Instructor Spotlight: Jacob Cohen Discusses Digital Trends & User Experience Design


User Experience Design Instructor Jacob Cohen Image

Jacob Cohen is the founder of Stackhouse, a design consultancy focused on content strategy, e-commerce solutions, and app production. Jacob teaches enterprise level training programs for General Assembly on topics related to digital trends and user experience.

What training programs do you teach at General Assembly?

I primarily focus on two training programs: a “Trends” workshop and an “Intro to User Experience” workshop. These are both a lot of fun to do. With “Trends,” I focus on how to spot new business trends as they arise so businesses can avoid feeling behind all the time. For the user experience program, my goal is for participants to understand that most of our daily experiences were designed by someone and, whether those experiences are online or in the physical world, they are still fall under “user experience.” While we do dive into digital experiences from there, I think the initial context is important for grounding.

Where do you work outside of being an enterprise instructor for General Assembly?

In my day job I have my own design consultancy called Stackhouse. We focus on content strategy and multi-channel e-commerce for brands in addition to trying to constantly launch simple apps. Our most recent app helps football fans find local venues to watch World Cup matches. The app is called MatchFinder and we designed and built it the week before the World Cup.

Previously, I was Principal Experience Strategist at frog where I worked with GE and HP on various online experiences, including HP’s redesign of their e-commerce platform.

Before that, I led digital strategy at Wolff Olinsprobably the best branding agency on the planet. There I helped Activision develop a core philosophy for their tremendously successful Call of Duty franchise. I was also honored to work on the rebranding of the Smithsonian Institute which is an organization that does far more than I thought when we began the project.

What are your passions when it comes to business & technology?

For me it’s all about the customer’s experience, singularly. I believe that we often lose the sense that we’re designing for individuals who don’t know the acronyms of our business units or don’t know that three stacked lines means “menu”. At the same time, I began my career because I love design. I think there’s great power in creating something that is beautiful. When these two crafts come together in a project, then I’m truly happy. Knowing that we’re making something that functions in a great way and looks unique and amazing, that’s a winning project. I think of it as striving to be unique and useful at the same time.

What are your personal hobbies and passions? What do you like to do in your free time?

In my spare time, I’m generally experimenting with app ideas, buying random technology to take apart (usually permanently), or studying a new subject. I’ve always been curious and learning is probably the best hobby I’ve ever had. Right now I’m getting back into some macro-economic theory I left back in my graduate program.

But the traditional “hobby” for me is football (soccer). I play with a group of artists, photographers and designers called Chinatown Soccer Club. We’ve been around since 2002 and it’s through them that I learned how to play. I’m not great but I’ve earned a nickname or two and that’s good enough for me. We play three times a week so I’ve usually got some bruise or bump that I’m complaining about.

What do you see as the most exciting innovation in tech at the moment? What recent changes in digital do you see as having the largest impact on culture & society?

I could run with this for a long time. But basically I think the transformation of digital experiences into our physical lives is the most amazing new evolution. I mean this in respect to how technology is being integrated into fashion we are beginning to buy products based on how they express our personal styles. But I also mean this in the way that new technologies and new apps are easing the challenges of our physical world.

Kind of a staple question here at GA: who has been your favorite teacher in your life and why?

Mr. Jones was my high school English teacher. He had a funny accent but a great way with literature. He taught me how to understand a story and truly learn from it.

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