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.

Peak Performers: Four masters who are leading the world of design
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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