Masters of Design: Kathleen Brandenburg

Principal and Cofounder, IA Collaborative

Is it beyond the call of duty to ask your design team to kayak out on Lake Michigan at 5:30 on a cold Chicago morning and dunk-test a Nike outdoor watch? Kathleen Brandenburg doesn't think so. A graphic designer by training, the 33-year-old Brandenburg is one of the country's premier practitioners of immersive design. (That doesn't necessarily mean dunking things in water; immersive design involves close study of how something is used in the real world.) So Brandenburg and her IA colleagues listened to more than 100 customer-service calls to improve the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Web site; they played pool with customers in their homes to understand how to rebrand Brunswick Billiards. Says Peter Lawrence, founder of the Corporate Design Foundation: "While many firms profess an [immersive] approach to design, very few practice with this kind of commitment." Another one of Brandenburg's commitments: return on investment. IA's suggestions for Nike helped its new watch line triple in sales. All of which proves Brandenburg's theory: Before you can execute the design, you've got to live the design problem.

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Impact Players: Four high-impact projects that shaped the year in design--and the people who launched them
  • William McDonough, Principal and founder, William McDonough + Partners
  • Tom Ford , Former Creative Director, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent
  • Jonathan Ive, Vice President of Industrial Design, Apple Computer Inc.
  • Marcia Lausen, Founding member, AIGA Design for Democracy
Game Changers: The risk takers and agitators who are rewriting the rules
Collaborators: Champions who help make great design happen
Next Generation: Meet four rising stars who are charting the future
A Jury of Their Peers
Introducing 11 jurors--top leaders from universities, cultural institutions, and business--who helped us select our 20 Masters of Design.
Lessons From the Masters
These five ideas will help you incorporate design principles in your work -- and better connect with customers and colleagues.

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