Fearless faculty and alums shine at Seattle Interactive

Story by Vivian Reed – Comm Lead student
Photos by Olivia Hall – Comm Lead student –


This week Comm Lead faculty, alumni and students gathered at the Seattle Interactive Conference (SIC). Five alumni and faculty were among the conference’s accomplished presenters. They shared insights on topics ranging from marketing to media, UX to organizational culture. But one common thread in all of the work they shared was a fearless approach to the communication challenges of our time.


Using journey maps to guide organizational change

To kick off the conference, Comm Lead instructor David Holmberg and alumna Aubri Denevan shared a story about how they transformed the work culture and business model at Avvo, an online legal marketplace that connects people with lawyers.

To address rapid company growth, silo-ed teams, and disparate understanding of user problems, Avvo turned to a core UX strategy called journey mapping. This visual technique outlines the story of the customer’s experience from initial contact, engagement and into a long-term relationship. As Holmberg, Denevan, and other colleagues learned more about customers who used Avvo’s service, an internal decision was made to reorganize the company’s teams to tend to consumer pain points instead of product issues.

In an attempt to gain buy-in for this revolutionary idea, one clever strategy Holmberg and Denevan shared with the SIC audience was to paste journey maps on the company’s bathroom doors days before an official kickoff meeting. That way it didn’t come as a surprise to meeting attendees.

Today, these maps have helped move the organization to work as one unit and are at the core of every decision Avvo makes.

Laura Williams Argilla, Comm Lead alumna and current Director of Product for Adobe's Video for Creative Cloud program presents on the vast applications of VR beyond gaming.

Laura Williams Argilla, Comm Lead alumna and current Director of Product for Adobe’s Video for Creative Cloud program presents on the vast applications of VR beyond gaming.


Beyond Gaming: Incredible, useful & interesting ways VR is used today

On Tuesday afternoon Laura Williams Argilla, Comm Lead alumna and current Director of Product for Adobe’s Video for Creative Cloud program, took the stage and captured the audience’s imagination when she opened virtual reality’s Pandora’s box.

Today’s virtual reality technology goes far beyond the world of gaming, cutting across music, sports, and nonprofits, just to name a few. In addition to providing entertainment, this nascent technology affords people an opportunity to explore new places around the world and navigate real-life experiences, like getting into a car accident as a result of texting while driving.

Williams Argilla believes the visceral experience virtual reality technology offers builds empathy in ways no other medium can. Perhaps one of the most touching applications of virtual reality she shared with the audience was how the technology could reduce the high turnover rate among caretakers of patients with dementia by allowing them to experience what it was like to live with the disease.

All in all, virtual reality technology is still new and its tools are still being developed. This is the only the beginning, and it’s not just about games anymore.


Designing creative economy and industries in Seattle

Art has been a core part of Seattle’s identity for years. But a recent survey found the lack of affordable housing and workspaces could drive away the city’s creative people. On the second day of the conference, Comm Lead faculty Scott Macklin lead a panel discussion on how to nurture and sustain Seattle’s reputation as a center for creative economy and creative industries.

According to the panelists, solving this problem requires providing art education for Seattle’s youth and identifying jobs that utilize learned skills to continue to drive the region’s economy. Some of the work thus far includes launching initiatives like The Creative Advantage — which seeks to establish equitable access to arts education for students in Seattle public schools — and Fearless360º which is a collective of artists, educators, media makers and agitators who are working to solve artistic and social problems through content creation.

Comm Lead faculty Scott Macklin hosting the Harnessing Seattle's Creative Economy For Good meet-up.

Comm Lead faculty Scott Macklin hosting the Harnessing Seattle’s Creative Economy For Good meet-up.


How outdoor brands create connection through content

Today consumers have more control over the content they see, and can even subscribe to ad-free viewing experiences like Netflix and YouTube Red. This has prompted companies like REI to create content that audiences will watch willingly. Comm Lead alumni and current Managing Editor at REI Paolo Mottola believes it’s important to tell authentic human interest stories that make the outdoors feel inclusive and approachable for all. Their recent video campaign features the story of a plus-sized athlete named Mirna Valerio, who challenges stereotypes of what it means to be an ultra marathoner.

While the success of REI’s infamous anti-Black Friday #OptOutside campaign bolstered the company’s brand and has made it easier for the marketing team to mine for rich stories like Valerio’s on social media, Mottola realized not every story has the same potential. That’s why REI now partners with other creatives to curate mission-aligned stories and elevate their work by hosting it on REI’s site. In the long run, this is a win-win proposition for both the company and creator.

Alex StonehillFearless faculty and alums shine at Seattle Interactive
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