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Design research is about spending time with real people and using their experiences as the center of influence for our designs — rather than shaping them based on technical and market trends.

In this video on design strategy and research, Modernist COO Jon Kolko — expert designer, strategist, educator, author, and founder of Austin Center for Design — shares the details of how to conduct design research, including looking for anomalies instead of commonalities, shifting power dynamics to the user, getting buy-in from skeptics, and techniques that quickly build rapport with research participants.

Watch the video below.

If you haven’t seen them, be…


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Thanks for your interest in writing for Modernist Studio’s Medium publication!

Submission Guidelines

* 300–1500 words
* Optimistic in tone
* Solutions-focused
* Clear thesis
* Topic areas: design, innovation, AI, software, UX/UI, etc.
* Focus on: design systems, leveling the playing field for diverse audiences and user groups
* Submissions can be word-driven (e.g. a blog/article) or visually-driven (e.g. redesigning an app for better experience)
* You will need a Medium account in order to submit a final draft to the publication — then we will add you as a contributor

For word-driven pieces: * Submit either: a full draft or…


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If this past year has shined a light on anything, it’s the need for a robust overhaul to the education sector in America. Chronic misinformation, divisiveness, and untruths have run rampant, leaving our nation to fall behind in the fight for healing during the Covid pandemic. And even as experts blaze forward designing new communications technologies, contact tracing platforms, and scientific solutions like vaccines and rapid testing, many in the general public continue to ignore a universe of fact — in lieu of opinion.

This, more than anything, points to a missing link in education — the inability to creatively…


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What day is it? November.

More than ever, the aging population has been at the forefront of conversations since COVID-19. Many of us are wondering how to spend time with our parents, grandparents, or other aging friends and relatives. And as we check in with them — often by phone — we’re curious how they’re actually coping with the rampant isolation beyond the friendly voice they wear for our calls. Here in the US, where we tend not to live in multigenerational households, that’s especially true.

Increasingly, we’re turning to technology and automation as bridges to maintain connections and to…


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The Future of Aging is an exploration into the inevitability of technology as a well-intentioned support structure for aging. As the baby boomer generation grows into their later stage of life, many of us are watching our parents, or grandparents, age. Their expectations for growing old are unique to this generation — they’d prefer to avoid nursing homes and are looking for creative solutions to retire on their own terms — and in their own homes.

It’s tempting to throw technology at the challenge of aging in place, given that ability to see potential in helping our parents through designing…


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Design research is about spending time with real people and using their experiences as the center of influence for our designs—rather than shaping them based on technical and market trends.

In this introduction to design research, Jon Kolko — expert designer, strategist, educator, author, founder of Austin Center for Design, and COO here at Modernist — shares case study examples, discusses predictions versus provocations (and which approach is the most successful), and teaches how to implement user-centered research methods including think-aloud testing, diary studies, post cards, and user timelines.

Watch the video below.

Learn more about Modernist’s approach to design strategy at moderniststudio.com


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Designers aim too low. To better understand large and important scientific phenomena, scientists have large and important scientific research tools that can cost tens of billions of dollars. Design researchers are trying to understand large and important behavioral and cultural phenomena, and we, too, need large and important design research tools.

So, where is design’s billion-dollar research tool? What is the Petri dish for design, the space to propose ideas, explore new provocations, and see the impact of designs on culture?

The Large Hadron Collider is a massive machine that helps physicists explore theories about particle physics. It’s physically enormous…


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Design strategy is all about experience, emotional insight, and narratives, built on a foundation of empathy. It’s designing for behavior over time instead of just a single moment in a static artifact.

In this introduction to design strategy, Jon Kolko — expert designer, strategist, educator, author, founder of Austin Center for Design and COO here at Modernist — discusses in the ins and outs of combining design and business, transcending reality, getting real about careers, and creating value for companies large and small.

From Disney to Blackboard, learn about using design strategy to build iconic brands, products, services, and systems…


Profile of an experience designer or design strategist surrounded by textures and pencils
Profile of an experience designer or design strategist surrounded by textures and pencils

Here at Modernist Studio, we create products that solve real problems for real people. We believe in humanizing design — and technology — and that requires educating people about the way our process works in a scalable way. It doesn’t always come easy, but the process is one that can transform the way businesses approach and execute on new ideas, creating sustaining value over time.

We also focus on sparking new ways of thinking for those interested in design strategy, interaction design, service design and product management through courses, trainings, and bootcamps. …


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Lately, it feels like we are balancing on the edge of a great conflict. The landscape seems full of friction, miscommunication, and an abundance of misalignment between strangers, commerce, politics, and even friends and family amidst these great distances. Within this trend, we are pondering peace: how to define it, what it means, how to achieve it.

We move first to the obvious: the opposite of war. Then to someplace more intimate and vulnerable — the notion of being at peace with oneself. Then peace resembles a journey map — a process that requires work, intention, and awareness at every…

Modernist Studio

Modernist Studio is a strategy, experience design and innovation consultancy that designs and builds the future across products, services, experiences and teams

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