We are proud to announce the newest member of the ThoughtForm team. As a Strategist and Designer, Andrew Whitcomb will bring a strong design research toolkit to any project. Read about his background in the interview below.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It began as a very traditional graphic design education in a sense—understanding the principles of typography, logos, layouts, etc. Starting my junior year, however, I was exposed to more forward-thinking design research methods. For one assignment in particular, our professor required that we get out of the studio and interview people about every day objects they found meaningful. This was the first time I was asked as a designer to leave my bubble and talk to somebody about what they felt was important. Keep in mind, this was far before design thinking had evolved to the point it is today. The experience opened my eyes to a whole new world of factors that shape the decisions we make as designers, and ultimately led me to pursue my Master’s and PhD in design.
Why design strategy?
The more I got into UX design, the more I needed to understand principles of psychology and anthropology, about how the brain and body work together and affect the way that people make sense of and interact with the world. At the same time, the more I learned about how the artifacts we design influence the way people behave, the more I grappled with my role as a designer. I loved the idea that design can make the world a better place, but the question for me became, “How can we include more people in this important process?” I started by exploring tools and platforms to open up the design process to people who aren’t trained in designers. But I soon realized that making design truly inclusive—and perhaps even democratic—can’t be achieved by just defining a set of processes, tools, or methods. To me, design strategy is the recognition that building the future is a craft. It requires careful collaboration and knowledge-sharing by working through complex challenges alongside people with diverse skills and perspectives. So design strategy is this perfect opportunity to engage the wide range of stakeholders connected to any project and make meaningful change together.
What excites you most about working with ThoughtForm?
First, the focus on communication is very exciting for me. It combines a lot of threads in my life. I have a background in graphic design, so I really appreciate visual communication. ThoughtForm has been a leader in that regard for many years. They are a strong advocate and voice for the power of visualizing processes and helping people make sense of complex relationships. That’s something that I’ve been exposed to throughout my design career, and it’s something I find powerful and important. To be able to join this team and sharpen those skills and learn from the expertise here is really exciting.
Second, when my wife and I moved to Pittsburgh, I was working as a design researcher for McKinsey & Company. The work was exciting, with a lot of focus on building the innovation capabilities of clients. However, in my role as a researcher, I often had to hand projects off after the initial discovery phase, and I found that difficult. I not only really love the full design process, but I also wanted to practice facilitating collaboration from discovery all the way through to prototyping and implementation. At ThoughtForm, I found a group of people who see design strategy as process of wayfinding together with clients, taking time to help them frame their challenges and envision better futures.
Welcome to ThoughtForm.
Thanks very much!