Julie Jenson Bennett, Chief Executive Officer, Precipice
Everybody pauses when asked to describe Julie – not because she defies classification, but because 20 years of working on the knife-edge of business and design has stretched her experiences far beyond her original career in interaction and information design at Intel Corporation.
As a design strategist she’s defined dozens of disruptive technology products in networking, e-commerce, television and domestic appliances and holds a patent for novel visual browsing interfaces. As a leader, she’s consistently delivered vision, profits and growth in a range of business models, from small creative studios to global corporate teams.
Many of Julie’s clients know her best for her rigorous design research, which evolved from her own decision making needs as a senior business manager and product strategist. In the process of getting the answers she needs, she’s acquired a deep knowledge of cognitive science, emotion science, anthropology and material culture, and is passionate about both the power and limitations of user-centered design and consumer research.
Now, as CEO of Precipice, Julie continues to balance her time between business management and strategic consulting. She loves a good spreadsheet, informed risk taking, and getting great products to market.
You’re speaking at PD+I 2016, what made you decide to get involved?
Product Design & Innovation is such a central question of business today, it’s crucial to build the community and have spaces to hold interesting conversations.
What are you currently working on?
I have spent the past 18 months understanding what it means to be a man or woman today and how changes in this have created unexpected ripples in the products we choose to have in our lives.
Why did you become a designer?
It happened a bit accidentally. I intended to become a journalist, but my studies in writing, visual communication and psychology led me to the emergent field of interaction design before it had a name or a real professional identity. From there, I became obsessed with the intersection of product design and business strategy.
Is there a designer or company you particularly admire and why?
I started my career at Intel in the early ‘90s, and the recent coverage of Andy Grove’s death has reminded me of so many qualities that made that company great. But as a product designer, Intel particularly drove home the fact that you are designing for an entire eco-system of suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and channel partners that need to be considered and appreciated, alongside what we see as consumers.
Should you meet your heroes?
Heroes live in the stories we create about other people. I am much more interested in hearing the stories other people tell about themselves.
What product or design you wish you’d worked on and why?
My recent work on gender has exposed the modern underbelly of dating. I’d have loved to have worked on Tinder, knowing what I know now, to rethink it from a different perspective.
What is the greatest challenge you face as a designer?
Balancing simplicity and complexity. If we worship the cult of simplicity too much, we miss out on the incredible richness of the human experience. But once we become perceived as complicated, we start to lose engagement. I have to constantly navigate that boundary every day.
Can you describe your company in 10 words or less?
Providing perspective on how and why stuff matters to people.
JULIE’S PRESENTATION ENTITLED FROM CRYSTAL BALL TO CULTURAL FORGE – MAKING MEANINGFUL CHANGE WILL TAKE PLACE AT THE PD+I 2016 CONFERENCE, IN THE AFTERNOON OF THE 1ST DAY.