Re-imagining the heart of san jose

During my tenure as Director of Innovation at The Tech, I collaborated with Gehl Studio on a project funded by the Knight Foundation to prototype how the City of San Jose might bring civic life to its City Hall Plaza.  We conducted qualitative and quantitative research in the community and designed a modular, milk-crate based furniture kit in order to test how people would like to use the plaza - picnic tables housed informal lunch gatherings, lounge chairs invited moments of relaxation next to the fountain, and stages hosted musicians and speakers.  Our final report includes recommendations grounded in the results of our prototyping and from mixed methods research.

Themes:  civic engagement, urban prototyping, community-building

Methods:  creative strategy, grant writing, field observations, ethnographic interviews, survey design, prototyping, cultural probes

Storytelling:  data visualization, Re-imagining the Heart of San Jose:  Making City Hall Plaza a Place for People (Knight Foundation final report), public presentations at SPUR San Francisco and SPUR San Jose.  [SPUR article on the project here.]

Tools:  Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Keynote, time lapse photography

Context is everything

In fall 2015, I founded Context is Everything, a design / research consultancy. We collaborate with partners in the private, public, and academic sectors to make technologies, services, and spaces more inclusive. We are particularly adept at community-based research, participatory design workshops, and sparking critical discourse and civic engagement through public art and transmedia storytelling.  These projects include an ideation game for civic innovation, interactive street puppetry, and a neighborhood-based storytelling project, Lost & Found.  

Methods:  ethnographic research, participatory design, community-building, public art, urban storytelling


As Director of Innovation at The Tech Museum of Innovation, I conducted design research, tested prototypes, and provided creative direction for museum exhibits, space design, and civic innovation initiatives.  These projects included research on the perceptions, beliefs, and knowledge of robotics, user testing for The Tech website redesign, and designing mobile furniture to support collaborative team work.  For more on designing spaces for participation, see an article published in The Exhibitionist, co-written with Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft.

Themes:  robotics, technology in society, interaction design, experience design, space design

Methods:  creative strategy, design research, prototyping, user testing


I conducted an ethnographic study of a short-term intentional community of 28 interdisciplinary adults who came together from across the world to design solutions for “the future of work.” The “innovation camp,” as the organizers called it, was a 7-week creative residency similar to a long-form hackathon.  I researched participants’ roles and motivations, team project development, and the emergent collaborative practices of the community.  Taken together, a multi-level analysis investigated the ways in which the physical and social setting may have supported or hindered creative collaboration.

Themes:  intrinsic motivation, social cohesion, community-building, psychology of creativity, team dynamics, collaboration

Methods:  field observations, ethnographic interviews, survey design, social network analysis

Storytelling:  data visualization (social network analysis), article in Make Space:  How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaborationdissertation published August 2012, Building a Creative Community:  Emergent practices and learning at a seven-week innovation camp

Tools:  NVivo, Adobe Illustrator, Keynote, video.


The Digital Youth Project research team at Stanford University, in collaboration with Nichole Pinkard’s and Kimberley Gomez's labs, investigated how middle school students on Chicago’s South Side acquired 21st century skills as they learned how to design and make – from graphic design to video production and spoken word – with the support of their communities in formal and informal learning environments.  Our 3-year longitudinal study followed students who were part of the Digital Youth Network, an artist-mentor led digital and technological arts program with a critical pedagogy focus.  

Themes:  design education, technological fluency, learning ecologies, connected learning

Methods:  field observations, ethnographic interviews, survey design, case study methodology

Storytelling:  data visualization of qualitative data, conference presentations (MacArthur Digital Media & Learning and the American Educational Research Association), book published by MIT Press, The Digital Youth Network: Cultivating digital media citizenship in urban communities

Tools:  HyperResearch, SPSS, Adobe Illustrator, Keynote, video.


As part of the Wise-Up program (Wise-Up) at DKT Ethiopia, I conducted interviews and focus groups with sex workers to learn about their experiences related to health, income generation, and human rights. Weaving together elements of their stories, I wrote and designed three graphic novelas and developed a peer education curriculum. Final illustrations were a collaboration with a local artist.

Themes:  health behavior change, peer learning, community-building, identity

Methods:  field observations, ethnographic interviews, focus groups

Storytelling:  personas, comic book design, curriculum development

Tools:  Adobe Illustrator, digital photography, PowerPoint

*Please contact me for a full portfolio.