Day in the Life – James White


james-hero-3James White is the Chief Strategy officer at FreshForm. Originally from Manchester, England, he moved to San Diego in 2010. James studied psychology and physiology at the University of Birmingham, UK, and has been in the advertising and design industry for 20 years. In 2017 he was the co-chair of the Design Forward summit, a yearly gathering that brings together business, academic, civic, and design leaders to discuss why ‘good design is good business’.

What is misunderstood about what you do at FreshForm?

I’m the Chief Strategy Officer, and that means I look at brand strategy for our clients and help solve the business challenges they face every day. Strategy is not one size fits all – there’s different types of strategy for each client. Business strategy, brand strategy, product strategy, service strategy, and much more. Strategy is not only important at the beginning of a project but also throughout, because I don’t think design thinking is ever truly finished.

What do you think makes FreshForm stand out as an agency?

The difference here is that we really try to understand human need, and then we use that as the core insight into anything we design. Psychology plays a big role in human centered design because you have to be able to empathize with people and be aware of their needs. And I just really enjoy being at FreshForm! When you spend so much time with your work you have to be able to make it fun and playful. Things here are constantly evolving and new challenges are always cropping up – so it’s exciting.

Why is design so important?

Design is really about finding ways to help communities and make the world easier to navigate. Like here in San Diego homelessness is major issue, so something I think would be great to work on is finding a solution to help make this city a better place for people without the privilege of having a home. For me that’s what it’s all about – helping people.

What advice do you have for a young designer?

james_a1793Be bold and curious, ask intelligent questions that consider all sides of the problem at hand. Make sure you have a point of view on the problem that you’re trying to solve before you ask for help. Listen more than you talk. You have two ears and one mouth so use them accordingly. Be humble and don’t fear failure because it just makes you better and more equipped for future challenges.

What websites do you visit to stay up to date with trends?

Techcrunch, Time Magazine, Times (UK), Wired, WSJ.

What is your favorite gadget (high tech or low tech)?

The pen. It is mightier than the sword and solves problems that are yet undefined.

What is your favorite place in San Diego?

Torrey Pines. I love hiking there, the trails and beach are great. Being able to be outdoors is one of the big reasons we moved away from London!

Business. Design. Innovation.


Business People Planning Strategy Analysis Office Concept

Top business publications continue to write about the value of design in the innovative process. We’ve curated a list of articles from Forbes, Inc, Fortune, and more that highlight their perspective on innovation in an ever changing market.

Why Design Is the Best Bottom-Line Strategy

Inc. shares what’s happening in tech by doing a Q&A with John Maeda after he released the 2017 Design in Tech Report.

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How Business Design Thinking Can Drive Greater ROI

Silicon Valley Business Journal discusses the growing body of evidence that links design integration throughout a business and greater ROI’s, employee/customer satisfaction, and differentiated products and services.

Read the Article

Why Design Thinking Matters in Business Now More Than Ever

Fortune relays essential moments from Singapore Design Week that illustrate the pervasiveness of design throughout different industries. 

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How Intuit Used Design Thinking To Boost Sales By $10M In A Year

Design Co. by Fast Company discusses how Intuit has become a leader in embracing design at all levels of an organization, but it wasn’t easy getting there. See how Intuit used Design Thinking to boost sales by $10M in a year.

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Design Thinking: Your Next Competitive Advantage

Forbes highlights a case study from IBM and lists five reasons why big industry leaders are betting big on leading with design.

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Design in Business: Insights from Design Forward 2017



Over the past year, FreshForm has been at the forefront of making Design Forward 2017 a reality. Scott Robinson and James White, FreshForm CEO and CSO, lead the efforts in planning the Design Forward Summit. The three day event was held October 25-27, 2017, which brought together San Diego’s leaders of the business, academic and civic sectors to discuss why ‘good design is good business’. Inspiration was drawn from local, national and international thought leaders from companies like IBM, USAA, PepsiCo, Herman Miller, Cubic, Qualcomm, Illumina and more. The mission of this summit was to ignite human-centered design thinking in those who attended and put San Diego on the map as a design-driven economy by 2028.

df-2Following the summit, our FreshForm designers each shared takeaways and memorable moments which we distilled into essential themes and insights from DesignForward. As you read this recap, we hope you consider how human-centered design may apply to your own role or discipline. Here’s everything you need to know:

The definition of Design has changed

First things first, design is probably not what you think it is. Designers should no longer be defined as the people who put the final artwork on our products. Multiple speakers repeatedly mentioned that the role of the designer is to trigger the right response. At FreshForm, we believe design is about identifying the right problem to solve, leveraging diverse perspectives, and deliveringdf-3 an experience to meet the needs of people. As Don Norman said, “Design isn’t just about making things pretty, it’s about solving problems.” Design may not even lead us to tangible solutions, sometimes our solutions require a switch in a system or simply a shift in mindset.

