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David Sherwin
Oakland, California
Director of User Experience at, frog Fellow, author of "Creative Workshop" and "Success by Design."
Interests: music, yoga, chocolate, anime, art, design, dreaming, cooking, writing, photography, jazz, meditation, rock climbing, novels, typography
Recent Activity
Congratulations. You’re now in charge of a project team that’s kicking off in a few days. Your boss sends you an email that ends with: “Let me know if you want some advice when the team starts Storming.” Why the capital “S” in that email for “Storming”? A few Internet searches later, you’re buried in a pile of Wikipedia entries, recent articles from the New York Times, and academic books talking about how groups develop over time. In your reading, you find that way back in 1965, psychologist and professor Bruce Tuckman proposed a theory that shapes how many of today’s businesses approach team building. You’ve heard some of these terms come up before at work, but they didn’t make... Continue reading
Posted Feb 29, 2016 at ChangeOrder
Interested in starting your own design business, but don't know how to do the "business" part? This comprehensive presentation covers how design studios make money, the ways design studios organize themselves to support making money, considerations for managing your studio's finances, and a method for creating your own studio operating model. Many of the tools and perspectives in this presentation were identified in collaboration with Design Commission, a successful design business headquartered in Seattle, Washington. I delivered this presentation with David Conrad, Studio Manager and Co-Owner of Design Commission, as part of AIGA Seattle's "Design Business for Breakfast" series. Much of the information here was then included in my book Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. You... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2015 at ChangeOrder
Light knifed across the stark grey ceiling. Pain curled in my gut. Sweaty salty upper lip. Knees pulled to my chest. Slitted curtain. Slipping into and out of lucid dreams: Late summer bright suits and sundresses. Grass blades tickling my back. Fighting for a share of blanket on the hilltop. Birds formed a wheel overhead. When I shut my eyes, my body shook itself awake. * Stepping off the bus after a bracing three hour ride from Barcelona to Cadaqués, I sit on a dirty bench waiting for a woman to meet me with the apartment keys. The afternoon sun hammered down. Behind me, tourists wandered up and down the narrow streets. The dark blue harbor was littered with white... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2015 at ChangeOrder
The toddler in the snowsuit slipped on a rock and slid into the burbling stream. His mother pointed at him, laughing to her two friends standing beside her. I thought: I’ve never seen that happen in an art museum. We were inside the first room of Olafur Eliasson’s Riverbed, which was on display at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art outside Copenhagen. It was part of a series of situational artworks where natural landscapes were partially recreated within the environment of a gallery space. The year before, Mary and I had seen Lava Rocks at a museum in Aalborg, where we had to don a pair of museum-provided Crocs and gingerly step our way through a giant white room full... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2015 at ChangeOrder
At sunset, the lingering light painted a neon red line above rolling hills. As I drove north on Highway 101 at 70 miles per hour, the landscape scrolled in parallax, the road receding into night. Up ahead, I could see a white car moving much slower than the speed limit, drifting from the righthand lane into mine. In moments, I would either be passing this car, or it would be crashing into me. So what did I do? I honked right before I was about to pass. And as I motored past, I quickly glanced over my shoulder to see why this driver was behaving so erratically. The driver’s face was illuminated by the blue-bright glow of her phone in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2014 at ChangeOrder
The car saleswoman leaned over the desk, placed a sheet of paper down in front of us. “This is a version of the customer satisfaction survey they’re going to send you next week in the mail.” It was a garden-variety survey about the car purchasing process, with a five-point scale that ranged from Excellent (5) to Poor (1). She plucked a pen from the desk before her, then drew a hard blue line down the page between the 4 and the 5. “If I’m rated anything less than a five,” she said, “then I’m not doing a good job. It’s either a five or I’ve failed.” She continued to describe how even one 3 or 4 in a month could... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
How DRY is your design? Does every element in your design have CRUD? Can you narrow the GIGO gap? I find it hard to think about creating UX designs without considering the underlying logic an engineer will use to bring it to life. Successful UX designers are often trained in markup and coding, working within modern web design principles supported by constantly updated libraries housed on Github. However, there are many principles that are used by software engineers that can help new user experience professionals make design decisions that are more likely to be implemented successfully and scale appropriately. Here are three that I use regularly in working with my design teams. Just How DRY Is Your Design? DRY stands... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2014 at ChangeOrder
In the past five years, I have dedicated much of my effort to helping people learn the skills they need to succeed and pursue their passions, both in professional practice at frog, as a teacher at California College of the Arts, and as a writer of design books that encourage learning by doing. That's why I'm excited to announce that today I joined as their Director of User Experience. In my new role at, I am responsible for the design of their product across devices and platforms, leading a team of UX designers that want to help people around the world reach their fullest potential. If you're like me, has been there for you when you needed... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2014 at ChangeOrder
