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Welcome note

A brief introduction to me, the reseacher.



Overview of site, sections and what you can expect to find.



This thesis is a journey; understand the best way to embark on it!

Hello, I’m Katie.

I’m a graduate student at the University of Baltimore, pursuing my Masters in Fine Arts in Integrated Design.

Welcome to thesis site Design the Conversation – a place where I hope my many years of research will introduce conversation design to new audiences as well as provide new research and perspective to those already familiar with it; a place where together we can explore what it could be, and imagine how it could benefit our world. 

I want this site to be a place that strengthens the design community, by encouraging each designer to challenge what they know about their niche of design and feel a sense of bravery about expanding their role in business, tackling tough (and sometimes uncomfortable!) topics and supporting interdisciplinary groups as an equally important member.

Like many graduate students, arriving at this particular version of my thesis has been a long, arduous journey. From the onset, I always wanted this work to pull from inspiring research within various disciplines of study: linguistics, psychology, anthropology, cybernetics, business… to name a few. The process of making this research cohesive and digestible, encouraging (vs overwhelming), and relatable to designers has been the most difficult, but most rewarding part of this journey. I hope my efforts will aid in shining new light on the opportunities designers have moving forward.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Katie Watkins

Picture of me, Katie Watkins

Design the Conversation

Design the Conversation is set up as a blog-style resource center. At the top of the page you will find content filters, both by topic (such as culture) as well as by section. The section content is detailed further in “What is Conversation Design.”

But I also wanted to provide you with a guide, especially if any of these concepts are entirely new to you, so posts are numbered to guide you along. Additionally, at the top of each page you will find navigation to the previous and next page/section.

You will encounter pop-out sections within many of the pages on this site: “Down the Rabbit Hole“, “They Said it Better” and “Lets Get Weird“.



This will feature information that goes beyond the essentials, exploring a topic on a deeper level. Sometimes this section will give insight to historical events in design, feature researchers with interesting viewpoints, or look at designers whose work poses new, fascinating ways of looking at our world. I hope these will inspire your own “rabbit holes” and discussion points.



This will highlight my favorite thought leaders and provide suggestions for further reading, videos, podcasts, etc.



This section may be a slight deviation from the topic of conversation design but I hope to feed the curious monster inside of all of us!

Throughout the site you will also find “Chat Challenges” – these are exercises designed for you to download and use to challenge yourself or your team in your every day life. There is no right answer here – have fun and hopefully they will open your eyes!

And finally…

At the bottom of each post you will find a downloadable PDF of the page, designed to be used for printing, emailing – sharing with your team – however you might like to use the information best!


No One Type of Design

It is my belief that design itself is fluid – what is significant about the art and practice of design is what we share: the iterative processes, overlapping tools and methodologies, an inquisitive nature, how we frame challenges, among others. Some of us are stronger in one area over another; we each have specific and unique educational backgrounds and experiences, diverse capabilities with technology and software, different abilities to sketch, etc. There may, however, be examples where I have included research or applied skills under the umbrella of visual communication, as this is my particular skill set.

It is in appreciation of the blending and overlapping in the practice of design, that I chose not to focus on any one specific type of design or designer in my research. The purpose was to be inclusive, to say: “Anyone can do this!” as well as to avoid getting into any ideology over semantics. 

I use the term “designer” without anchoring it to graphic design, industrial design, packaging design, as a few examples, to connect with a broad range of designers and design work. I reference “design thinking” without weighing in on whether any particular family of thought (IDEO, Stanford d.school, as a few examples) is the right one. I approach design thinking as a mindset, not a framework.

Ultimately what is imperative is that we elevate design – that there are a wide range of opportunities for us to take any special mix of talents and apply them in ways that excite us as designers, that better our communities, that aid in tackling our world’s most crucial challenges, and that bring together our cohorts across the discipline-divide in purposeful work.