New IDer: Jonathan Campbell

by New Idiom

In the hullabaloo of finals week, I managed to catch up with Jon Campbell, and asked him to squeeze in a quick interview.


Please quickly introduce yourself in a quick sentence.

I’m a 31-year-old MDM student from Milwaukee, WI. I grew up in Dallas, TX and spent summers in Denmark, where my mom is from. I left a marketing manager position at Harley-Davidson a few months ago with the idea of using design planning to pivot into a new point in my life helping create something wonderful and new and meaningful. I don’t know what that is or how it will take form yet but I’m jazzed to be on the road toward that goal.


Socially liberal, fiscally conservative (well, what used to be termed conservative but now maybe should be “fiscally responsible.”)



How did you end up at ID? What were your motivations for coming? Where were you before?

It started a few years ago working at an ad agency on new product development for WD-40. That got me interested in design and helped me realize that marketing should be more about creating stuff for people, instead of just yelling for their attention. But at this point I’ve broadened from wanting to just make stuff or market stuff to looking at ways to solve problems and help add value to the world. I guess in its simplest form I’m at ID to learn new ways to approach and solve problems.

What are your first impressions about ID?

It’s an incredible feeling to meet like-minded people who are looking to accomplish great things in new ways. I am super jazzed to see the energy, passion and creativity of students and professors.

What do you think you could bring to the people here at ID? (culturally, socially, etc.)

Enthusiasm and passion. Insights into the business world and marketing in the New World. All things Danish. Oh, and how to develop a greater appreciation for the Dallas Cowboys.

Is there anything from your home that you think people should not miss?

In Wisconsin:
- the Harley-Davidson headquarters on 35th and Juneau
- Lakefront Brewery where the tour takes four minutes but you get lots of beer
- the beautiful lakefront in July

In Denmark:
- Nyhavn, where you can walk along the harbor and sit and watch people at outdoor cafes
- If you’re into history, Roskilde Domkirke and Kroneborg castle

In my house:
- My dog, Darby – a Doberman/Lab/Pointer mix rescued from a shelter
- My motorcycle
- My shrine to Vince LaConte

Which designers/thinkers have impressed you the most lately or you are following now?

More thinkers than designers. I’m interested in new ways of seeing the world and approaching problems, so recent thinkers include Clyde Prestowitz (author of Three Billion New Capitalists) and John Wood (social entrepreneur/founder of Room to Read). As for old standbys, I continue to enjoy the risk-taking, status quo-questioning way of thinking that Tom Peters and Seth Godin advocate.

Tell us quickly about a project that you’re working on now that you’re really excited about.

The Design Planning project with Larry has helped me look at problems and solutions on a grander scale – the class has increased my interest in tackling huge problems with confidence that design is the best way to solve them. Plus after one of his lecture’s you feel pumped up, like a “design” football player running out of the locker room onto the field of business ready to go to battle. But then instead of 50,000 cheering fans I walk out to cabs honking at me. My hope is that they install a metal “Play Like a Champion Today” sign over the exit to the lecture room so we can all hit it on the way out of class. Uh, really? I’m the only that wants that?

What are the websites you could not live without?

  • …and obviously SeeID

What kinds of activities are you planning to do in your free time (in case you have any) while at ID?

Haven’t had a ton of free time during this semester but I’m looking forward to winter break. I’ll be traveling to Denmark; working on the ID Methods project; blogging; reading; sitting down and wrapping my head around everything I’ve learned in the first semester; and trying to put some order to what I want to do after graduation in May.

This blank space is for you to tell people whatever you want about you. Thanks

I am addicted to reading and quotes. If you have a good quote or a recommendation for a good book, feel free to send it my way. I’m always looking. It doesn’t matter the topic.

I used to be a good magician and did birthday parties when I was younger. I kind of shelved it when I found that girls in college didn’t find it that cool (huge surprise). But if anyone has a birthday coming up, I’m sure I can arrange an ID discount rate.

I’ve ridden motorcycles across the U.S., over the Alps and through the Rhine river valley and found there is no better, more stimulating, romantic way to see the world than on a motorcycle with the engine rumbling, the wind in your face, your mind clear and fresh, riding winding roads and meeting real people at diners and gas stations.

I love writing and almost quit my job at an ad agency in 2001 to get my MFA in creative writing. But I played it safe to my regret. I’m happy I took the leap this time to come to ID and don’t intend to play life safe anymore.