CCAD designs workshops to help professionals excel

“Sometimes ludicrous ideas trump the safe ideas.”

“Don’t forget to say, ‘yes, and …’ to your partner’s ideas.”

“Chaos is good. I like chaos.”

tom gattis professional workshop

At times sounding more like an improv coach than the Industrial Design Professor, School of Design Arts Dean, and think-tank director he is, Tom Gattis took workshop attendees through their paces as they learned to think like a designer to better understand their customers. The Disruptive Collaboration Workshop he led is part of a new series of evening workshops for professionals launched by Columbus College of Art & Design’s Continuing & Professional Studies department.

At the first of the two-part Disruptive Collaboration Workshop on Monday, March 18, Gattis led attendees—primarily mid-career professionals from such businesses as DSW and Google—in a primer on getting to know what makes customers tick, how customers make their decisions, and how the workshop attendees might find opportunities to add value to the customer experience.

The assignment for the attendees over the two sessions: To figure out how a banking institution might encourage Baby Boomers, who currently hold the lion’s share of personal wealth, to embrace online banking. Or to determine how to persuade members of Gen Z, who will eclipse the Boomers in size and are the future source of personal wealth, to embrace brick-and-mortar banking.

tom gattis professional development workshop
tom gattis professional development workshop

The scenario, “is something everybody can relate to and something easy enough for people to grasp, but that also provides a chance to realize insights and opportunities,” says Gattis.

The first task: develop a customer persona. The workshop attendees went to work, partnering in pairs to fill in details such as their name (Joe), marital status (married), dietary preferences (she eats vegan), housing (they live in a Brooklyn apartment), and more. Their animated discussions were punctuated by peals of laughter as Gattis strode around the classroom, prodding attendees to ask deeper questions (Is that pet a dog, cat, or a ferret? Is that working mother ultra-organized, or overburdened?).

The exercise was not unlike an accelerated version of tasks Gattis assigns to CCAD Industrial Design students or to the businesses he works with as a Director at Aether Global Learning—although in those instances, Gattis works with real challenges and real problems. Still, Gattis says, the imagined scenario should have real-world benefits for workshop attendees.

“Hopefully, they will take these tools back into their companies and try these techniques with actual customers, using actual data,” he says.

Among those attending the workshop was Lisa Klancher, Creative Director at JJ Virgin and Associates, a health and wellness company.

As creative director, her job is to communicate visually, but she doesn’t always completely understand the customer, Klancher says. “What encouraged me to come here was that it was a design institution offering something different besides, say, painting. It’s business related to marketing, and it’s something I can apply and bring back to my team, to help educate my team. It’s great.”

The workshop, she says, “was exactly what I wanted. … I’m a professional communicator, this is what I do for a living, and I need more courses that bridge that gap between creativity and marketing.”

Learn more about Columbus College of Art & Design's professional workshops