Sometimes, the most powerful thing you can access is a new perspective…

Consulting Services

One of the biggest challenges to organizations trying to innovate (from startup to existing enterprise) is focusing on truly meaningful and valuable opportunities to innovate). Partly, this is because the tools they use emphasize (and, sometimes, only regard) quantitative data when qualitative insights are far more pivotal to successful innovation. Traditional, templates tools like SWOT Analyses and Positioning Statements miss the mark consistently when they aren’t based on the customer decision drivers that emerge from qualitative customer research techniques (like in design thinking). This throws organizations off of the most valuable opportunities even when they’re “on-plan.” Traditional strategic tools and techniques can be modified to identify better opportunities through the following services:

  • Business Strategy Review (Customer Engagement, Operations Readiness, etc.)
  • Startup Strategy Review (Customer Engagement, Operations Readiness, Funding Readiness, etc.)
  • Strategic Readiness Review & Recommendations (Methods & Engagement)
  • Sustainability Review and Strategy (formulation)
  • Foresight Workshops

Even the best plans go awry when the right teams aren’t engaged in the right way (let alone when they aren’t the right people). Often, an honest, outside perspective is the only way to illuminate groups that aren’t functioning as teams, skills going unfulfilled, and toxic cultures operating “under the radar.” Nathan can serve companies (from startup to enterprise) with:

  • Skills Review & Recommendations
  • Culture Review & Recommendations

Innovation is never easy and there are plenty of things that can derail the best intentions. Sometimes, an outside eye (and ear) can identify bad directions and implementations faster than anyone on the inside. At other times, teams need a new approach in order to break internalized biases about what is and isn’t possible (and appropriate). Nathan can provide this outside perspective with honest, constructive feedback to reinforce productive paths and identify potential dangers through the following services:

  • Research Review & Recommendations (Customer and Market)
  • Concept Development Review & Recommendations
  • Customer Experience Audit
  • Customer Experience Development
  • Prototype Review & Recommendations
  • SciFi Workshops

Sustainability concerns aren’t optional any longer. From competition for and increased cost of resources to customer-driven concerns about social and environmental values, all organizations need to, at least, have some kind of approach to ecological, economic, social, and cultural issues. Nathan is a leader in sustainability strategy and can perform several levels of evaluation and development:

  • Corporate Sustainability Strategy Review, Recommendations, and Development
  • Product/Service Sustainability Review & Recommendations
  • Team Sustainability Training & Workshops
  • Sustainability Labeling Systems & Type 1 and 3 Label Design

My experience in innovating within higher education programs and reviewing several others, gives me a unique perspective and experience that can help other educational institutions evolve and revolutionize their offerings. From learning outcomes to assignments and evaluation, education requirements are rapidly changing from both the learner and institution’s needs. I’ve developed my own tools and techniques in these areas as well as know the latest, state-of-the-art in their domains. I can help an institution evolve in the following areas:

  • 21st Century Business Curricula Review & Development
  • Design Craft & Design Thinking Curricula Review & Development
  • Sustainability Curricula Review & Development



Depending on an organization’s or individual’s needs, Nathan can engage any of the above services in a variety of ways:

  • Spot reviews (materials, plans, and forecasts) by the hour
  • Development (longer-term participation in creating corp and product strategy) by project and on weekly or monthly retainer
  • Coaching (ongoing, realtime review and recommendations in role dynamics) by project and on weekly or monthly retainer
  • Workshops (one-off, custom, and repeated) by workshop

In addition, Nathan has a variety of experienced, trusted colleagues to recommend and engage for these and other business and innovation needs.

Selected Projects

Blind Spot

My co-authors and I worked for 5 years on this book about the hidden value most businesses miss when they only focus on traditional techniques and quantitative metrics. I describes the 5 kinds of value exchanged between customers and organizations and how these are missed by most businesspeople. It describes a new tool, the waveline, for designing more valuable relationships deliberately (instead of accidentally or merely intuitively). More >

EcoFactor Interface Development

In 2007, I was asked to consult on the interface of a new kind of home control system. more >


In 2004, I helped create the strategy for this startup and created it’s first proofs of concept. These were used to plan product development and the strategy for the company. These were also used to inform partners and sell the concept to investors. Now, it’s become an awesome company under the guidance or founder Eileen Gittens! more >

Deluxe Business Software

In 2002, I joined three friends to create a Web-based successor to Exchange and the sorry state of calendaring applications available. We developed a revolutionary approach to online calendaring. I was in charge of the interface for the front-end and back-end and, as a result, became an expert at time zones and Daylight Savings Time. We sold the company in 2004. more >

Azure Nutriceuticals

From 2000-2002, I helped start this company startup, including all of the customer experience (website, packaging, print media, promotions, etc.). The company provided a unique, proven nutritional formula to patients undergoing serious illnesses (like cancer and HIV) and HIV was the company’s first focus. I built the first prototypes and products, communications, visual identity and packaging (and testing), as well as investment materials.  more >

vivid studios

My first company, I joined with two friends to create an interactive media and programing firm back in 1990. We grew it for 10 years, riding the CD-ROM and online service booms, and became probably the second Internet services firms on the planet (back in 1993). We sold the company in 1998, bought it back again in 1999, and sold it again at the start of 2000. At its height, it was over 175 people and we helped educate the industry on customer experience, interaction design, and online strategy. more >


