What do millions of us think about buying when we don’t know what’s next? A glimpse of our collective consumption psyche, compliments of Amazon autosearch. March 20, 2020.


Powerful ink from our first P.ink Day, October 2013 at Saved Tattoo, Brooklyn. Photo by Gigi Stoll. Tattoo by Roxx.

I have an update, a look back and some excitement for the future. First, great news: P.ink is now officially part of the FCancer organization, and our own Karen Richards is leading our evolution.

What this means: P.ink has more of the right resources to advocate for more survivors, collaborate with more artists, and to continue changing the culture of healing with ink.

What it doesn’t mean: corporate overlords have taken over. In case that wasn’t clear from the name FCancer.

I’d like to acknowledge you who have converted P.ink from an iffy proposition to an authentic, life-altering movement:

  • The…


Four questions for discovering what you want and how to ask for it. Featuring my hands and a marker.

So it’s time for your performance review. You’re likely thinking about one thing: money. Your manager is considering how can I help this person grow?

Carrot meet stick, right? Not always. Money isn’t necessarily the thing that makes anyone happier or more productive. Many people don’t know how to identify and ask for what they really need. Which can leave many parties frustrated in the wake of a review.

Here’s a simple approach I’ve been using for years to identify what…


I recently asked 20 friends who lead teams in product design, experience design, UX and service design a question:

What’s the single most important skill that your mid-level and senior-level experience designers need to master?

These friends lead well-regarded agencies, productive design departments and in some cases entire companies. All have had considerable success in their careers, along with the challenges and learnings that success is built upon.

I’ve asked them this question because I’m kicking off Chalet Workshop, learning events in Boulder, Colorado focused on helping good design thinkers grow into leaders. I trust their perspective. And I should…


Chances are you have someone on your team who’s good. But not great.

They’re not far off, but their genius isn’t consistently applied. Or maybe they struggle to galvanize teams or clients around a possibility, an idea or a plan.

If they’re not having the impact you need them to have, send them to me. If we’ve worked together * you’ve seen first-hand my commitment to helping good design thinkers grow into leaders. Many of those I’ve nurtured have moved on to lead at places like Apple, Uber, GE, Microsoft, R/GA, AKQA, frog and Veryday.

Now I’m launching Chalet Workshop


Image © Aimee Brodbeck for Chalet Workshop.

For years I’ve avoided the term “design thinking” in describing my work. Like “innovation,” the phrase is loaded with false assumptions. Although I’ve been practicing design and design thinking for decades, the way it’s often perceived feels inauthentic to what I do. I solve business problems. Often at scale. Often with inventive solutions.

But here’s the scary part. Design thinking isn’t just occasionally inauthentic — it’s a major roadblock for some careers.

You’ve seen this before:

Think like a designer and solve any business problem!

Got stickies, a whiteboard and some duct tape? Can you improvise? …


The gig: helping design thinkers become leaders with an unforgettable experience.

Photo: Zach Dischner via Creative Commons.

I recently came across a clever nugget on performance. Rock writer Rich Cohen had just finished a book after covering the Rolling Stones for decades, and in the Travels in Music podcast he mused about the foundation for the Stones’ legacy of unforgettable gigs.

His theory: three elements make for a great show: location, venue and content.

Location: pick a destination city. Play where people really want to be.

Venue: same, with conditions. A mediocre venue in a great city = dud. A fantastic venue in a dud city’s a little better. …


Wait. I know that place…

Take your very first house. Fill it with newborns, raise them, celebrate and suffer through large and small with neighbors and friends. One day you move away, and over time that house, those rooms and those moments super-glue themselves onto your heart’s walls, your memory, your identity. It is nice. Comforting. And life is good.

Then, years later, along come Fred and Carrie. And they offer, oh, a slightly divergent set of experiences in that same house.

Episode 8 of Portlandia is out. And we’ve heard that nearly every scene includes the beautiful and sometimes this-needs-work inch of the house…


This is a repost of something I created in a prior role. It’s gained traction. So I’m sharing it with you.

It’s not uncommon for leaders in quickly growing agencies and departments to rely on certain people for certain things — Joe’s a specialist in X and Y. Sara’s a pro at A, B and C. While that’s helpful much of the time, it can lead to problems: an overdependence on some people, and underutilization of others.

In a prior agency life I launched a skills inventory initiative to address this. As I began, I realized my incentives expanded beyond…


Civic innovation isn’t just for technologists. Let’s rethink the brief, inject design thinking into civic life, and hire creative directors to help lead our cities.

The reason I’m here is to recruit all of you,” President Obama said recently at SXSW. “We can start coming up with new platforms, new ideas across disciplines and across skill sets to solve some of the big problems we’re facing today.”

It sounds exciting, and I’m in. Most of you who heard this assume he’s talking about engaging the tech community, and he is. …

Noel Franus

Researcher, strategist, design leader. VP of Design and UX at Zelle / Early Warning. Before: ECD at R/GA, VP/UX at CP+B. Founder of p-ink.org and Sonic ID US.

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