Rebelling Creatively with John S. Couch, VP of Product Design at Hulu

We’re excited to share that we are working with our new client John S. Couch—writer, artist, and the vice president of product design at Hulu—on his upcoming book, The Art of Creative Rebellion. As the product design lead, he spearheaded the successful redesign of the Hulu Experience across mobile, living room, and web, which coincided with the launch of the award-winning series The Handmaid’s Tale. Currently, he is transforming the American entertainment company’s design of future storytelling through emerging platforms.

Before making an entrance into the world of technology, John led the communications team at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. (His first job out of university was actually curating an art show in London of Beat writer William Burroughs’s “Shotgun Paintings”!) After travelling around Paris, Vienna, and Tokyo, John settled in San Francisco and kick-started his design career at Wired Magazine, where he shared an office with notable Vancouverite, Douglas Coupland. The technology specialist and innovator is fluent in Japanese and helped launch Wired Japan during his stint at the media company. After developing a love for technology at Wired, he took on the roles of vice president and creative director at CBS Interactive, the chief creative officer of The Shop, and, subsequently, the head of design and senior creative director at Magento and eBay. Aside from working with us on The Art of Creative Rebellion, the writer has also been writing his own Sci-Fi novel which will be published next month. To this day, John paints every evening and was recently commissioned by a Shugendo priest in Nara, Japan to paint the deity, Zao Gongen. We can’t wait to work with such a creative and innovative leader, and to help John share his insight with the world.

Fireside Chat Lessons from design leaders: Designing a culture of innovation Kim Williams, John Couch and Aarron Walter - Indeed

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Companies that foster creativity, transparency, and design-centricity create a space where innovation thrives. When you’re working in a large, established company, creating a culture of innovation can be challenging.

During this chat, we’ll sit down with design leaders Kim Williams, Senior Director of Design at Indeed, and John Couch, VP of UX and Design at Hulu to discuss all things innovation. Alongside moderator Aarron Walter, VP Design Education at InVision, they’ll share why creating a clear vision drives change, how to design a process around innovation, and ways to disrupt the status quo by bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to your team and company.

Join this online conversation by checking out the recording linked above.

Kim Williams

Kim is the Senior Director of Design for Indeed’s Design Platform Studio. She leads a team of design technologists, content strategists, writers, design ops, and UX researchers defining Indeed’s core job search experience, shipping the company's first design system, and piloting new apps. Before joining Indeed, Kim was head of brand systems at eBay and associate creative director at agency Ogilvy & Mather.

John Couch

John Couch is the VP of UX and Design at Hulu. Prior to Hulu, he was the Chief Creative Officer of The Shop and Head of Design and Senior Creative Director for Magento and eBay Enterprise. John was formerly an Entertainment and Technology Specialist focused on cross-platform content strategies and development for television, film, Internet, mobile, video games, and emerging new media platforms. He is also a screenplay writer, and is fluent in Japanese.

Aarron Walter

Currently the VP of Design Education at InVision, Aarron previously founded the UX practice at MailChimp. He is the author of Principles of Product Design and co-author of Design Leadership Handbook on DesignBetter.Co, and the bestselling book Designing for Emotion, from A Book Apart.


Leveraging the Power of Design

Much has been written about “Design Thinking” ala Standford D School and IDEO’s methodology. In a nutshell it can break down to something like this:

1. Empathy for the user

• Talking to the customers and listening to what they say, how they feel and what their motivations are.

2. Divergent and Convergent Ideation

• Basically brainstorming a ton of ideas that address the needs of the customer (divergent) and then settling on a select few to advance forward (convergent).

3. Iterate

• Build and prototype a range of solutions and test with customers early and frequently.

The real challenge is actually implementing this methodology in a real-world situation. It’s relatively easy to do a workshop and engage employees for a day but once they go back to their desks, it rapidly becomes business-as-usual. There are always more tactical issues to deal with, fires to put out and major pressing company priorities.

To be clear, I do believe in the design thinking methodology but I believe it requires a few things to be in place before it can become effective. Based on my twenty plus years as a designer and creative director, I’ve come across a few principles that have worked for me.

Culture is key
There is no innovation without culture. Without fail, those companies I’ve been involved with that have strong creative culture have had extraordinary brands and attracted the best and brightest. It’s a virtuous cycle – as great attracts great. Humans are attracted to authenticity, both internally as employees and as consumers of a product. It comes from the top down. The CEO has to embody the ethos of the company values or it doesn’t work. Witness the massive success of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Brian Chesky of Airbnb.

Design as co-pilot
Design has to be at the table with product development or marketing at the start. It can’t be an afterthought. There’s a strong tendency towards a throw-it-over-the-wall mentality in the following order: technology to product to design at the end to “make it pretty.” This is an old school mentality and it is heartening to see younger, newer ventures implementing a more collaborative approach to creating. Again this ties into corporate culture as stated above.

Brutal honesty
It’s important to have pride in your company and product but you need to be relentlessly honest about its experience. Being in a bad company that you get used to is tantamount to being in a bad relationship – you often don’t realize how bad it is until you’ve gotten out and started a new relationship. How does your company’s culture and offering compare to the competition? Go outside. What does the landscape really look like and how do you and your company compare?

Design can be a powerful force for incredible products, offerings and marketing in a company or it can be cheap lamination. In the end people know the difference – design is a through-line that runs from the internal principles and values of a company out to the end result, the product, that touches the customer. And that is the power of design. To authentically connect people to people, people to products and people to brands.


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