In 2000, I helped found a new kind of search engine with three others. Jux2 was a great idea because it combined results from two to four different search engines, using the extra data to help prioritize the most relevant results. In addition, it became the best way to tell the difference between the search algorithms used by each. I was in charge of the interfaces and identity and did extensive research in refining and differentiating both, while visually telling the story of the technology. We sold the company in 2002. more >

Herman Miller Red

I was the main customer experience strategist consulting for Herman Miller on their new division, Red. I was in charge of auditing the customer experience in every aspect, including the online catalog, commerce platform, assembly instructions, and even prototyped some accessories for them. It was a fantastic team and company that got swamped in the first big dot.bomb downturn. (2000-2002) more >

News Limited Classifieds Strategy

In 1996, I flew to Sydney, Australia to consult with News Limited and build for them a strategy to innovate their newspaper classifieds with unique features. This extended their strategy to new ways to differentiate their offering from growing niche competitors. It was backed-up with research and communicated with prototypes. A small part of this work became their first strategy for online classifieds and its relation to the print products they already sold. Sadly, they headed none of the recommendations or designs and quickly lost market share to other print products as well as missing the online classifieds that would later eat into most of their business. more >

Nike Online Strategy

In 1997, Nike hired my company, vivid studios, to develop their first online strategy. At the time, they had online animations on their site that amounted to companions to their television advertising. Our strategy, built with the hep of Doris Mitsch and Clancy Nolan, leveraged Nike’s authentic performance heritage into the digital world and the strengths of the Internet, at that time. Called “little nike,” it was aimed at creating a more personal relationship with customers than the television, print, and outdoor advertising could. We ran their website for over a year, initiating product stories, features, and special events. more >

Swissbank Online Strategy

In 1997, the early days of the Web, Swissbank flew me and a colleague to London to understand their brand and business and build the beginnings of an online strategy for them. At the time, it was seen as a curiosity by the majority of investors and managers in the company, who promptly ignored most of the recommendations. more >

Kodak Picture Network

In 1996, some forward-thinking folks at Kodak asked us to build a proof of concept for a new idea: hosting pictures online. This was before Snapfish, Flickr, Shutterfly and all the rest. We built the proof of concept in only a few weeks and helped prepare the business case and internal investment presentation. Sadly, the management just couldn’t see the value in such a service. more >

Bell Atlantic’s “At Your Service”

I lead the team that worked on this new Internet service for Bell Atlantic, including the creative direction and online strategy. (1996) more >


This was a ground-breaking product that encapsulated the market-based business strategy approach pioneered by legendary strategist, Regis McKenna. There is still nothing like it as it was an application focused on developing business strategies, starting with customer insights, through competitive research and positioning. These were more than the templates used to this day by businesspeople and business students alike. It was application software complete with tutorials and case studies. Think of it as Excel or Word for developing business strategy. I was involved with the strategy, design, and interaction of the product and in order to conceptualize the outcome, I had to learn from Regis his methods and tools for developing sound strategy. It was my first encounter with smart market strategy and has informed my work to this day. (1994) more >


I am an unparalleled thought leader in the areas of business, innovation, design, and sustainability. In addition, I am a serial entrepreneur with 25 years of experience creating new companies in addition to innovative new products and services. My focus is on customer-focused innovation that builds deep relationships and increases value for company and customers alike. I use design-based techniques in both product and service development as well as in enhanced business and market strategy.

Some of these techniques were developed and proven as the founder and chair of the ground-breaking Design MBA programs at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, CA. My approach reimagines that a successful business is in the 21st Century is not only profitable, but also sustainable, ethical, and truly meaningful. In this model, value is bidirectionally derived from deep relationships between an organization and the customers and other stakeholders it serves.

I can help you better articulate strategy, understand your customers, discover more valuable opportunities, and check your progress on specific products and services. I can coach you or your team on new techniques and articulating your value to investors, employers, managers, or peers.



Nathan earned an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in 2006 and a BS in Transportation Design from Art Center College of Design in 1989.


Professional Highlights

He worked with Richard Saul Wurman at TheUnderstandingBusiness and co-founded vivid studios, a decade-old pioneering company in interactive media and one of the first Web services firms on the planet. vivid’s hallmark was helping to establish and validate the field of information architecture, by training an entire generation of designers in the newly emerging Web industry.

He’s helped many startups launch their products, seek funding, and hone their customer experiences. His latest company, Tomorrow Worlds, is focused on reinventing fan experiences for owners of media properties.

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“Nathan is a simply amazing product designer. He is magic”

Reid Hoffman, Entrepreneur. Product Strategist. Investor, co-founder, LinkedIn

“Nathan was, is and will always be a superstar. It was a pleasure working with Nathan – and (of course) collaborating with him. Our speaking engagements remain some of my fondest memories.”

Chris Tacy, Strategic Services @ Mozilla


Book Nathan

For consulting hours and rates, please contact me.


[1] 415 487-8950