Elliot Felix

Elliot leads and founded brightspot. He is a strategist, facilitator, and sense-maker who has directed projects for leading companies, non-profits, cultural institutions, colleges, and universities.

He frequently writes and speaks about design strategy. Solving space, operational, and organizational problems gets him up in the morning. Thinking about the future of work and learning keeps him up late.

September 23, 2015

The 2015 ELI Content Anchors

Crowds can be remarkably smart. A group of intelligent people working collectively toward the same goals can often generate more interesting and imaginative ideas than those same individuals working alone.

September 14, 2015

Rethinking the Academic Office

How can you increase the likelihood that people will adopt a new idea? How can you create and adopt new ideas about workplace strategies that enable more productivity in less space? What changes to you need to make to space, process, protocols and culture to make this happen? This interactive session at the 2015 NACUBO…

The Case For Change: Rethinking Library Services, Spaces, and Organizations

Keynote session from Rethink it: Libraries for a New Age that makes the case for change in library services, spaces, and organizations. Drawing on stories of transformation from beyond the library world, provides insights on shifts in purpose, offerings, and user and staff experiences. Then uses library case studies from brightspot’s work to explain tactics…

May 30, 2015

Creating and Supporting Innovative Learning Spaces

How can you create flexible spaces that actively engage students, provide top-notch operational support services, and make the organizational changes required to move to new spaces, practices, and policies? This keynote presentation by Elliot Felix, Founder of brightspot strategy, answered these questions through presentations, activities, and discussions. It will cover the key trends and case…

May 28, 2015

Rethink the Staff Workplace | Library by Design, Spring 2015

As libraries make their public-facing spaces more people-focused and mobile tech makes big us/them service desks obsolete, it’s important to ensure that staff have creativity-enhancing spaces of their own along with the work processes, tools, and training to be effective. Libraries everywhere are making great strides on behalf of their users. They are developing inspiring…

April 1, 2015

Gamification: How to Play

How is gamification influencing design? It is changing the design process to enable participation, simulation, and feedback.  It is influencing why people go places and their expectations when they get there.  It is shaping experiences within spaces as well as the operations of those spaces.

March 30, 2015

Fostering Creativity

Panel Presentation by Elliot Felix from session at ACRL 2015 Conference “Turn Your Library Into an Idea Engine: Creating the Ideal Creativity Space.” Covers how to cultivate the mindset, skill set, tool set, programs, and settings for creativity.

December 22, 2014

Scaling Up Support Services

How do you scale up the support services you offer? This is a question we get a lot at brightspot. Many organizations are trying to attract more users and want to have the people, systems, and culture in place to support them. Or they may have resource constraints and need to do more with less…

November 13, 2014

Making Services Visible

A service, in the broadest terms, is an interaction between a user and a provider to enable the user to accomplish something. This could be anything from buying a ticket to enter a museum to getting a medical check-up to ordering food at a restaurant. Services are co-created between user and provider each time they…

October 29, 2014

Outside-In, Inside-Out: Designing Services Within Learning Spaces

September 19, 2014

User centered space services and staffing

How can you uncover and understand your users’ needs and then create actionable insights? How can these insights enable a user-centered design for your spaces, the services you offer within them, and the way you organize your staff to provide those services? This session will answer these questions in four parts: first, we’ll make the…

October 30, 2013

Library Service Design and Assessment

Presentation on Library Service Design and Assessment at the Association of Research Libraries 2012 Library Assessment Conference. The presentation covers the current challenges for library services, the trends amplifying them, the mindset/process/tools needed to address them, some brief case studies of the tools in action, and some tips on getting started.

October 3, 2013

Trends, Tools, and Tactics for Better Library Design

Webinar from October 2013 to Blended Librarians Group on the “Trends, Tools, and Tactics for Better Library Design” featuring trends on learning and research, tools from the learning space toolkit (www.learningspacetoolkit.org), and tips for putting them to work to improve your library’s spaces, services, and staffing.

June 11, 2013

Defining “Experience”

brightspot’s focus is improving people’s experience with strategies for the spaces they use, the services in the spaces, and the people working within the spaces. So, we are frequently asked how we define “experience” since it’s a broad term, and like culture, often an “I know it when I see it” kind of thing. However,…

April 13, 2013

UX in 4D

Workshop at LeanUX NYC on how to do UX in 4D, bringing together physical/digital, spaces and services

May 23, 2012

Reimagining the Museum Experience

The role of art museums is changing. Visitors expect more active participation, a more customised offer for their needs and interests and a more social and technology-rich experience. There is also increasing competition for leisure time and funding among a diminishing population of museum-goers.