I play drums in an all-frog cover band, the Sticky Notes. We’re playing a free show on Tuesday, June 17th at the frog design studio at 660 3rd Street (3rd and Townsend) in San Francisco. Our studio will be open to guests from 6–9 PM with a DJ, and we’ll be rocking a mix of classic and modern songs from 8-9 PM. This is part of the SF Design Week’s Studio Crawl. I hope to see you out there! And, of course, mad props goes out to Amalia Sieber for the great band poster she created for us. Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
You know when a team clicks. Designers complete each other’s sentences. Team members engage in critique frequently, and relish the input into their work. People build on each other’s ideas in productive ways. Everyone feels invested in their project outcomes. This doesn’t happen through mere serendipity, especially when working with teams that have multidisciplinary participants working across multiple physical locations. You may be collaborating deeply with stakeholders across corporate silos, as well as involving users as part of the design process. Creating cohesive, high-performing teams requires not just talented people, but also the right structures to support them as they strive to achieve their goals. How can a manager or leader understand where these structures fit as part of their... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
We no longer live in a disconnected world. Ubiquitous, flexible communication has become the norm. We are living in huge device ecosystems, whose complexities are increasingly challenging to perceive. At frog, we’re passionate about designing products that are meant to advance the human experience. That’s why we’re excited about helping to shape the future of the Internet of Things (IoT). There are over 200 billion connected devices estimated to be a part of the IoT by 2020. We need to participate in helping to create these next waves of connected devices, bringing our skills as designers to bear on creating meaningful solutions. At this year’s HOW Design Live, I was able share some of the tools we use to create... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
This summer, join me from July 7-11, 2014 at Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design's Summer School for a week-long workshop that will help you become a stronger storyteller and improve your product and service design efforts. This workshop, entitled "Happily Ever After: Storytelling in Interaction Design," draws from my semester-long storytelling class that I've taught since 2012 in the BFA in Interaction Design program at California College of the Arts (CCA). You'll take part in individual and collaborative storytelling challenges, which will build up to a long-form story project that will stretch your storytelling and design skills to the limit. The workshop will be co-taught with Mary Sherwin, who helped me build the CCA class and brings her perspective and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2014 at ChangeOrder
This is the final post culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). See the slide deck here. At the start of this talk, I'd defined entrepreneurship as undertaking risk to create customer value by making needed things, receiving feedback on them, and improving business performance iteratively. And I'd said I wanted to answer this question: How might we bring design into businesses to improve their chances of success? Here's my answer to that question. Increasing the chance of success for design-led businesses requires entrepreneurs to define their impact potential, seek out “duh” problems, make desirable solutions at greater and greater fidelity, and work in cycles of learning. If there's anything you... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2014 at ChangeOrder
This is the fifth of six posts culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). Read the first, second, third, and fourth posts, and see the slide deck here. Improving Business Performance Iteratively With enough customer feedback on our hypotheses, we are able to hone in on "duh problems" that, if solved, create major value for customers while also creating new business opportunities for our clients. This requires steady, consistent effort, and going through smart iteration on both the product and business. Iteration doesn’t just mean to create improvement for improvement's sake, adding countless features and complexity in the process based on every piece of customer feedback that you receive. I see... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2014 at ChangeOrder
This is the fourth of six posts culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). Read the first, second, and third posts, and see the slide deck here. You Should Always Be Making You’ve identified the level of risk you can take, and established the value of the problem you’re seeking to solve for your target audience. At this point, I still meet people who look at the entrepreneurship process as having an idea, formulating a plan around that idea, getting funding, then making the thing. This behavior happens not only in product and service design, but in nonprofit and global development work.* Rapid prototyping and learning from those prototypes through intelligent... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
This is the third of six posts culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). Read the first post and second post, and see the slide deck here. Don’t Think You Have the Solution So, you’ve defined the type of impact you think you want to have. You have a theory about what particular group or community would benefit from your business idea or solution. Now you’re going to immediately make your solution and unleash it into this world, right? This is a rookie mistake for any new business. We assume if it’s our problem, it’s important to everyone else. We believe that other people value a solution as much as we... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2014 at ChangeOrder
This is the second of six posts culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). Read the first post here and see the slide deck here. Entrepreneurs Take on Risk Risk is often measured in an investment of explicit resources: time, people, resources, money, space, and so forth. You can quantify these things. They are tangible. You can capture them in a spreadsheet, calculate in your head exactly how much "runway" these resources might afford you.* When talking about risk, entrepreneurs are often talking about exposure to potentialloss or downside if you take a particular course of action. These are decisions whose implications could make your business suffer in the short term,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at ChangeOrder
