope is omni-channel. Product design’s scope crosses the digital boundaries into physical space, extends beyond the customer-facing experience into the back-stage operations that power the front-stage customer experience at retail and online. Because Loblaw Digital has P&L accountabilities for e-commerce and digitally enabled customer experiences, product design has a real and meaningful role to play in designing and delivering experiences in grocery, apparel, beauty, pharmacy, and loyalty to millions of Canadians.
My focus at Loblaw Digital to date has been to turbo-charge the product designers’ skills, amplify their effectiveness across the different business units in which they’re embedded, and strategically hiring designers to build out a balanced design team with a full range of skills and experience. Other objectives that I actively pursue include supporting emergent programs and projects by leading and coaching teams on problem framing, design planning, design research, and design education.
Normative Design, 2016 – 2017
Normative represents a quantum leap in my quest to shift my design practice into Richard Buchanan’s 4th order of design – that space where we solve problems and embrace opportunities at the level of systems, to consider the demands of designing at scale. As design director, I led and supported, coached and collaborated with our design team in partnership with our technology team to help Normative’s clients innovate at the intersection of business, design, and technology.
TELUS, 2013 – 2016
Joining the TELUS digital team was an important milestone in my career. All the work and learning I’ve done has been in preparation for my role at TELUS, where I was part of a highly engaged, outcome-driven team of cross-functional practitioners. TELUS digital runs on the lean startup approach and uses the agile deployment process. As practice lead for the Toronto UX team, I provided design oversight for the design of business.telus.com and telus.com, as well as mentor team members by coaching them on their practice and organizing continuing education workshops.
Devlin Digital, 2012 – 2013
2012 opened with an exciting chapter in my career as I join the passionate team at Devlin Digital as Manager, User Experience. At Devlin, I worked with my team to break down the waterfall process and walls between the various practice disciplines and build an agile studio where cross-functional collaboration was the only ‘rule’ we followed.
76design (a Thornley Fallis Group company), 2010 – 2012
In 2010, social media was just gaining mainstream awareness. I had been an early adopter on Facebook and Twitter, and experiencing more noise in those channels was an obvious clue that the landscape was about to change. Back then, advertising agencies and even digital agencies were dipping their toes in the uncharted waters of social media, while it seemed to me that the public relations firms were more sure-footed.
I joined the Thornley Fallis Group as a digital strategist to be part of a larger team of public relations professionals to learn to “do social media” right. It soon became clear that there was an additional opportunity for me to expand my role beyond strategy into specific user experience deliverables such as expert heuristic evaluations, personas, and wireframes, skills that I had started acquiring since my Mindblossom days in 2006. I’ve also been working hard with my team mates here to integrate web analytics earlier and more rigorously into the design process.
I have worked on digital projects for a variety of clients, including the Canadian Inernet Registration Authority, Toronto Hydro, Rogers, Allstate Insurance Canada, Pfizer Canada, and Parks Canada.
Fjord / Cossette, 2009 – 2010
My second stint at Cossette was with its digital division, Fjord. The opportunity to return to Saturn and SAAB at Cossette was too great to pass up. This was expected to be a short-term assignment since GM’s two so-called non-domestic or import brands were in the twilight of their life cycles. I joined Fjord to bring to bear my years of experience in advertising, marketing, digital, and strategic account management on one of their key clients.
A key learning from my training early on at BBDO was to apply a litmus test to every problem: is this a problem that advertising can solve? For Saturn and SAAB, the results of this litmus test was sobering. The beauty of this litmus test is that you can switch out the word “advertising” for any other marketing or communications medium. Not all problems can be solved by one medium.
Crimson Interactive (now TAG), 2007 – 2009
The opportunity and goal at Crimson Interactive was to establish processes for the digital division of a print-oriented agency. Based on my review and understanding of the agency’s client roster, I researched, developed, and proposed a business model for the digital group that enabled the agency to support its clients within their financial scope.
Mindblossom (now Isobar), 2006 – 2007
My full immersion into digital began at Mindblossom. While my experience with digital started at BBDO, Mindblossom was where I really delved deep into the world of web dev. Those were heady times: not only were we building digital social hubs for Home Depot, we also explored the leading edge with API-connected desktop widgets.
Of course, a huge part of my role at Mindblossom was to deploy classic agency account management expertise to our clients’ businesses: strategy, requirements gathering, project management, and creative review.
When I had some off-time, I fantasized about we can do with mobile, the so-called third screen: mobile-friendly web sites, RFID and QR codes for retail marketing, etc.
BBDO, 1998 – 2006
BBDO was where I honed my strategic as well as project and financial management skills. Yes, the latter skills are part of the perks that come with me. While my experience (earned at MacLaren McCann and Cossette a few years earlier) with dealer marketing and advertising strategy and execution continued to be valuable, I soon moved my focus to brand management.
Among the most valuable lessons I learned during this process is that to be successful at growing a brand, business goals must be underwritten by reality. A creative brief driven by goals that are not in line with reality is nothing more than a work of fiction. My proudest achievement at BBDO was the work I did for the Jeep brand. With each successive brief, I got closer and closer to the core of the Jeep story and how Jeep owners connected with it. Ultimately, the positioning statement that I wrote for the Jeep brand was deceptively simple: The world is your playground. The work that emerged from this positioning ranged from advertising to experiential events and eventually to digital. And some of that work got picked up by network agencies in other countries.
This was my first stint on the Saturn and SAAB accounts, along with Isuzu, which has since then exited the North American market. My experience in brand management began here at Cossette on the SAAB brand. The most important part of my first time at Cossette was learning how to craft a creative brief, which is not quite the same thing as a project brief. Here, I learned to dig deep into the limited consumer research that was available for the SAAB buyer or intender in Canada, to understand what makes them unique. For SAAB owners are a unique group of people, much like Jeep owners, who I will soon get to know well when I joined BBDO.
MacLaren McCann, 1997 – 1998
In the ad agency model, one of the most important roles in account management is strategy. It’s what separates a good ‘suit’ from a bad one. At MacLaren, my role as an account executive was to understand my client’s business through weekly competitive monitoring and analysis, as well as sales and buyer demographic data analysis to support strategic planning. The goal of all this research and analysis was to develop and implement advertising and promotional campaign ideas for my clients, GM’s dealer marketing associations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and northwestern Ontario.