6 min readNov 23, 2020


We talk to Doreen Lorenzo, Assistant Dean of the School of Design and Creative Technologies at The University of Texas at Austin, and her daughter, Kara Scully, Marketing Specialist at Atlas Coffee Club, about design thinking and about the humanization of businesses and problem-solving in today’s world.

ActivateenCC is a series of community chats that seeks to bridge the intergenerational gap and promote greater understanding. We speak with parents, influencers, subject matter experts and connect the dots through the lens of generation Z. Our subjects range from well-being, work and everything in between.

Shaku: Nowadays, people still think that design is only about art, without seeing that it actually influences everything. But what exactly is Design Thinking?

Doreen: It’s the human side. Design thinking is really human-centered design. It’s looking at how a human is going to use something or how they are going to interact with something. So the three questions you always ask yourself are “What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?”, “ Who are you trying to solve that problem for?” and “Is the problem worth solving?”. Design thinking is a problem-solving method where you’re looking at ways to solve problems with the human in mind. You need to have empathy and understand people and their needs in order to solve a problem for someone else. I always say that solutions come fast and furious when you understand what’s motivating and driving people to have the behaviors that they have. Oftentimes, both in the education and the work world, people come to you with solutions, — a new app, a new product, etc — but what is that problem that they’re trying to fix? Does the world need another piece of software to solve that problem?

Shaku: Exactly. It has to solve a pain or it has to fulfill a pleasure. And if you’re not thinking through those two fundamental concerns in human life, then you build something that eventually dies. What drew you to this path, Doreen?

Doreen: I fell into it. I’ve always worked with creative people my whole life and, a great thing for young people to know is that doors open every single day for you.

Every single day there’s an opportunity and it’s about being willing to accept that opportunity and step outside of your comfort zone. — Doreen Lorenzo

Walking into design was stepping outside of my comfort zone because I don’t have a design background. I walked into it and I found that it was something that I really understood. It was very much who I was [a problem solver] and here was a methodology and a way for me to solve problems. I work with these incredibly creative people and we solve problems in systems, in technology, in products, in graphics, etc. It’s been 20 years and I’ve learned a lot not only about the industry but also about how you grow in a creative environment, which I think is really important.

Shaku: You were the CEO of Frog Design, and that’s when design companies were coming into their own, right?

Doreen: Right! When I started at Frog [Design] in 1997, it was a very small company with maybe 60 people. It was a well-known company but it was boutiquey, it was little and it didn’t have a lot of people, so I kind of helped grow that by bringing new people and new capabilities. By the time I left Frog [Design], we were 1,100 people. I’ve spent most of my career making people understand the value of what design brings to any organization. I know Kara spends a lot of time thinking about the design of all of her things, and design doesn’t necessarily mean the artifact, the graphic or the visuals, it’s systems and how you interact with things.

Shaku: Kara, let’s talk about influence. You work in PR at your company and PR has been changing so much. What have you been learning lately?

Kara: So much! I started as a PR major and something I didn’t understand in school until I started working in the practical side of things is how hand in hand it goes with marketing, advertising, and social media. PR is telling the story of a brand, but you have to dig a little deeper and ask “Why are we telling this brand’s story?” And that’s because the brand exists to make a profit, and that’s not a secret! Unless you’re a non-profit, you’re trying to sell your thing. But then you get to the marketing side of it and you ask “Who are we telling that story to?” And I think that’s how PR is changing. Now the influence is direct between a business and its customers, and social media allows you to own that narrative and talk directly to them.

We want to solve problems but we also want to inspire curiosities with the products that we use and purchase. — Kara Scully

People want that access and they want to see that it’s a person. They like it when you sign your name and when you make it really personal because that’s what I want when I look at a brand. I don’t want to feel like I’m just talking to a machine. With social media and with the way we’re connected, we all know that there is a human on the other side, so why do we need to keep pretending there’s not and that brands are untouchable?

Doreen Lorenzo at TedXYouth@Austin

Shaku: Doreen, what do you see at the School of Design and Creative Technologies?

Doreen: I see a lot of opportunities! This is what the school was made for and we’re only in our seventh semester, but we’re the largest growing school in the College of Fine Arts. But it’s all about taking this creativity that all of our students have and give them the skills for them to go out into the marketplace and be successful.

Machine learning can’t replace creativity and creative thinking. Our job at this school [School of Design and Creative Technologies] is to teach these students the skills to be problem-solvers, to understand emotional connections and to understand where the world is going. — Doreen Lorenzo

Shaku: Skillsets have changed so much and companies are now looking for many different skills. What are some of the most important skills your company looks for, Kara?

Regardless of the career path that you choose, what is really going to take you across borders is the ability to organize yourself, to manage your tasks and to manage your creativity so nobody else has to manage it for you. ~ Kara Scully

Kara: But in terms of practical tools, my biggest suggestion would be to learn how to use Google Analytics and how to use it well because it’s the future. I would also suggest for people to check out Facebook’s free Blueprint classes. They will teach you everything you need to know and if you didn’t major in marketing or if you didn’t have many marketing classes, it’s a really great crash course into every single marketing acronym that you could ever need to sound like you know what you’re talking about and feel confident in the things that you’re backing up.

I want students to be less afraid because fear is a barrier. We’re not asking you to jump off a bridge, but don’t be so afraid of things and don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Young people have a lot to say and a lot to do, so I want to help their confidence. — Doreen Lorenzo

Shaku: This was just wonderful! Thank you Doreen and thank you Kara, we’ve really enjoyed having you here on ActivateenCC.

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Activateen provides an intergenerational and informative platform for teens and young adults to develop professional and socio-emotional skills.