February 12, 2012

Transforming Museums: Toolkit for Change

Presentation from 2012 California Association of Museums workshop on “Transforming Museums” featuring a toolkit for organizations to use to change their spaces, operations, services, and culture.

November 1, 2011

The Case for a Learning Space Performance Rating System

Learning spaces are mission-critical for colleges and universities. Yet institutions lack a commonly accepted set of standards for learning spaces, lack a way to measure space performance through a third-party certification, and lack a  substantive way to compare their spaces to peer and aspirant institutions. Inspired by the success of environmental building rating systems like…

Learning Space Service Design

Much progress has been made in creating informal learning spaces that incorporate technology and flexibly support a variety of activities. This progress has been principally in designing the right combination of furniture, technology, and space. However, colleges and universities do not design services within learning spaces with nearly the same level of sophistication or integration.…

October 12, 2011


Service design is a process that examines the relationship between those who use a service and the service environment. By focusing on and making improvements to the points at which users interact with other people or the environment, service design enables an organization to run smoothly, provide the best service to its users, and reduce…

February 28, 2011

Hello brightspot

I’ve launched brightspot strategy, a consultancy focused on creating brighter work and learning experiences by improving space, services, technology, processes, and culture. For the time being, I’ll likely be blogging mainly on the brightspot blog rather than here.  Look forward to hearing from you at elliot [at] brightspotstrategy [dot] com. Thanks.

December 13, 2010

How Library Services Are Changing

Libraries are in flux (news flash, I know). New technologies have enabled more mobile and collaborative work patterns; learning is becoming more project-based, experiential, and personalized; and research and scholarship are becoming more specialized, collaborative, data-rich, and varied in their outputs. To create the overall context for a recent library service design workshop, I pulled…

November 22, 2010

Spaces and Services – Why New Spaces Need a Host

Think about the last time you were at a party with a great host. The host welcomed you, made you feel comfortable, showed you around, introduced you to other guests, maybe encouraged you to try a new food, and made sure you had a good time. We’ve also all experienced the opposite: even when you’re…

November 17, 2010

Toolkit Round-up

brightspot and DEGW are working with NC State on IMLS-funded project to develop a web-based Learning Space Planning Toolkit. In the beginning stages of this effort, we’ve done some work looking at existing toolkits – of all shapes and sizes.  Thought this list might be helpful so am posting it below (and will update it as our…

November 8, 2010

Reflections on the PKAL Learning Spaces Colloquium

I just participated in a colloquium for a new initiative by Project Kaleidoscope to understand learning spaces – what best-practices are known and what is unknown. The event consisted of presentations on current thinking / examples as well as breakout sessions to identify the future questions that the initiative might answer. It was a terrific…

October 5, 2010

5 Trends Changing Design

Previously, I’ve written about the potential causes of the design gap, when designs fall short in meeting both user needs and business goals. This gap results from how the design process is structured, who is participating, and how they communicate. However, there are broader forces that are changing the way information, products, services, systems, and…

September 12, 2010

Blended Learning as Activity-based Working

There are currently two conversations going on that ought to be brought together. The first is about activity-based working in which workers choose the right setting for the work to be done rather than assume that their desk can always meet all their needs. For instance, you might work from home one morning to concentrate…

August 25, 2010

The Problem Changes As You Work On It

The story of how Post-it® notes were invented by accident is familiar: an adhesive failed for its primary purpose but found a new and useful one.  However, there is a lesson in this story that isn’t well known:  that it’s only through testing different solutions (adhesives) that we can really know what the problem is…

July 26, 2010

What I Learned @Overlap10

I just attended Overlap ’10, an annual peer-to-peer gathering of 50 like minded people, exploring the overlap of design and business, among other things [definitions vary of course, as does the program and format each year]. It was an inspiring event, chock full of terrific people, great conversations, and inspiring ideas. Here are 5 things…

July 19, 2010

From Ownership to Membership

At times, it seems like owing things is what we are hard-wired to do. Through a mixture of hard work and chance, we acquire things and as a result can use them as and when we like, loan them to a friend, or dispose of them when we’re through. The opposing instinct is sharing, when…

July 4, 2010

Sustaining or Disruptive Innovation? Depends on your Point of View

“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” – Henry Ford One of the generally accepted views on innovation is that, at the most basic level, there are two types: sustaining innovation which incrementally improves what currently is and disruptive innovation that shifts the paradigm of what can be.…

June 20, 2010

Design Education and Entrepreneurs

A IxDA Linkedin forum recently asked: Is a Design Education good training for aspiring entrepreneurs? Here’s my response: I would say “yes and no” YES: A design education provides a terrific basis in how to define and solve problems, how to communicate (visually, verbally, physically), how to think and work in iterative and non-linear ways,…

