jkolko@ac4d.com | @jkolko

Faculty

Jon Kolko

Jon Kolko is the Founder and Director of Austin Center for Design, a progressive educational institution teaching interaction design and social entrepreneurship. His work focuses on bringing the power of design to social enterprises, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and large-scale industry disruption. He has worked extensively with both startups and Fortune 500 clients, and he has a breadth of experience in consumer electronics, mobility, web services, supply chain management, demand planning, and customer-relationship management. He has worked with big-brand clients such as AT&T, HP, Nielsen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ford, IBM and other leaders of the Global 2000, as well as with startups like Socialware, Spredfast, Vast, Attivio, and more.

Jon is also the Vice President of Design at MyEdu, a company focused on helping college students manage their college experience. He has previously held positions of Executive Director of Design Strategy at Thinktiv, a venture accelerator in Austin, Texas, and both Principal Designer and Associate Creative Director roles at frog design, a global innovation firm. He was also a Professor of Interaction and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he was instrumental in building both the Interaction and Industrial Design undergraduate and graduate programs. Jon has also held the role of Director for the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and Editor-in-Chief of interactions magazine, published by the ACM.

Jon is the author of the book Thoughts on Interaction Design, published by Morgan Kaufmann, Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis, published by Oxford University Press, and Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving, published by Austin Center for Design.

Recent blog posts

Announcing our 2016 Design For Impact Workshop

Austin Center for Design is pleased to announce and host our 7th annual Design For Impact Workshop on March 5th, 2016. This one-day workshop will teach you how to design for impact—how to use the design process to focus on big social problems, like homelessness and poverty or our broken education system. This design process…

AC4D 2014 Alumni Success Report: Salary, Placement & Happiness

We’re pleased to present our first Alumni Success report, tracking the salary, placement, and happiness of our graduates. We’ll publish an update to this report at least once a year, and continue to support our alumni as they do great things in the world. Click here to view the complete report. 

Approaches and Methods for Social Interventions

In class last evening, we explored work by Bill Gaver, Professor of Design at Goldsmiths, and Liz Sanders, Associate Professor at Ohio State University. Bill Gaver’s work on cultural probes offers a formalized method for injecting creative prompts into peoples’ lives in order to gather qualitative research data about their dreams and passions. These probes…

Building a Design Perspective on Community Engagement

Our discussion in class last evening centered around the opportunity and challenges of embedded, contextual research. We started with an article from Emily Pilloton, in which she describes some of her work at Project H, formerly located in Bertie County, North Carolina. As Emily describes, lasting involvement through design research requires three qualities: Proximity – simply…

Communicating Ourselves Through Brand

In class last night, I led a discussion of readings by academics Maurizio Vitta and Richard Buchanan. Vitta – in an article titled “The Meaning of Design”, written in 1985 – laments a process of pop-culture identification, by which people gain a sense of self only through consumption. For him, products offer only semiotics, not…

Consumption and Manipulation

Last night, our class discussed readings that focus on consumption and manipulation. We synthesized work from Allan Chochinov, Victor Papanek, and Edward Bernays. Allan Chochinov’s 1000 Words is a manifesto for sustainability in design. We discussed his premise that sustainability can’t be a “nice to have” – it needs to be as integral to production…

Design Research: Focus, Context, and Partnership

We’re starting to learn about design research in class, and I spent yesterday’s class teaching about the three core pillars of contextual and behavioral research: focus, context, and partnership. Focus describes the goal trajectory of your research – the container you put on your frame of reference in order to drive participant selection and identify…

Theory in Art, Science, and Design

During our first class of 2014 last night, I introduced the students to our first interaction design theory class with a discussion around the disciplines of science, art, and design. It’s tempting to focus on design as a blend of science and art, positioning it as part analytical and part creative. But, like science and art,…

Innovation and Statistical Significance

During our fourth day of orientation, students at AC4D started learning about the process of extracting insights from data. Inevitably, the topic of statistical significance was discussed. Surely we can’t trust these insights? We only talked to five or six people; these people weren’t randomly selected, and they might represent an anomalous point of view.…

Why Drawing is (Still) Important

It’s day two of orientation at AC4D, and our students are learning how to draw. Matt and Pat are showing them how to sketch lines, boxes, circles, and people; it’s all Expo on whiteboard, and the focus is on fast, loose communication. Given that I’ve been a proponent of moving beyond historic representations of craft…

One and Done: Using an Iterative Process

There’s a particular process hump that design students inevitably encounter: that of quality. This comes after they have learned particular methods, and they realize that they can make a thing. If the student has been taught critique and self-reflection, they’ll also soon realize that their thing isn’t very good, because it’s the first iteration of the idea.…

Lipstick on a Pig

Recently, Michael Bierut wrote an article about branding, and our cultural tendency to armchair quarterback design decisions. The first 2700 words (or parts I-IV) poke at populist response to graphic design, during which the piece shifts between sarcastically casting the consumers as a lynch mob to casting designers as arrogant idiots. The last 450 words…

Engagement

Engagement is about participation. It’s a word relevant in civics, in social and cognitive psychology, and in education. Fundamentally, it’s about autonomy, motivation, and empowerment: you are engaged when you are motivated to purposefully direct your attention. Attention is about focused concentration. The world is competing for your focus. External events cause your eyes to…

Designer as Product Owner

There’s a creature in software companies called the “product manager” (almost always referred to as the “product guy”, hammering home the unfortunate fact that nearly all software companies are full of men. For fun, I’ll switch it ’round for the remainder of this post.) The product gal has a strange role, in that her focus…

Iteration and Variation

Two of the most basic principles of design process are iteration and variation. They aren’t the same, but they are related. Iteration is making informed changes to an existing design. These changes may be provoked by user testing or critique. Commonly, these changes are provoked simply through the act of making the previous iteration; this…

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