Marc Rettig - How to Change Complicated Stuff

10 May 2010 - 3:01pm
2194 reads
Karl Herler


In the midst of a global conversation about change, many designers are pondering their own impact in the world. How does our experience in software interfaces, web sites, and physical products prepare us to address the profound issues humanity is facing? These issues involve many complex systems, systems too big to fit into the scope of any single company or institution. Design methods are potent at large scale and scope, but what does it take to be effective as a practitioner, as a team, as a company? What is it like to actually achieve a meaningful, sustainable, positive difference in life?

In this talk Marc Rettig offers insights into that question, drawing lessons from a number of serious, heartfelt attempts to affect change. The work we have all done in recent decades has prepared us to take on much bigger challenges. The foundations of design remain powerfully effective. That said, there are ways in which “designing for change” requires additions to our inventory of methods, and transformations in the way we plan and conduct our work.

These new ways of working can also benefit the design projects most of us tackle every day – challenges less grand in scale than shifting to sustainable transportation or raising the quality of a nation’s schools. The grand projects force us to consider the social situation we work within, the social systems we affect, the ripple effects of our actions, the nested web of parts and wholes, and the personal journey of our team. Attention to these things can improve the effectiveness of any effort to accomplish meaningful change.


About Marc Rettig

Marc is a co-founder of Fit Associates, LLC. Fit's intention is to lead, nurture, connect and equip conscious organizations for the greatest impact for the common good. Fit has a deep bench in ethnographic research, design, psychology, technology, and organizational change. Their industry client list includes Nissan, Comcast, Whirlpool, SAP, Microsoft and Respironics. Increasingly, Fit is turning its attention to work in sustainability, local development, and other issues whose scope exceeds the reach of any single organization.

Marc's 26-year career has been guided by an interest in people, systems, communication, anthropology and the power of design. After a first career in software systems, he has spent more than a decade as a designer of projects, interactions, products, services, experiences, and transformations. He has taught both lecture and studio courses at Carnegie Mellon's Graduate School of Design (where he was the 2003 Nierenberg Distinguished Chair of Design) and the Institute of Design, IIT in Chicago.

Marc served as Chief Experience Officer of the pace-setting user experience consultancy HannaHodge, where he was responsible for the firm's user-centered process, team culture, and research initiatives. He was a Director of User Experience at Cambridge Technology Partners. Prior to that he was a consultant with seeSpace, VP of Design for Digital Knowledge Assets, and a Senior Architect in Andersen Consulting's Advanced Technologies Group.

Marc has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Linguistics, and completed requirements for a Master's in Computational Linguistics at New York University. He frequently speaks and conducts hands-on workshops in industry and academic settings around the world. Marc currently serves on the advisory boards of UXNet, The Interaction Design Association, and Rosenfeld Media, and is a Contributing Editor to Interactions magazine.


Originally posted by Nasir Barday, 05.05.2009.

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