Designers are key to any business, it’s our job to change the perception of design among skeptics.

In today’s business world, innovation is essential to survival. Design fuels innovation. It’s no surprise that “Design-Centered companies outperform the S&P 500 by 211%” stated by Fortune. Hard facts aside, it’s our job as designers to df-5communicate the value of design in languages that people in business will understand. Jared Erondu recalls his experience as the only designer (now Head of Design) at Lattice, “If you can make a solid business case for design, decision makers won’t argue against it.” There is no need to evangelize design, good design explains itself if you plan accordingly.

Design doesn’t belong to one person, team, or organization. It belongs to all of us.

While we’re on the topic of breaking stereotypes, we must also forget about the notion that design is just a department, reserved for trained design practitioners. Design is for everyone and should be inclusive of all levels and all teams throughout an organization. It’s a skill that you can develop through critically evaluating a situation and offering a creative alternative. Andréa Mallard, CMO of Athleta was quoted, “Your non-design decisions are themselves designed decisions.” Even as a company’s CFO, you are still making decisions that affect how a customer perceives your company, therefore you are contributing to your customer’s experience.

Adversity Drives Design

Some of the most innovative outcomes are inspired by great adversity. Dana Lewis, from The Open Artificial Pancreas System Project (OpenAPS), shared her experience of hacking into her continuous glucose monitoring device in order to have a louder alarm when her glucose reached deathly levels while she slept. With no formal background in engineering or product design, she is just one of many from the #WeAreNotWaiting movement who are taking matters into their own hands by engaging their community and proactively designing better lives for themselves as they live with Type 1 df-7Diabetes. Kara DeFrias, Experience Design Leader at Qualcomm, confirmed this notion of adversity when she stated “Never take a no from a person who is not qualified to give you a yes.” Kara has had a career of creating opportunities for herself in the most unexpected places from the Women’s World Cup to leading initiatives as Director of Joe Biden’s UX Team at the Obama White House.


Learn Fast, Learn Frequently

Phil Gilbert, Head of Design at IBM, shared a bold statement expressing his disbelief in the popular “fail fast, fail often” philosophy of many young entrepreneurs. Failure is not part of learning. Of course we all learn from our mistakes, but failure implies that we do not move forward after making them. A “learn fast, learn frequently” philosophy encourages iteration, which is integral to the Human Centered Design process.

Good design does not exist without empathy.

Empathy is at the center of design thinking. When a designer can empathize, they have the ability to understand the feelings of their audience and truly design for their needs. PepsiCo’s Chief Design Officer, Mauro Porcini mentioned that “Designers are people in love with people,” and we couldn’t agree more. Here at FreshForm, our mantra is that empathy fuels connection; it fuels sustainability, and it’s what makes design human. Empathy is the cornerstone of design research—the single most transformative (and disruptive) addition to any team that aims to be innovative.

Never underestimate the power of your users.

The best sources of design inspiration sometimes come from the unlikeliest heroes: young school children. In a new model for designing playspaces for children in Singapore, Mizah Rahman and her team at Participate in Design df-4involve children in highly interactive exercises to gather inspiration, ideate and even prototype in their project Hack Our Play. The original intention was to enliven sterile playgrounds that had become too focused on safety rather than fun. However, the project ultimately transformed the model for child development in and out of the classroom through hands-on engagement with issues that they had direct experience with. The beauty of design is that it works best when diverse perspectives share their points of view to generate an enriching experience for all.

Never stop being curious.

Pretty straightforward, right? As simple as this concept may seem, we often become lulled into the mundane routine of life and forget to integrate curiosity into our daily mindset. However, the more curious we remain, the more conditioned we are to find patterns and opportunities that are often overlooked. Mariah Garrett, Chief Design Officer at USAA left us with words to ponder, “Ask more, assume less. Be kind and be candid. Don’t just check a box. Stretch daily.” Try this simple exercise: everyday, pick a random topic or object and ask: “how did this come to be?” or “how could this be better?”

Collaboration is critical.

It’s called the “Two Pizza Rule.” The idea is to never have a team where two pizzas can’t feed the entire group. Contrarily, we were quick to praise Phil Gilbert when he bluntly stated that “Two Pizzas won’t do.” We firmly believe that to go far, we must go together. Mark Cafferty from San Diego EDC offered eye opening insight when he reminded us that the fourth pillar of San Diego’s economy is Mexico. With the rapid development of real estate and increase of public engagement, the Border Region has developed into a desirable place to live and do business. With cross-border initiatives, idea exchange, and a wide range of perspectives, both San Diego and Mexico can progress together.

