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Meet Klaus Kaasgaard, VP of Experience Design at Intuit

By Ilise Benun, Founder of and HOW Design Live Programming Partner

How do you simplify something that is inherently complex? kaasgaardklaus_headshot1_2017hdlThat has been Klaus Kaasgaard’s challenge as the VP of Experience Design of Intuit’s Small Business Group. But it’s a challenge he’s been dealing with through his 20 years of experience in user experience and product management in companies including Telstra, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

In our recent podcast interview, Klaus told me the story of how Intuit went “From Design Thinking To Design-Driven: A Story In Three Acts.” He was very articulate on the thinking behind their process and will expand on it when he speaks at HOW Design Live in Chicago in May 2017. In the meantime, learn a bit more about him in our Q&A:

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

Kaasgaard: I don’t have a classic design background. I have a background in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), which at the time I entered college was a new program. In those days (late 80’s) user-centered design and participatory design was quite advanced in Scandinavia in relation to technology development, especially Participatory Design.

At the time, even though I was slowly becoming interested in technology and computing, I didn’t want to study computer science or any tech field without a strong human and societal component. HCI had that, and I ended up with a Ph.D. that studied the use and impact of computers in clinical, psychiatric work. To me the technology is never interesting in itself; it’s the human and societal potential and impact that interests me as an area of study and work.

The doctorate made my mom very proud. She used to say, “My son is a doctor, but not the kind of doctor that actually helps people.” I’ve tried to prove her wrong ever since.

So my interest in design is intertwined with my interest in technology. Early on I was heavily influenced by academic researchers such as Terry Winograd at Stanford, who was among the first to connect more traditional fields of design with software development. This was before the web. The web, and especially mobile, has changed the name of the game completely.

What trends or changes excite and/or scare you most right now?

Kaasgaard: I have worked all my professional life evangelizing design in software development. It’s fantastic to see how it is being embraced today as an imperative for success, both in terms of process and outcome. That’s exciting. We are changing the role of design in society but with increased awareness also comes the risk of diluting or commoditizing the processes and outcomes of design to fit more narrow-minded interests and purposes. There are many advantages to being the odd one out; sometimes I wonder if our own success will be our nemesis too. But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I should just enjoy the moment and be more naively excited about the newfound role of design in technology and business.unknown

Any advice you want to offer creative professionals?

Kaasgaard: My advice to new designers is to embrace the role of design and keep evolving it, but do so thoughtfully, not with an eye to only immediate or vain outcomes. There is a long history of design in many fields to build on, and the challenge is always to become the person you aspire to be, without losing yourself. That’s true for the craft you represent also.

For more from Klaus Kaasgaard, check out these links: