Paul Rowan

Paul Rowan
Chief Creative Officer

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Paul Rowan developed his understanding of technology and design while mixing paint and fixing windows in his father’s hardware store. While settling into new digs, he was frustrated while trying to find a window treatment that suited his practical and aesthetic needs. Rowan solved the problem by designing his own window treatment—a printed-paper window shade.  He presented childhood friend and entrepreneur Les Mandelbaum with the shade idea and Umbra ('shade' in Latin) was born. 

As VP of Design at Umbra, Rowan oversaw the efforts to create purposeful, intelligently designed products that people want. He has created innumerable successful designs, while managing diverse internal and external design teams.

Rowan devotes most of his time to the design community. Most recently, he gave a Ted Talk at Ted x Toronto on Design Hacks and “Why put up with bad design”.

10 of the 1,000 Risks I took to innovate at Umbra

Risk taking delivers rewards. Paul Rowan will identify 10 key turning points that led to significant turning points in his career at Umbra:

  • Picking partners. So many of us spin our wheels in failed relationships. How do we pick good partners?
  • Celebrating designers. The industrial designer name and personality has been generally hidden from the public. See how we as designers are a valuable component of product marketing and the product success.
  • Fast paced design. The market moves fast. Designing at a quick pace makes design more relevant.
  • Ignoring the critics. Some of the most successful products were shot down by the critics.
  • Global thinking. Tough to manage but worth the risk.
  • Education and Industry. Key to success but most often ignored.
  • Balancing personal life and career. Without support you can hit a brick wall.
  • Big Bets. When to take the big steps that will catapult you ahead.
  • Offshore Manufacturing. The risks and rewards.
  • Favorite hack. Playing harmonica at a lecture.