Innovator, artist, protagonist, and positive provocateur, Maria Giudice has pursued a vision of intelligent, elegant, people-centered design throughout her professional life. Under Maria’s leadership, Hot Studio, the experience design firm she founded in 1997, grew into a full-service creative agency with an impressive list of Fortune 500 clients. In March 2013, Facebook acquired the talent behind Hot Studio in one of their largest “acqui-hires” to date, where Maria now works as Director of Product Design.
Maria presented at our February MetaTalk, a monthly lecture series that showcases the Bay Area’s top thought leaders in branding and design. Her latest book is Rise of the DEO, Leadership by Design.
What inspired the thinking behind Rise of the DEO?
MG: It started a couple of years ago when I spoke at TEDx Presidio on design, technology and the future of business. I was thinking from the perspective, I’m the CEO of a design company – how do I do things differently? I reflected back to when I went to art school to how I wound up running a successful design studio. I treated every problem like a design problem. So I understood there is a relationship between design and leadership. And it got me thinking, what would it look like if people used design sensibilities to lead companies?
We’re only just now starting to talk about leaders from design backgrounds in a way that is respectful. Steve Jobs was an early adopter. Jon Stewart. Stephen Colbert. Howard Stern. When you look at these people, they are all different – but have similar characteristics that give them the abilities to lead like DEOs – like taking risks, systems thinking, using intuition, the ability to GSD (Get Shit Done).
Now, there is a creative culture of young DEOs, like the founders of Airbnb, Dropbox and Square. This kind of creative culture comes out of the DEO playbook.
What does the career trajectory look like for someone who aspires to become a DEO?
MG: A DEO must possess six characteristics. They must be a change agent, a risk taker, centered on people, use systems thinking, be intuitive and GSD (Get Shit Done). Carrying these characteristics through life and having the courage and confidence to be yourself will take you in that direction. Be yourself and leverage your own superpowers!
You’ve reinvented yourself several times in your career, from running Hot Studios for over 15 years to your current role as Director of Product Design at Facebook. What advice would you recommend for someone who is looking to transition his or her career?
MG: Have the courage to do it. We are no longer in the society that our parents grew up – the business latter has been replaced by trampolines, and careers are like jungle gyms. You have to follow the things that inspire you and be strong enough to jump.
Life is so short, you have to have fun and pick things that inspire you. Don’t be afraid. You can always make money doing things you’re great at. Connect the dots and look for patterns and systems. If you’re not good at something go back to school.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
MG: It’s from a fictional character. When I was 15, I was obsessed with Tim Curry and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It gave me the courage to be different. There’s a song at the end called, “Don’t dream it, be it.” That has had a huge, profound impact on my life.
I have to give credit to the Rocky Horror Picture Show for all of my success!
For more updates and tips on the rise of the design executive, check out the Rise of the DEO Facebook page.
Interview by Molly Davis, Communication Strategist at MetaDesign San Francisco.