Don’t celebrate the wins, celebrate progress.

df-8Design Forward 2017 is certainly something to celebrate, but there is a lot of progress to be made. As we continue to think about the possibility of what San Diego could be, we are inspired by Jen Luce’s perspective to celebrate technology while embracing the desire for things we can touch. As fellow San Diegans, we must practice not only design thinking, but also design doing, to move this fine city forward. We will see you next year.

Discounted tickets for 2018 available now. Purchase Tickets.


Day in the Life – Nathan Stone


Nathan Stone is Lead Developer at FreshForm. He went to the Art Institute of California: San Diego and graduated in 2009 with a degree in Web Design and Interactive Media. Nathan freelanced out of college for a year before he was introduced to a small five person company at the time, FreshForm. Nathan has been here ever since. 

ditl-nathanWhat is misunderstood about what you do at FreshForm?

My role at FreshForm has always been a flexible one. I started as a Flash developer, but with the demise of my favorite platform, I slowly transitioned to a backend developer role. Nowadays, whether I’m building the backend of a CMS, helping with the frontend CSS, setting up the company photo booth, animating and editing video and motion graphics, or configuring client web hosting, even I don’t know what tomorrow will look like. Perhaps that’s the biggest misconception about what I do, because I never seem to do the same thing, everyone thinks I just do everything.

What website do you visit to stay up to date with trends?

Stack Overflow, Codepen, Gizmodo, Engadget, TechCrunch. There are a million more and they change every day.

What advice do you have for a young developer? 

ff-studio-hero-examples-2017-6-1_216Always keep an open mind to the tools/languages/frameworks you’re using. The web development field changes daily, and your favorite whatever might be outdated tomorrow. Constantly experiment, otherwise the aforementioned speed of change will leave you behind. Continuously question your own methods. A comfortable developer is one that isn’t pushing him/herself and will usually find themselves out of the loop. Embrace the DRY (don’t repeat yourself) frame of thought. A lazy developer is one who innovates to make coding easier. Find something else you love to do that may not be related to development. Tinker with electronics, photography, carpentry, crochet, whatever keeps your brain humming and your interests piqued.

What is your favorite gadget (high tech or low tech)?

Canon 5D MkIV, or DJI Phantom 3 Pro, depending on if I want to take a picture from down low or up high.

What is your favorite lunch spot?

Anywhere with beer.

Day in the Life – Abey Tidwell


Abey Tidwell is a Design Coordinator at FreshForm and works collaboratively within the Experience Design Team. She is originally from The Bay Area, and moved down to San Diego in 2011 to attend San Diego State University where she studied graphic design. She has also studied the human centered design process alongside IDEO professionals at Parsons in New York City. Abey graduated from SDSU in 2015 and has been here ever since.


What is misunderstood about what you do at FreshForm?

A widely known misconception about designers is that we are the ones who make things look good. While that is one aspect of it, we are first and foremost here to solve problems. A client will come to us with a problem, and they’ll typically have a potential solution in mind of what they want. However, it is our job to take a step back and figure out where the problem truly lies, then find the best possible solution for their specific needs.

I’m in a unique position here at FreshForm where I don’t necessarily devote all my time to one specific thing. I work cross functionally and have a hand in different phases of a project starting with research all the way through quality assurance. It’s great though, I have the opportunity to approach different situations with the same way of thinking. Although I’m not sitting at a computer creating a masterpiece in photoshop, I still feel as though I’m designing off the computer. It’s all problem solving.

What website do you visit to stay up to date with trends?ff-studio-hero-examples-2017-6-1_402

Awwwards is great for digital design, and Designspiration is nice for inspiration regarding general aesthetic. I also like to stay up to date with current events, some of the sources I browse are Vice and the New York Times podcast: The Daily.

What advice do you have for a young designer? 

Intuition is key. Find yours, and follow it.

What is your favorite gadget (high tech or low tech)?

Although I live and work in a world of digital, I’m an old school kind of gal. I really enjoy screen printing, I’ll always take advantage of an opportunity to screen print a project if I have the option to do so.

What is your favorite lunch spot?

Dos Brasas. One of the Designers here, Seth, got me hooked on bean, rice, and cheese burritos. I think half the office is addicted now.

Day In The Life – Michelle Peck


Michelle Peck has been the FreshForm Creative Director since 2016. Michelle is originally from San Diego, studied advertising in Colorado (Boulder) and has been back in San Diego since 2005. Michelle has worked on projects for Dexcom, Sony, San Diego International Airport and California Avocado Commission.