The following 6 posts are culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). The talk was delivered on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Think Big Partners in Kansas City, Kansas. How many people here would consider themselves entrepreneurs? Designers? Both? When the folks at KCDW reached out to me about giving this talk, I gave them the title "Envisioning the Balance: The Dynamic Role of Design in Entrepeneurship." However, five months have passed since I came up with that title, and as often happens with thinking about a subject as large as entrepreneurship, I've come to realize the title wasn't correct. So I’ve decided to change the name of this talk as... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2014 at ChangeOrder
We've been seeing an intense pressure on businesses to rapidly make sense of customer needs and demands, then incorporate that feedback into new or existing products. For today's designers, it can be challenging to make well-informed decisions about the large and small details that comprise these products, especially when working within the constraints of an agile/scrum methodology. At frog, one of the methods we turn to regularly to identify and incorporate user feedback into products is participatory design. Participatory design aims to bring users into the design process by facilitating conversations through the creation and completion of a wide range of activities. We create activities to facilitate sharing and conversation with users, providing them with materials to descriptively discuss their... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2014 at ChangeOrder
Here's a list of some upcoming talks I'll be doing around the U.S, on the heels of being on podcasts with Ash Thorp (The Collective) and Jason Fruy (My Creative Copilot). Hope to see you at one of them! Friday, February 21st, 2014 "Design Is Hacking How We Learn" California College of the Arts San Francisco Campus 1111 Eighth Street San Francisco, CA 94107-2247 7 PM in Timken Hall, reception at 6:30 PM Free and open to the public This is a new iteration of a talk that I started giving this past year. The abstract: The next big disruption in lifelong learning will be by design. We are innately trained and poised to have a global impact on how... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2014 at ChangeOrder
You've probably heard about the recent dispute between Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones. We could sum up the news thusly: Don't join a business without a signed agreement. A partnership is worth the paper it's inked on. No matter how long you've known someone, the depth of your friendship, or the assurances that have been made through countless emails, an oral contract is brutal to try and enforce in court, even for a partnership that has been public-facing and branded as such for over a decade. Plus, this crucial sentence stood out for me in Frere-Jones's claim against his former partner: "…between their agreement in 1999 and March 2004, the partners developed, expanded, and grew HTF without any corporate formality.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2014 at ChangeOrder
This past year went by in a blur, and out of all the nonfiction and fiction books that I read, I'd like to offer 10 books that challenged me and that you should consider checking out this new year. Ranging from reportage to essays to fiction, this list blends classics, bestsellers, and quirky works that caught my attention and changed my focus as a human being just as much as a professional designer. Sugar Fat Salt: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss This book was a huge bestseller last year, and for good reason. It goes down easy, but will make you sick to your stomach—in a thought-provoking way. Impeccably researched and written, Moss delves deeply into... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2014 at ChangeOrder
This is a guest post by Ted Leonhardt, who helped me out with the "Negotiation" chapter of Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. Ted has a new book that just came out called Nail It: Stories for Designers on Negotiating with Confidence, which takes the topic much further and extends from client interactions to salary negotiations, promotions, and job interviews. Nail It was released first this month as an e-book through Amazon/iBooks and will soon be in print, so check it out! Logic is great for analyzing what went wrong after the event. But it’s not so great for creative and emotional moment-to-moment decision-making. When you’re in the heat of it all, logic is hard to hang... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2013 at ChangeOrder
The time and place are set. You meet, shake hands, order your pour-over coffees or craft beers. You chat about how things are going in your lives. Then the moment comes. The startup founder pulls out the appropriate smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and asks if they can receive some feedback on their product. I have many of these conversations every year, most often with startups that employ designers as one of their core founders or first hires. The founders I meet with often have design training and are well aware of the benefits of taking a human-centered design approach to their product from day one. Their team understands that a visually beautiful user interface and an "intuitive" user experience emerge... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2013 at ChangeOrder
Imagine that this is what you know about me: I am a college-educated male between the ages of 35 and 45. I own a MacBook Pro and an iPhone 5, on which I browse the Internet via the Google Chrome browser. I tweet and blog publicly, where you can discover that I like chocolate and corgis. I’m married. I drive a Toyota Corolla. I have brown hair and brown eyes. My credit-card statement shows where I’ve booked my most recent hotel reservations and where I like to dine out. If your financial services client provided you with this data, could you tell them why I’ve just decided to move my checking and savings accounts from it to a new bank?... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2013 at ChangeOrder