Life of Design: Derek Kohn

Head of Design at GoFundMe

1. How did you begin working in the wonderful world of design?

I’ve always had an interest in design and creative thinking since I was a kid. My father is a jewelry designer and gemologist. I grew up observing his work, thinking though functionality and beauty. I was really introduced to the power of design, experience, and brand through skateboarding and music culture. My passion and interest always gravitated towards building something that people felt connected to and loved. I found that the most powerful way to do that was through design.

After college, I started a creative agency with a group of friends. We focused on helping to develop brand awareness for entertainment businesses. In 3 years we were able to develop the agency into a successful business making an impact from small to global brands. This was an extremely formative experience because it exposed me to all aspects of business. Also, how to utilize and communicate design to accomplish business goals.

2. What is the purpose of design?

I believe that the purpose of design is to make life for every human being more enjoyable.

We do this by making objects, environments, and services more accessible, functional and beautiful. As a result, life is better and society is more effective.

3. How would you describe the intent (mission) behind GoFundMe’s design?

The design team at GFM’s true intent is to facilitate and execute on our company mission while having fun along the way. We focus on 4 specific areas that we want to be known for as a team; Collaboration/Voice of the People/Quality/Inspiration.

4. What’s one thing you believe about design that most others don’t?

Design isn’t just the “design team’s” job. Design is a frame of mind and a practice to understand what makes everyone’s life better.

Often times people within organizations lose site by zooming into financial goals. I focus on ways to help make design part of everyone’s DNA and something all of GoFundMe prioritizes.

5. What key problems are often overlooked by design?

This isn’t necessarily just overlooked by design but more by society as a whole. The less fortunate are mostly ignored and left greatly disadvantaged. This creates all kinds of problems, such as, healthcare, education and hunger.

I gravitated towards GoFundMe for the opportunity to focus my efforts on helping people in need. By spreading awareness, empathy and compassion around the world GoFundMe is a catalyst for everyone to design a better life for one another.

6. What is the most difficult thing about design?

Having a shared understanding of the problem and opportunity among the others you are designing with. We work very hard to bring together a diverse group of people to solve problems. The largest challenge at that point becomes everyones understanding of one another in order to design effectively.

7. When is design done?

Never. Things can always be better and improved.

This is often where people in this profession get burned out. You never quite accomplish a sense of completion. That is why developing milestones and goals is super helpful.

8. What does the future of design look like to you?

I guess it depends how far in the future we look. The types of disciplines and focuses are always evolving as technology and society changes. The introduction of new devices and environments will really dictate what the design community does. When something new is introduced we will spend our time experimenting and researching on how it can be used to make life better. An interesting and controversial topic is when we examine what defines “better” because it’s different for everyone.