Takao Umehara
Takao Umehara
product design director / creative strategist / design thinking coach

IT Helpdesk Solution Software Design

M Corporation*

* name and contents are intentionally altered due to confidentiality



We helped design IT Help Desk Application to streamline the communication between IT Help Desk agent and employees. The solution should achieve helping organizing tasks and troubleshoot issues, assisting employees with hardware, software or in any other context.

I served as a main UX director and worked with designers to conduct research, ideation, wireframe and design of this product.

My Role

UX Challenge

How might we enable Help Desk agents to simultaneously tackles tickets without losing track.

This was our main challenge for entire usability of the app. And I set out our journey of designing many features including public event listing, personal event creation, calendar and friends list.


We started from design research, visiting the IT Desk site, conduct on-site interviews, online interviews and gathered information.

We then synthesized and extract important insights. This later helped us to shape several important HMWs (how might we), and we conducted brainstorm sessions the moved onto prototyping and testing phase.


Based on client’s research on target audience, we helped define proto-personas for a Help Desk agent as well as an employee.



Based on the client’s vision, we depicted interaction between agents and employees overtime with the Service Blueprint framework.

This helped us to start envisioning what type of features that may be needed for this application.

Design research part 1

We visited IT help desk agents at different companies to learn in depth about their workflow.


Synthesis part 1

Based on interviews at Amplify, we extracted and build some strategy behind how Amplify tackle IT support tasks.

We learn important insights such as how to decide priorities, how employee’s positions impact priorities, how priorities are decided based on the level of business impact as well as urgency level.


Design research part 2

We contacted online interviews with IT Help Desk agent in other larger company like Bloomberg.



We generated several criteria for designing our application. We brought these back to Help Desk agents and gain further insights which ones are more important than others.

We then generated ideas for UI.

Design sketch

mini wireframes

UI Feature:

view switcHER

Based on one of the design criteria “minimize cognitive load to switch and manage multiple tickets at a time.” We created multiple ways to view tickets. Agents want to focus one ticket in one occasion while in other occasion, agents would want to keep track of multiple tickets and respond to employees without losing viewing multiple tickets.

List View

List View

Card View: Allows simultaneously tackle tickets.

Card View: Allows simultaneously tackle tickets.

List View: Allows two tickets simultaneously

List View: Allows two tickets simultaneously



In order to achieve design criteria Minimize time to identify what I need to focus, we designed filtering system to search and identify tickets with ease.

Ticket 02.png



In order to achieve design criteria Minimize time to bring solution to each ticket, we are incorporating AI suggestions that automatically brings up past cases and solutions to each tickets

Ticket 05.png


dashboard widgets

In order to achieve design criteria “Minimize time to learn overall ticket status”, we designed many widgets that enable agents to gain quick glance in many different angles such as “How many open, pending tickets do I have now?”, “How many are due today?”, “What are higher priority based on urgency and impact?”, “


final ui design


M Corporation

Takao Umehara: User Experience Strategy & Design, Interface Design
Design Team: Visual Designer, UX Designer, Design Researcher

Digital Platform Design for Researchers

The Carnegie Foundation, Networked Improvement Learning and Support Platform (NILS)



Carnegie Foundation worked together design team at ProjectEd to revamp their existing platform called Networked Improvement Learning and Support (NILS™.) We were tasked to redesign the entire site, add 30 more features and improve the user experience.

My Role

I served as UX design lead for phase 2 and phase 3. Both phase 2 and 3 were implemented in the final design. (Phase 1 is the existing design that the client brought to us. ) While I took a UX design lead role, I faced client, worked with the project manager and design team to develop numbers of usability improvement as well as designing completely new features from the ground up. I also worked closely with the engineering team to implement the design.


Design limitation was narrowly determined, and there was no room to redesign the entire user experience from the ground up, but instead, we had to incorporate existing design and bring to the next level. Adding more features without making the platform complicated was another UX challenge.


This platform is to support social learning and improvement testing within networked improvement communities (NICs). NILS is an online platform designed to facilitate the initiation and development of NICs working on shared problems of practice in a disciplined manner. Its main goal is to promote social, organizational learning through curation and synthesis, as well as to disseminate tacit and explicit knowledge for improvement in education by moving much of what we currently do face-to-face in improvement practice into a virtual learning environment. Learn more at the Carnegie Foundation website.

UX Design Audit

We first conducted UX design audit to find out usability issues for existing platform.

We identified numbers of usability issues:

  • The entire process of participating research was very confusing.

  • Updates and changes are difficult to get noticed, and users often missed information update.

  • Information can get buried due to the abundance of information and no way to keep specific info on the site.

  • The interaction between members on the platform was not smooth, and it was cumbersome.

We took these as our challenge to improve the user experience for this platform.

User experience / interaction flow Study





Style Guide Design




Carnegie Foundation

Takao Umehara, Experience Design Strategy,  Lead UX/UI Design Direction (Phase 2 & 3)
Junko Bridgeston: UX/UI Design Direction (Phase 3)
Polina Soshkina: UX/UI Design Audit / Advisor
Allie Bogus: Project Management (Phase 2)
Melissa Kronsberg: Project Management (Phase 3)

Experience Design & Strategy
for Immersive In-Class Learning


Declare Yourself Quest Main Screen


Amplify Education sought to develop a series of the new type of learning experience called ELA QUEST for middle school ELA with appropriate use of technology. Our Quest team challenged to create the next product around the topic of American Independence.

At the beginning of the Quest project, we asked ourselves

What do we love about this text, and how can we get students to love it, too?”

We sought to build an experience that enables students to genuinely tap into how people experience the time of independence.

My role

I was a part of the Quest team formed by front-end web developers, back-end developers, playwrights, designers/illustrators, and digital prototypes. My duties were to help to define the ideation process, facilitating co-creation workshops, designing concept, building prototypes, overseeing user experience design, leading usability research, synthesizing research findings, working with developers for design implementation. For this Declare Yourself Quest project, I took a role as a design lead to help to define overall product strategy, visual/UX design, art direction for a 3D designer.


Since the experience lives in the classroom, the design challenge was not only about designing great screen-based experience, but we created the entire physical experience, and digital experience was a part of it. We sought to figure out what would make engaging learning experience using both physical environment as well as the digital environment.

Product Description

The Declare Yourself! Quest is intended to pose the same question to students as that which confronted the Second Continental Congress: Should we sign this declaration or not? To find the answer, students have the opportunity to adopt the identities of various delegates from the Second Continental Congress. Through the course of the lesson, students assume each delegate’s position on the debate and try to win over their opponents using evidence, argument, and teamwork. In this Quest, students work independently and in small groups to create well-formulated positions from an ample selection of primary source documents. Students must defend their opinions in front of the class with opinion pieces intended to recreate the energetic debates from the time period of the American Revolution.

Research & Ideation

Based on each assigned book(s) or text resources, playwrights would come up with few pitch ideas. Then, multi-disciplinary team members meet and participate in co-creation workshops that I lead. Through ideation workshops, we explored various ideas and defined a direction for research exploration.


Then, the tech team, design team, writer team separately work on research phase to further develop concepts and discover feasible technology to implement. It is important to note that we paid great attention to no wifi connectivity in classrooms and our solution must work within this restriction. With this restriction in mind, we conduct tech research.


field research at the american independence hall

As part of the research for both learning experience, visual strategy / UX strategy, I made a trip to the American Independence Hall to get in touch with the real historical artifacts. We drew great inspirations from this visit for our visual design as well as learning experience design.

Speculative design and designing a Paper Prototype

Instead of going deep with design research with users (students) with design thinking approach, we utilized speculative design. Meaning, we first proposed "What if the experience would be like …”

Based on the in-progress learning concept, we designed a paper prototype and conducted multiple paper-based usability tests to examine the effectiveness of learning contents.

We then synthesize feedbacks and observation, determined further improvements.


We speculated “What if students would play a role as delegates from 17th centuries and write statements, conduct debate and deepen their understanding of the American Independence?”

building VISUAL strategy / Product branding direction

We developed visual language through mood board, concept sketch, the final illustration.

exploring user experience strategy

I led a team to explore various UX strategy and design and try to figure out both good user experience flow.

It was an exciting challenge to figure out a balance between physical interaction and digital interaction.

Wireframe and digital prototyping

We explored several UX strategies for how users would navigate the digital space during the Quest. Inspired by 17th centuries furniture, we determined to use drawer as main UI navigation to access four major parts of the interface.


We conducted a series of usability testing throughout the development process. After having a digital working prototype, we either visit schools or invite students to do a test to measure their engagement, level of learning and usability of digital products.

Phase 8: Final Design & product introduction

After several usability tests, I finalized the design direction and art directed/collaborated with 3D designer and illustrators to create final design assets for the interface. As a branding expert, I also took the lead on defining the product branding including logo, typography, color pallet, and overall look and feel.

Walk Through of the app


This product brings students together for an immersive team experience that feels so much like a game, they won’t notice how much they’re learning. Students collaborate to solve mysteries and make sense of historical events. This week-long narrative lesson plans build on the literacy skills students have been developing in traditional lessons while shaking up classroom routines and allowing students to take the lead.

Quests are dramatic.

During the week of a Declare Yourself Quest, students take on new roles and new goals. Amplify ELA aims to create fresh motivations for students by connecting each classroom activity to an exciting situation that the class needs to solve together. Quests encourage all students to take new risks and engage more deeply with their work and with each other.

Quests create new connections.

Declare Yourself Quest is intended to serve as a jumping-off point, providing students with the opportunity and incentive to delve more deeply into in a new field of study. Quests are packed with a variety of content-rich texts and other media, allowing students the autonomy to explore texts as dictated by their curiosity both inside and out of class. The lesson plans provide students the space to create personal relationships with the texts they’ve chosen, so as to give them keys to new bodies of knowledge.

Quests are collaborative.

Declare Yourself Quest create multifaceted opportunities for students to interact in pairs, groups and together as a whole class. Discussions, both in-character and out-of-character within the contexts of the works they read, are critical to each lesson, and students are encouraged to cooperate to achieve their goals.

Lesson Learned

This project gave me a deep insight into designing an appropriate design process for the in-class learning experience. The most relevant lessons as a designer were the following:

Traditional design thinking process didn’t work Well in this context, But instead, we utilized the speculative design to propose what it could be, before testing our concept with users.

Initially, we approached with a standard design thinking process by conducting the design research to understand who and how students are. Design research on students did not provide significant insights into what product we need to build.

A couple of lean design research, we developed exciting ideas and brought in front of teachers and students. What we realized is those excellent movies are not born out of design research, but rather from strong passion and energy from a movie director. Much like a movie director or scenario writer pitch ideas about overall storytelling, we empowered our playwrights to come up with great storytelling, and let them ‘speculate’ the possible future. Designers, technologists all then collaborate to refine further or change for a better course to develop an exciting learning experience.

I also learned that

“Immersive” meant different from rest of digital products, and we enabled immersion in the learning instead of the digital screen.

Lack of Wifi connectivity helped us to be creative. We came up with a fusion of printed materials and digital materials that don’t require connectivity, and we decided to rely on peer to peer interaction as supposed to the computer to human interaction. We learned that ‘immersive’ in learning experience does not mean to immerse yourself into the digital screen, but rather, engage yourself in the learning. So by design, we intentionally designed the digital product without much-sophisticated interaction, and let humans do the job.


Amplify Education

Takao Umehara, Experience Design Strategy,  Lead Visual Design, UX/UI Design Direction
Jean Pierre Dillard:  Concept Development, Art Direction, Illustration Design
Chris Kalb: Illustration, Concept Development
Chris Leathers: 3D Modeling
Chris Compton: Content Authoring, Lesson Guide, Overall Concept
Nicole Stein, Dan Russo, Te Yi Liu, Eli Burmin, Beth Goebel, Mayank Sheth : Engineering and QA
Mike Lynch, Jeff Decker: System
Robin Yeung: Project Management

Hair Salon Chain Service & Brand Innovation


Card 5115 2019-01-15_1.jpeg


A owner of Kitadoko, a hair salon chain with 150 years of history in Japan, approached our company (creativity is everywhere) and given us a challenge to innovate the entire service and branding.


I served as a chief innovation strategy and branding and worked closely with the executive team.

Persona Definition and User Journey

at the 3 days Innovation Bootcamp

We conducted 3 days focused innovation workshop to surface existing customer journey and figured out most painful experience before, during and after service. We then brainstormed possible solutions before validating our assumptions.

Business Model Design

As part of the service design exploration, we also explored possibility to revamp the business model. We used tools such as Picto Biz modeling as well as Business Model Canvas Plus (new version developed by Takao.) We first visualized existing business model, then, went through iteration of what it could become. One of the business model design strategy we came up with is to convert the monetization from exchange of hair cut/hair care service at the retail store to a month long service that members can receive consistent care from the professionals.



We nailed down to top two strong logo type direction. Since we liked characteristics of both features in typeface, we decided to combine and generate a new typeface.

interior design

I art directed and worked with an interior design firm to finalize each branch interior design. This slides shows the design for the first location in the Tokyo University Campus.



Installation for creative thinking book “Extra Ordinary”

Based on the book "extra ordinary", the unit of Hisako Ichiki and Takao Umehara, created an installation to showcase several repurposed ideas from the book in Los Angeles.




Workspace Experience Strategy & Design




Due to an increasing number of employees at Cambridge, MA, Amplify sought to open up new office space.

My role

I took a design & strategy lead and took in charge of design research and workspace design strategy, then worked with an architect office to develop the final design direction. I focused on using service design/user experience design frameworks such as conducting interviews, space usage analysis, journey mapping, and space design taxonomy.

experience design CHALLENGE

With space constraints, the work space needed to adopt a various working mode for staff members who use the area from presentation, independent focused working, working away from the desk, semi-privacy working and group collaboration.

design Research / Learning how people use space

We interviewed more than 30 employees to learn how they use the existing workspace and also learned various usage and purpose of each space throughout the day.

We synthesized our research to build an activity map to understand what type of activities are happening throughout the workspace.

applying branding into space design

Then, we studied the brand guideline and defined space design strategy that speaks the cohesive message as a brand.


We studied various space design strategy from Evan McIntosh, O+A Architect and a book “MAKE SPACE” by Stanford d-school, and build into our workspace design strategy.

WORK SPACE Experience DESIGN strategy

Based on design research, space branding, space design strategy, I designed a proposal with below key features.

  • provide private / semi-private space

  • open large staircase space for multi-use/collaboration space

  • transformable work environment

After completing this proposal, we then worked with the architect to implement our vision for final production.


This is the final design that we ended up implementing. Final space successfully provides 7 spaces (by Evan McIntosh)

  1. Secret Space

  2. Group Space

  3. Publishing Space:

  4. Performing Space

  5. Participation Space

  6. Data Space

  7. Watching Space


Compare to the old office, the new space enabled people to work with better comfort and enabled collaboration.

“I now look forward going to the office everyday. Thank you for designing such a great space” - a male employee

Lesson Learned

Due to budget constraint, we weren’t able to implement every single strategy I proposed, including the large stair case. However, the new space actualized significant improvement for work experience. It is also important to find a right balance between directly translate branding into the space.

Experience Design & Strategy
for a feedback management tool for teachers


Hummingbird - 2 of 7.jpg


Amplify aimed to develop a new teacher-centric, tablet-based feedback management tool that complements Amplify's English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum. The design team helped Hummingbird team as an internal client to develop strategy and design.

My role

I lead this project as a lead UX strategist and UX designer to conduct design research, facilitate workshops, define overall UX strategy, design wireframe and prototypes and conduct usability research.


During the class period, teachers must pay great attention to students, but not the app. It was crucial for teachers to spend as little time as possible using this tool while still giving appropriate information for teachers to be highly effective helping students in needs.

Research & Ideation

Hummingbird team conducted research on middle school teachers then, I lead a co-creation workshop for Hummingbird team in Cambridge and we spent a 2 days to synthesize our findings from research, and ideate various features for the digital product.


After the co-creation workshop, design team further synthesized and refine ideas.

Persona Definition

Based on our research, we defined 3 personas for guiding our design process.


phase 3: rough wireframe

Based on in-progress learning concept, we design paper prototypes and conduct paper-based usability tests to examine effectiveness of learning contents. We then synthesize feedbacks and observation, determined further improvements.

phase 4: TESTING IDEAS and refining prototypes

We started testing the digital product ideas with teachers (who are main users), receive feedbacks and apply learning to improve our prototypes.


After we conducted rounds of usability test and defined final UX strategy and design, we worked with visual designers to finalized the user interface design.


The final tool allows teachers to organize and track over-the-shoulder conferences and student sharing in the classroom and it requires only few seconds for teachers to record and understand students’ status.

Lesson Learned

The most relevant lessons as a designer were the following:

Different design logic needed for teachers in class: designing an app allows users to have least engagement on screens

Initially, we approached with an idea for robust application that would requires longer attention by users (teachers) and we quickly learned that it is least desirable to spend time on app while teachers want spend maximum amount of time facing students. We reduced features and focused on most essential features for teachers to record and understand students’ status.


Amplify Education

Takao Umehara: Experience Design Strategy,  UX/UI Design Direction
Daniel Wilson: Experience Design
Keith Price: UX Design Direction (Latter phase)
Visual Design Team including Myra Romano
Engineering Team




Northeast Innovative Design approach creativity is everywhere to visualize their app concept into wireframe as well as digital prototype for their testing.

My Role

I served as a main UX director and designer to conduct workshops with clients, build UX strategy, design interface and brand the product.

UX Challenge

How might we enable users to easily create and invite social events and manage them all in one app?

This was our main challenge for entire usability of the app. And I set out our journey of designing many features including public event listing, personal event creation, calendar and friends list.


I conducted many co-creating workshop sessions with a client to map out journey map (existing), define persona, build new experience as a journey map. Based on that I created wireframes and interaction experience flow as shown below.


Life can be complicated, but creating plans and sharing memories shouldn't be. Chumm allows you to create, share, and coordinate social get-togethers with friends. Whether it's planned or spontaneous with new or existing friends; make every occasion the kind you'll never forget. Start chummin’ today!

Use Chumm to:

  • Simply create and send private or public daily social invites or “chumms” to friends

  • *Whether you’re planning a lunch, walk in the park, or night out with friends; Chumm makes your social planning experiences easy and fun!

  • Effortlessly view your friends’ public chumms and important invite details!

  • Avoid the hassle and annoyance of group text messaging!

  • See what your friends are doing and never miss out on social activities again!


Based on client’s research on target audience, I helped define few persona to help guide our design process.

user journey map

I conducted design research on target audience and map out existing experience of planning event, inviting friends, during events, after events on the user journey map.

We identified few pain points mainly during event planning and after event experience.

Interaction Design Flow

Product Branding

I also directed product branding and design. The product name “Chumm” originated from the word “Chum.”

Chum means to accompany, and fish cut into pieces and scattered in the water to attract game fish to a fishing area.

I used a fish hook as an inspiration for the logo design.


Invitation Animation Design


Icons for UI


Login Screen


Event Detail and RESPONDING TO Invitation


Creating my personal event



Northeast Innovative Design

Takao Umehara: User Experience Strategy & Design, Interface Design
Development Team : Client


Book for unleashing creative thinking

extra ordinary: an amusing guide for unleashing your creativity

In 2002, Takao Umehara and Ichiki Hisako (bunch design) collaborated to imagine something that would inspire our 'non-creative-type' friends. Among so many fun and weird experiments we conducted, such as living a whole day in a elevator, we realized that collection of mini exercise made our find freer to think creativity. 

We decided to capitalize on this realization and produced this book.

Buy this book at Amazon.com


Special Thanks to our publisher Rockport.

High School Design Framework: XQ CANVAS

Strategy for XQ SUPER SCHOOL PRoject


Amplify Education was part of the founding team of XQ Super School Project by Emerson Collective. Amplify supported the entire application process for applicants to take a journey of understanding the design challenge and going through stages of application. Since there is so much information that applicants must learn and take into consideration their school concept, Amplify faced design opportunities to help applicants to get organized.

My role

As part of the founding team, I function as a design strategist to help come up with strategic thinking to help high school design applicants to rapidly prototype their school concept while handling a large volume of design criteria.


I built a brand-new framework called “XQ Canvas” where applicant teams would rapidly prototype and iterate their school concept by posting post-it notes on this canvas. Canvas allows applicants to map out their school concepts visually. To communicate how to use this framework, I also art directed and implemented an introduction animation shown above.

XQ Canvas

XQ Canvas was born from the inspiration of Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder.



Applicant team members would use this framework with post-it notes.


Applicant team downloaded the PDF and learned about the usage on XQ Super school website.


Numbers of applicant teams utilized this tool and it helped them to visualize and communicate their school concepts to their team members and stake holders. It saved their time to build concept as well as communication.

Lesson Learned

The most relevant lessons as a designer were the following:

Never underestimate a Power of framework

Designing a thinking framework is still not widely recognize its power, however, I once again, witnessed how much efficiency and clarity it gives to a team. At the same time, if we didn’t build the introduction animation, it would have been much more difficult to communicate about this framework. Since it does require enough understanding of how to use this framework, I learned the importance of building an effective communication strategy.


Framework Research & Design for Innovative Thinking


Through thinking about opposites and extreme of subject matter’s elements, one can combine keywords to come up with unexpected ideas.


This frameworks enables workshop participants to visualize 1) existing situation 2) pains (what blocking them) 3) gains (ultimate goal) 4) possible solutions.


This framework was originally produced by Satoru Itabashi in Japan and I added my own twist by combine use with a Business Model Canvas. It is a powerful tool to visualize a business model as well as quickly prototype a new business model. This model enables cut and paste whole or part of other business models to rapidly produce new ones. Revenue streams are highly visible in this visualization framework.

business model canvas plus + business tactics

(mash up of business model canvas and ten types of innovation)

I created a mash up business model innovation framework / activity with two powerful business model tools. I have produced a deck of cards that would be placed on the business model canvas. First, workshop participants would map out an existing business model on the canvas. Second, place deck of business tactics cards on the second canvas and each person draw a business tactics card to imagine if there is any way to apply to the existing business.

Breaking bias

Breaking bias framework is originally produced by Hideshi Hamaguchi at Monogoto. I developed a way to teach and enable participants to visualize bias structures and tangibly break through them.


By visualizing a business model in a timeline, one can visualize a coverage of the solution as well as a timing for monetization. This framework often used to “shift” a monetization timing so that it could escape a red ocean competition and allow ones to think about new revenue stream.


Branding Work Compilation

Branding design from various projects


Anomaly NYC

Takao Umehara: Creative Direction & Design


Creativity is everywhere

Takao Umehara: Creative Direction
Bryan Lee: Motion Design Direction


Ogilvy&Mater Brand Integration Group (NYC)

Takao Umehara: Visual Design
Creative Director: Weston Bingham, Barry Deck


Anomaly NYC

Takao Umehara: Art Direction & Design
Creative Director: Andrew Kibbie


Creativity is everywhere

Takao Umehara: Creative Direction
Soyoung Kim: Art Direction
and few other designers, interaction designers

HYATT Rebranding


Takao Umehara: Art Direction & Design

Absolut Vodka

Takao Umehara: Art Direction & Design


Ogilvy&Mather Brand Integration Group

Takao Umehara: Art Direction & Design
Weston Bingham: Creative Direction