The Questions | Chris Rockwell, IDSA | Lextant

Chris Rockwell, IDSA, the president and founder of IDSA Patron Lextant, is based in Columbus where his user experience consultancy helps clients like Microsoft, P&G, Motorola, Whirlpool, American Eagle, Cardinal Health and Johnson & Johnson deliver products and solutions aligned with the emotional, behavioral and experiential needs of their customers. The Lextant team works in a spectrum of domains that includes consumer package goods, health care systems, durable goods, retail apparel, consumer electronics and information technology systems.

In this Q&A, Rockwell talks with us about the operational philosophies that guide Lextant and how our discipline can move beyond single-insight driven design.

If you are a member and would like to participate in "The Questions" series, please contact

Read all about designs success stories in the IDSA Catalyst Design Case Studies.

How do you translate the design process and its value for any audience that is unfamiliar with design?

We see design as fundamentally about human experience—experiences people have and the ones they desire. So design rests in this gap between stories of today and stories of tomorrow. What we design has a tremendous impact on this “future story”—on purpose or by accident. We believe that audience desires and aspirations can be known, quantified and translated more directly into inspiration and great design. When thought of in these terms, the story of design is pretty simple. Great design = meaningful human experience. The evidence is all around us. As humans, we are natural storytellers. The idea of design as experiential storytelling is clear, simple and compelling. Tell a good story through design and the business results will take care of themselves.

Is there a single guiding principle you use to manage the Lextant team?

Like most companies, we are in the relationship business. We need to build and maintain great relationships with our clients—help them solve problems and provide clarity and direction that will help them succeed in their careers and their businesses. But that really starts with our own people. Our offer is powered by the passion, hard work and talent of our team. Our business will be exactly what we, as the Lextant team, choose to make it. As a culture, our motto is “Do great work. Have fun. Make money.” We have to do all three to be successful. We have to empower our team to exceed expectations. And we ask the team to lead through accountability—to Lextant, to each other and to our clients.

After you’ve secured a new client, what is the most important thing you do to maintain their business?

I’m proud to say we have a great record of client retention. We get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business, and I see that as strong evidence that what we do adds value and does so in a way that helps our clients succeed in their own roles. We’re passionate about this design and user experience stuff and it shows. We try to deliver something excellent whether it be design research programs, translated insights or user-experience design. We try to be flexible when goals and schedules inevitably shift. We try to ensure that we don’t make our problems that of our clients. We don’t always succeed but that’s what we try to do. They say the best place for new business is your current clients—we make it a priority to take great care of our clients.

What makes Lextant different from the rest of the industry?

A great question and one we have to constantly challenge ourselves with. There are many great designers out there. But I like to say that creativity isn’t the problem, we just need a more accurate frame of reference on which to base our ideas. As a design discipline, we need to move beyond single-insight driven design. The markets today are just too competitive to risk your design efforts on a few “a-ha” moments. While these inspirational moments are good and necessary, we need to find reliable patterns using deep experiential research as a basis for inspirational design thinking and innovation. So Lextant develops and uses highly creative research techniques coupled with rigorous analysis and visual insight translation methods to help our clients design forward with clarity and confidence—they can see the future and align efforts to deliver it. The process works. Our client’s success bears that out.  

If you’d like to get a better sense of what the Lextant team is thinking and learning in real time, we suggest you check out the firm’s blog: