From the category archives:



In 28+ years focused on interactive design and usability, I’ve helped lead the evolution of online and interactive media, mostly behind the scenes and in large organizations, both as an executive with large staffs and as an individual consultant. I’ve had a real impact on that evolution, not least because of the dozens of designers I have brought into the field and mentored – and who have gone on to become recognized talents and leaders in the field.

2006 – present

designtangible, Montreal, Quebec. I work with large and small companies both in Canada and the U.S. to help them develop products and services that integrate the goals of their business, their brand and their customers.  Clients have included My Virtual Model, Merrill Lynch, Tungle, Intercontinental Hotels,, Fidelity Investments both in the U.S. and Canada, and Starwood Hotels.  I have partnered with various development groups and agencies, including Tank Design and Zebra Crossing. My user experience design consulting practice has been based in Montreal full-time since the beginning of 2008.

2002 – 2006

Fidelity Investments, Boston, Massachusetts. Vice President, Design Director. I led two design teams of information architects, graphic designers, prototype developers, and writers who focused on Web sites central to Fidelity’s strategy.

Guidance. My team led the design of Fidelity’s award-winning financial planning tools. Analyses by Forbes, BusinessWeek, Monitor, and many others placed us at the top rank.

Fidelity Employer Services Company. Fidelity is the largest employer benefits provider in the U.S. For 2½ years, I led the teams that designed Fidelity’s Web offerings, including:

NetBenefits, the site used by millions to manage their benefits. When I arrived, it already was the top-rated benefits site. I led the redesign, resulting in an increase of customer satisfaction ratings from the mid-70th percentile to 92%.

The redesign of Plan Sponsor Webstation, a system used by human resources professionals to administer benefits. When I started, it was rated 8th among such sites by the independent Boston Research Group based on surveys of users; after the redesign that I led, it was rated 1st.

Organization. I was tapped to refine processes for the central design group with its more than 120 staff, and to lead the design effort for the next-generation vision of

1997 – 2002

Digitas, Boston, Massachusetts. Group Creative Director. I developed one of the leading user interface practices in the marketing field, and led creative teams focused on Fortune 100 clients.

My clients included American Express, Bausch & Lomb, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Delta, FedEx, General Motors, IBM, TerraLycos (Telefonica), Victoria’s Secret, and Xerox. At one time or another, I contributed to just about every Digitas client globally.

I built and led the Global User Interface Design Practice. When I started, Digitas had no specialists in usability research or design. I recruited 30 top UI professionals (the majority had over a decade of UI design experience), staffing every office globally. As in my previous roles, I built a usability lab and made customer research central to every project

I contributed significant intellectual capital, much of which became part of the company’s DNA. Most strategic analysis (and new business pitches) included my work.

1995 – 1997

Independent Consultant. For nearly two years, I developed strategies and designs both for the Web and for personal computers as a consultant to both large and smaller, entrepreneurial clients, including Firefly, Greylock Partners, Mainspring Communications, NYNEX, White Pine, and MediaOne.

1991 – 1995

AT&T Interchange, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Design Director. I led the ten-person team that designed the Interchange Online Network.

My principal achievement was the design of the Interchange Online Network. Interchange introduced many concepts now considered key to the Internet: separation of form and content; indexed searching of large domains; extensive personalization without scripting or forms; aggressive use of client-server technology; . Reviews of the design ranged from “elegant” to “stupendous.” AOL, Prodigy, and MSN cheerfully imitated as much as they could.

Publicly unveiled in early 1994 as the hit of the Agenda 94 conference, Interchange was launched mid-1995 with the Washington Post, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Ziff-Davis, and the Gartner Group as partners.

During the first half of 1995, I helped to establish the design and editorial staff for Europe Online, working for five months in Luxembourg, Munich, Paris, and London.

1985 – 1991

Citibank Development Division, New York NY. Vice President and Director of Humanware. The Humanware unit was formed in 1986 to centralize skill and learning in user interface design. I was a founding member, and was named Director in 1988. During my tenure, the group grew from 8 to nearly 30 full-time designers. Toward the end of the period, I received the highest people-management scores of any manager in a Division-wide study.

Humanware contributed to development efforts in which Citibank invested massive resources; the cumulative learning (from failures as well as successes) was hard to match.

Design projects under my management included:

The Enhanced Telephone, a home banking device for the masses. It required one page of instructions — on how to plug it in. (This was in the 1980s.) In both lab and field research, the ease-of-use and overall appeal of the experience consistently got highest scores (over 90% favorable).

A system for customer service representatives. Handle time, morale and turnover improved significantly. Service representatives previously took six months to get up to speed, and turnover ran at 100% annually. On the new system, training took half a day.

Approximately a dozen other major initiatives, including financial planning packages, interactive sales, back-office tools, and next-generation ATMs.

1984 – 1985

Lexica Corporation, New York NY. Vice President for Software Development. I led a team within a consulting firm that built a variety of videotex and PC-based projects. Clients included Panasonic, Southern Bell, and Citibank, for which I developed the first-ever online credit card application.

1981 – 1984

Time Inc, New York NY. Designer / Editor, Time Teletext. As a team member and then team leader, I created sections of an ambitious graphical home information system, delivered to television sets via cable and a custom-built decoder.

I co-founded a design team that developed educational games for young children and teenagers, using formative lab research to marry cognitive psychology with Time production values. The output of this small team accounted for more than half of the usage in field-test households.


Williams College, Williamstown MA. B.A. in History of Ideas. Magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Gargoyle Society.


Fluent English and Italian, nearly fluent and constantly improving French, solid Spanish

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In May 2009, I conducted a confidential online survey to see what current and past clients and colleagues were thinking. Here is every single response I received from clients to the first two (key) questions. They are unedited (okay, I corrected spelling in a few of them).

If you think about the most recent time that you’ve worked with David Rollert or designtangible, how satisfied were you overall?

    The tally was 23 “very satisfied” and 2 “satisfied” on a 5-point Likert scale.


What did you especially like? Dislike?

    Your genuine will to help us succeed. Finding the good questions to ask, like a perpetual learner.

    I especially like Dave’s perspective, which is both thoughtful and practical. I know that Dave will bring a creative approach to the engagement, and then be able to roll up his sleeves and bring it to completion

    I find Dave’s comments extremely insightful. He speaks from experience and from knowledge; he makes observations that are very unique that no one else in the audience thought off.

    Turn around of business needs into a UI was on time, even though timelines were ultra aggressive. The UI designed demonstrated a true understanding of business needs and was spot on for the client.

    David’s style, his thoughtfulness to the needs of the user, his understanding of the economics of a site, his creativity.

    Dave is very intelligent with good ideas and will tell you what he really thinks, not what you might want to hear (this is good). He adds a lot of value to what he touches.

    Dave took a fairly nebulous concept and executed it brilliantly. He also incorporated feedback very well.

    Very creative.

    David’s optimism and his willingness to push an organization to open up to new ideas.

    Enthusiasm and interest in the subject matter. It isn’t an act; Dave really enjoys and cares about his work.

    Dave has tremendous experience and insight that he draws upon.

    First, Dave is a fantastic story teller, and this comes across in his designs, and in the way he communicates. Being able to come back to us with designs that work involve critical thinking, listening and distilling, and Dave has an incredible amount of creativity to layer on top of all of it. Second, Dave is just a genuine, good human being.

    Thoughtfulness, detailed. Asked the right questions. Is willing to work within budget, do what can be done (which isn’t always the same as what needs to be done).

    I especially enjoyed the collaborative nature of the relationship. Rather than push his own ideas on me, David really listened to what I had to say and created a proposal that incorporated both of our best thinking.

    I especially liked: 1.) simplicity and cleanliness of design; 2.) ability to assemble a strong, highly motivated team to do the work; 3.) even temperament; 4.) development of solid uer testing methodologies 5.) willingness to speak “truth to power” — that is, tell the client/boss when his design ideas are not that good! I disliked (but swallowed) the budget implications of a commitment to doing the job right.

    The expertise, insight and patience are invaluable. Presentations are ALWAYS engaging and informative. I feel like I walk away smarter.

    David is always direct, focused and smart. I always enjoy my interactions with him.

    Liked that he was thoughtful, didn’t try to over-haul the interface, but rather make very constructive suggestions to improve specific weaknesses of our interface.

    Great collaborator – Dave is very easy to work with. Fantastic industry experience and focus is on long-term best interest of his clients. No dislikes – OK, maybe one – he lives too far away.

What reasons might you have for recommending us?

    To be honest, being asked to recommend David is an honor to me.

    Very polished contributions, high quality work. I would be glad to have his work in front of any level executive in my company

    Years of experience in interaction design and customer experience is very apparent in all deliverables. Designtangible understands what it takes to create a great experience for users of a internal / external application or web site

    David is a high-standards act. His knowledge of the underlying motivations behind actions one might want to do, and his creative design make him a great partner

    The attention to detail and the ability to work with limited amount of feedback while creating a great experience were very helpful. The concepts created were innovative and resonated strongly with our end users. They explained difficult concepts in layman’s terms without oversimplifying.

    Produce good results, easy to work with, accommodating and flexible, etc.

    David! A great business partner who is very talented in his field, is able to quickly get to the root of a business problem, and work effectively at all levels to solve them in a way that makes the right trade-offs between customer and client needs.

    Dave is a good listener, a great designer, smart and engaging.

    Experience. Sophisticated and analytical approach to online design

    Listening, thinking, distilling, creating…oh, and then iterating all over again. Dave does it with grace, ease and humor.

    Partners with clients to help them identify the issues and solve them. A true partner, not a “consultant.”

    Easy to work with and always professional.

    Clean, efficient design, based on insightful analysis, sensitive to users, delivered with a pleasant client experience.

    David will offer his honest opinions that are thoughtful and have rationale behind them. They’re not merely subjective opinions (although he has many good ones at that). It will be a good partnership.

    Outstanding work in every aspect of the relationship.

    I know you and your work!

    Knows his stuff.

    Great collaboration, experience and insight and fantastic results.

Note: In addition to clients, many colleagues also were kind enough to respond to the survey, with similar feedback. If you don’t see your comment here, it’s because you were in the colleague group. Your responses were kept separate by the survey platform, Survey Monkey.

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