What is misunderstood about what you do at FreshForm?

A creative director can mean different things to different people. I often say I’m a blend of a Creative Director and a Brand Strategist. My approach starts with understanding the high-level business goals, user needs, and the design challenge. So, I have to be good at leading workshops, interviewing stakeholders, and documenting findings. I then take what I learn and distill it into clear themes and insights to establish the creative strategy that will set the framework for the end-to-end customer experience. Maintaining a clear concept and visual direction is important to ensure the creative vision is articulated in a meaningful way that will connect with our design team, our clients and the end user.

Throughout the process, I continue to test and validate our creative approach against the strategy to make the right decisions for the brands we work with and their customers. I review and approve everything that goes out the door at the agency to confirm it is on par with the strategy and meets the highest standard of design quality. Overall, my job enables me to inspire and motivate the creative team and our clients so they’re engaged and passionate about the work we’re doing.

What website do you visit to stay up to date with trends?ff-studio-hero-examples-2017-6-1_3-1

I typically look at Flipboard once a day to stay on top of the latest headlines and articles in the design community. If I come across something I’m inspired by I’ll subscribe to the news feed and let the information come to me. FastCo Design is one of my favorites.

What advice do you have for a young designer? 

Ask a lot of questions. I tell interns and new designers on our team that there are no bad questions. I love when designers are curious and willing to learn something new. Don’t assume you know everything. Be open to advice and feedback and make sure you listen to others and learn from your mistakes. And take notes! Write everything down so you don’t forget it.

What is your favorite gadget (high tech or low tech)?

The items I carry around with me at all times are my laptop, sketch paper, notebook, a pencil and a pen. As long as I have something to write with I’m usually good to go.

What is your favorite lunch spot?

I like to walk if I can, because many days I’ll tend to never leave the office. Saffron is great for a quick bite, but I also love going to The Crack Shack to relax and sit outside—they have an excellent ahi salad.


FreshForm Strengthens Leadership Team


Company Appoints Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Director

San Diego, CA — FreshForm announced today that James White has joined the company as Chief Strategy Officer and Troy Troxler has been promoted to Managing Director, reinforcing the company’s leadership team and providing experience and focus to brand strategy and business operations.

Mr. White brings 16 years of big brand experience, including Microsoft, Qualcomm, adidas, TaylorMade Golf, GlaxoSmithKline, LabCorp and Dexcom. Troy Troxler, having joined FreshForm in 2015 as Director of Account Services, comes with 18 years of progressive management experience .

Scott Robinson, President & CEO said, “We view both roles as a sign of our commitment to creating stronger relationships with our client partners. Troy is a champion of lean methodologies and business best practices. He maintains an outstanding work ethic and is committed to professional excellence and personal growth for the FreshForm team.”

Mr. Robinson continued by saying, “The evolution of our own business, plus the increasing demand from our clients, led us to look for a strategist who would also fit in well with our culture and ethos. During our initial 9-month engagement, James’ wealth of experience, industry knowledge and business acumen has made him a leader at FreshForm. We’re fortunate to hire someone of James’ caliber to this role, having worked at agencies such as McCann, VCCP London and Iris Worldwide.”

James commented, “FreshForm provides brands a platform to challenge the status quo, driving innovation and successful business outcomes. Our Customer Experience Modeling (CXM) puts us at the forefront of a revolution, giving us the power to transform brands in a positive way.”

About FreshForm
FreshForm is an experiential branding agency based in San Diego, California. Design thinking inspires our passionate team of thinkers, makers and doers to collectively shape personal experiences between brands and their audience. We design and build customer-centric brands using the principles of human-centered design, allowing us to influence perception, encourage behavior, and transform brands. Our services include, Innovation Workshops, Brand Strategy and Design, Customer Experience (CX) Design, Website Design and Development, Brand Activation, Prototyping, Testing, and Iteration.

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Deliver Better Customer Experience or Perish: 5 Signs Customer Experience Is More Important Than Ever


customer experience more important than ever

Globalization, online shopping, and even the rise of handcrafted and small producers selling their products in accessible ways mean more options than ever – and more competition for businesses big and small. When customers can easily take their business elsewhere, there’s an increased impetus on keeping them happy and coming back to your brand. It’s getting harder and harder to differentiate based on features and attributes. The companies getting ahead are the ones who are also focusing on the overall customer experience as a way to build business value and increase loyalty. These companies are raising the bar for everyone else – making satisfactory customer experience a point of parity and anything subpar a threat to viability.

Here are 5 signs the customer experience is more important than ever:

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