Tablet Arm Chairs and the Cost of Flexibility

Recently, a creative solution to the problem of the tablet-arm chair was unveiled by Steelcase and IDEO (FastCompany article here). The design is quite elegant and solves several important problems: storage is provided under the chair, wheels are added which facilitate gathering (and re-gathering) for group discussions and projects, and the size of the work…

June 17, 2010

The Visual Agenda (aka the process map)

I recently led a workshop during which the goals (and therefore the previously planned process for reaching them) shifted dramatically and instantly. So, the group had to pivot from a process of qualitatively articulating aspirations and a vision to quite quickly focusing on concrete, quantifiable near term facility needs – luckily these were informed by…

June 5, 2010

Thoughts on Business Education

Recently, an HBR blog post (based on Carnegie Foundation BELL project) observed that undergrad business students need a greater sense of professionalism and a better appreciation of the role of business in society – they need to be practitioners (non technicians) with nimble minds that can understand the context in which business operates.  Below are my comments…

June 4, 2010

Portable power, a Boon for Libraries

I recently went to Speakup, a bar that sprang up in an otherwise vacant courtyard in Brooklyn,  and I marveled at how they’d instantly conjured the bar – particularly how they were able to get light and sound to each table in the middle of the courtyard. Turns out they use a portable power source from…

May 25, 2010

Beyond “See Something, Say Something”

A recent New York Times article chronicled the origins of the now ubiquitous “See Something, Say Something” campaign to enlist the help of the general public in thwarting terrorist threats by reporting suspicious activities. The slogan, the brainchild of Allen Kay at Korey Kay & Partners and conceived in the wake of 911,  has done…

Business Design for the Longest Commercial Airline Flight

The longest regular non-stop commerical flight is an interesting case study in business design. For a flight to be profitable it has to balance supply and demand at the right price. For long-haul, direct flights this particularly means balancing distance (providing convenience) and weight (due to fuel and passengers) and cost (mix of premium and…

May 24, 2010

The Case for “Cheap and Cheerful”

Having just enjoyed a few nights at an Aloft hotel – W hotel’s budget / hip / youth product line – I’d say there is a strong case to be made for the “cheap and cheerful” design strategy. (Google’s offices and Ikea are also notable examples of this approach). There is something about using materials…

May 16, 2010

Closing the Design Gap

My article on closing the design gap was just published in Parsons Journal of Design Strategies (download pdf here or full journal pdf here, see p.76). The article asserts that there is gap between our needs and the way our environments accommodate them – what I call the “design gap” – and that this gap…

May 8, 2010

Managing the Design Process

Months ago I bought an engagement ring. It was a memorable experience not just because of the occasion, but unfortunately because the design and delivery process went awry. Looking back, it’s a great case study in what to avoid in managing a design process.   For a bit of background: After  first thinking my partner and…

March 27, 2010

Instructions vs. Explorations

What business can learn from design* is a hot topic (ex: Roger Martin’s The Design of Business. BW Review here). Problems are becoming more “wicked” and organizations increasingly tie their success to their ability innovate – not just to incrementally improve what exists but to offer a new sense of what can be. And so,…

March 24, 2010

6 Things

My class at Parsons focused on how new ideas are created and communicated (more so than developed in detail). We talked about how to spot and create opportunities for new products, services, and businesses. The theory was then put into practice with a group project in each of these areas. Because we focused a great…

March 22, 2010

Defining Design Strategy

Design strategy is a way of focusing and guiding the design process to create value by reconciling user needs with business goals through a mix of empirical research and structured, measured experimentation.  Design strategy is practiced in a process that is: Participatory: enabling broad participation in the defining of the problem to be addressed and…

Commenting on Design Thinking

Noah Raford predicts, perhaps rightly, that all the hype around design thinking will soon change to disappointment as business leaders are not able to realize the potential of design. The thinking is that design will continue to be brought in toward the end of the product/service development to style a solution that is already determined,…

Space Strategy at SCUP

Attended the SCUP mid-atlantic regional conference last week.  The conference featured presentations dealing with internal, external, and physical planning constraints and then featured a mock charrette to address a hypothetical merger of a 4-year university and a community college. The charrette proved to be a fruitful way  of applying lessons from presentations and prior experience…

The Subway Libraries

Here’s a link to download an article on The Subway Libraries, my concept to develop a new type of library sited within subway stations.  Subways and Libraries have much in common: both are democratizing agencies, they have similar cultures of cards and turnstiles, train cars (and airplanes) are our contemporary reading rooms, and reading has…

Empty Workspaces Aren’t Green

Posted an article in eco-structure addressing sustainability from a programming perspective.  Provides 6 strategies for rethinking how office space is allocated, managed and used since the most sustainable building is the one you don’t build.