A Statement of Solidarity
A Statement of Solidarity

Hello friends,

2020 has been a rough year — it has been, socially, economically, and emotionally trying. The global pandemic has claimed over 100,000 American lives, and left many of us isolated. Many of us have lost our jobs, or have been furloughed until further notice. Many of us who retained our jobs have seen our pay cut. Many of us have experienced additional stress, fear, and uncertainty in ways that we never have before.

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have created immense pain in the black community and ignited a storm of protests in…


Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Serving on a board of directors is a fantastic way to contribute to a company or cause. The skills that you develop will expand your abilities in ways you never imagined.

As President of a national mission-driven organization’s Board of Directors, I can tell you that serving on a board is one of the most rewarding and challenging endeavors you can take on. When you join a board, you’ll improve your business acumen, learn to make data-driven decisions, and upgrade your customer service skills. Board service will transform you into a strategic thinker, an effective communicator, and a well-rounded leader.


Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

As a designer who’s spent the last decade working in technology, I’ve had the opportunity to observe first hand how early-stage startups hire, structure, and scale their teams. While business in general has realized the measurable impact of good design, I see many early-stage startups overlook a critical piece of the puzzle: hiring design leadership.

Unless one of your founders is a designer, there will likely be no creative representation at the executive level. Simply hiring a bunch of designers is not enough. Without design management in place, your company will be dominated by left-brain, analytical leaders. Design will take…


This is the third post in a series showcasing the process and ideation behind a system of over 100 achievement badges created for Vocabulary.com

What is Vocabulary.com?

Vocabulary.com is an online, gamified platform for learning words. It teaches vocabulary in an adaptive fashion-our algorithms suss out the words that each individual already knows, and serve up different words to each student. This is incredibly important for a classroom, as every student enters with a different ability level. Old-school textbooks provide the same exact words to every student. Vocabulary.com teaches students the right words, at the right time, in order to improve their literacy and test scores.

The platform also integrates easily with a teacher’s curriculum, so that entire classes can learn a set of words together (for…


This is the second post in a series showcasing the process and ideation behind a system of over 100 achievement badges created for Vocabulary.com

What is Vocabulary.com?

Vocabulary.com is an adaptive, online learning system that teaches students new words (thereby improving their vocabulary, literacy, and test scores). Algorithms assess a student’s ability as they play (all activities center around the concept of play), and the system adjusts to the level of the student. As students progress, the system starts serving up more difficult words, so that students are continually pushing the boundaries of their vocabulary knowledge.

What does it mean to master a word?

To master a word, students must demonstrate an understanding of the word in 4 or more different contexts. As you may well know, English is a complicated language, and many words…


This is the first post in a series showcasing the process and ideation behind a system of over 100 achievement badges created for Vocabulary.com

One of my first projects as design director at Vocabulary.com was to reimagine and dramatically expand our system of achievement badges—these are rewards that students earn as they play different activities on our website.

The purpose of this post is to share some of the behind-the-scenes work (the creative process, and the many rounds of ideation) that led to this system of over 100 badges.

For this project, I hired a fantastic illustrator from Florida named Mario Jacome (you should hire him too). Mario and I worked very closely, day in and day out, for nearly 9 months building this…


Heidi Hartmann-Rothe, Shannon Burkoth, Sharon Link, and Keith Harper in front of the White House.

On February 25th, seven Narcolepsy Network advocates and board members joined 750 other advocates in Washington, D.C. to participate in Rare Disease Week. The events, organized by the Everylife Foundation, are an opportunity for patients, family, and rare disease advocates to connect with each other and meet with members of Congress.

What is a rare disease?

Narcolepsy is one of more than 7,000 rare diseases, which are classified as having an incidence of less than 200,000 cases per year in the United States. About 80% of rare diseases are genetic in nature. Even though 1 out of every 10 people have a rare disease, funding…


As a manager, one of your most important jobs is to keep your team motivated. Luckily for you, one of the most effective ways to do this also happens to be one of the most fun. The trick is to celebrate your team’s every success, no matter how small.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

That sounds easy! In truth, it can be harder than it sounds, because of the constant pressure to ship, ship, ship. It’s also incredibly easy to overlook the small victories. If you think about your personal life, there are lots of little celebrations that enrich your experience as a human. …


Google defines normal as “conforming to a standard: usual, typical, or expected.”

Photo by David Kovalenko on Unsplash

As a young child, the experiences you have with your family, friends, and teachers start to shape your own unique worldview. The cartoons you watch on Saturday morning while your parents (theoretically) sleep in, the movies you see, and the music you listen to further inform this. The society you grow up in, and the schools you attend, further refine your worldview.

Over time you become accustomed to doing things a certain way — whether they be eating, playing, schooling, or traveling. …


Leadership isn’t about telling people what to do.

If you watch a lot of war movies, you might think it is. However, the skills needed to direct troops in the middle of a firefight are a tad different from the everyday work most of us do. You don’t need to yell “Incoming!” into your team’s faces when Chet the product manager requests a change to the design. Besides, he’s always asking for changes — you have to pick your battles.

The best leaders practice servant leadership.

They listen to their people. They get to know their direct reports on a…

Keith Harper

Design director in NYC. Board of directors at @NarcolepsyNtwrk

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