Katie Schmiedicker joins ThoughtForm
ThoughtForm is proud to announce that Katie Schmiedicker has joined us as a strategist. Katie recently found some time amid her projects to share a little bit about how she arrived at her role, thoughts for designers starting out, and the things that keep her energized.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I have always known I wanted to be some kind of designer. I like creativity with constraints. While I started out pursuing an industrial design degree, along the way I found that I was as interested in the processes around design as much as the output. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Industrial Design, I started my career as design researcher in Columbus, Ohio where I discovered a passion for understanding people and reframing their needs into design opportunities.
Now that I have had the chance to gain experience and knowledge in a wide range of industries, disciplines, and methods, I am proud to call myself a generalist. Flexing between topics and exploring a variety of problem spaces, mindsets, and skills energizes me to keep solving problems with creativity and co-design.
What’s an example of a design you admire today?
The Fogo Island Inn. In 2019 I was given the opportunity to attend the Global Service Design Conference in Toronto. While there were lots of outstanding examples of design, I was enchanted by everything about this inn. It’s a beautiful example of what design can do to support communities and enable everyday people to make more ethical decisions. The design of the building, service elements, and furniture inside are all local to the community.
Every service or product during your stay comes with an “Economic Nutrition Label.” This label (similar to a food nutrition label) tells the customer exactly where their money is going for every purchase and how it is broken out. Zita Cobb (Fogo Island Inn developer) made a point that resonated with me during her presentation—that people want to make ethical decisions with their money, but they need the transparency and tools to do so. It reinforced to me that we have a duty as designers to create responsible and ethical solutions.
What excites you most about working with ThoughtForm?
ThoughtForm’s longstanding reputation and evidence of design excellence is exhilarating. As a new team member, I not only get to help forge a path forward as ThoughtForm continues to evolve, but I have the privilege of absorbing expertise built from years of success from the team. Learning from such a talented and experienced group of people is valuable and rare.
In my previous roles as a design researcher and product designer, a core piece of the design process was missing. Either I did not get to see how insights became solutions, or I was designing a product without background on the customers’ needs. ThoughtForm excels in blending these two disciplines. Being able to uncover needs and solve for them is the holistic approach I was seeking. I am excited to be a participant in the entire development process for future products, services, and strategies for our clients.
What advice do you have for someone just getting started down a similar career path to your own?
Allow yourself to try lots of things and don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. For me, it has been valuable to leverage knowledge from projects that seemingly had nothing to do with each other. Explore human centered design, service design, and visual communication. Remember that your unique expertise is valuable even if it might seem far off. Reach out to random people who do what you to do. People like to talk about their journey and most are willing to help others achieve their goals too.
Who’s currently on your work playlist?
For deep focus, it’s the soundtrack to Journey (the video game, not the band) composed by Austin Wintory. I’ve never played the game but the music is outstanding. Dare I say it might bring a tear to your eye if you listen while trying to map out a customer journey.