Exclusive Preview • Inclusion Applied Creatively

Interview by Mary Lewey

Kat Holmes began her career in mechanical engineering but found her design calling while working on many different technologies at Microsoft. Her path of curiosity revealed a common theme in her work: inclusive design improves our interactions, both with humans and machines. Design Museum recently caught up with Kat to learn more about her new role at Google, staying curious, and finding the beauty in complex challenges.

Mary Lewey: How did you find design?

Kat Holmes: Growing up, I didn’t know anybody who was a designer for a living. I knew engineers, I knew artists, and both had a big influence on my life. I wanted to find a way to merge the arts and sciences through something that was both technology and human-focused.

My role in design became clear while I was at Microsoft. It was the first time I worked for a software company and I was able to work on so many projects from mobile phones to wearables, to holograms, and more. Every team I worked with struggled to some degree in thinking about who exactly we were designing for. That became the heart of design for me, which is: how do we think about the diversity of people? How do we develop new methods, new ways of working, that help us do better?

ML: Who or what inspires you?

KH: Unlikely combinations. Because they challenge the way I think about categories in the world and test my existing notions and assumptions.

ML: Where are you working now? What is your current role?

KH: I started my own company to advise and consult on inclusive design. After writing a book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, the company is evolving into a platform featuring educational resources, stories, and free content where people can read about inclusive design.

I am also a UX Design Director for Google’s advertising platform. I’ve always had mixed feelings about advertising and wasn’t sure why. But it is the economic engine for such a huge portion of companies that are working to develop all these types of technologies that we’ve been talking about. My big question from an inclusive design perspective is: what does economic inclusion look like? How can businesses and the tools we use to build them be more open, more accessible to more people? When this opportunity came up, I was excited about: a. learning more about how that part of our industry works and, b. how that can lead to large scale types of economic inclusion.

Interested in learning more about inclusive design and tech? Join us for Design Museum Mornings in Boston on Friday, April 19. Register here.