Meet Designer-in-Residence Adam Royalty

Meet Designer-in-Residence Adam Royalty

Adam joins the staff of Columbia Entrepreneurship from the at Stanford, more formally known as the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. And now that the fall semester has begun, Adam will launch the **Columbia Entrepreneurship Design Studio** where  he’ll guide our entrepreneurs through interview techniques, rapid prototyping, and the art of developing empathy for one’s consumers — all in an effort to create human-centered solutions that win long term customer loyalty.

Columbia Entrepreneurship has been helping entrepreneurs launch new ventures for more than two years. We provide space, programming, and mentorship, and we’re on the teaching teams of Launching New Ventures and the Greenhouse Program at Columbia Business School.

Through our work we often see teams lose sight of customer wants, needs, and biases for how they want to use or purchase a product.

Entrepreneurship-by-Design, or “Design Thinking,” is a set of methodologies, tools, and practices that help our founders uncover critical customer insights and integrate them into their products, services, and businesses.

These tools include interview and observational techniques; rapid prototyping and problem solving; framing and reframing customer problems; and developing empathy for customers. In sum, design thinking is the art of developing an idea that is feasible, desirable, and viable all at once.

For the past year Adam Royalty has been helping faculty, students, and entrepreneurs understand how to use these tools. They’ve quickly learned that design is the basis of success.

If you start with a product, that’s all you’re going to make.
If you start by understanding a customer needs, you have exponentially more options

— Adam Royalty

As he works with Columbia innovators Adam explains that the key to any startup’s viability is the quick and accurate identification of its customer base and a firm grasp on the values of that target market. By reaching out and engaging clients or customers on a personal level at the onset, a young company can develop a more customer-minded business platform, making it more sustainable in the long-run.

“Making objects look amazing, like Apple does, by inventing new markets and investing in product design is important for established companies,” Adam says. “But for entrepreneurs, the primary focus of design, first and foremost, is to understand their customers. If you start with a product, that’s all you’re going to make. If you start by understanding a need, you have exponentially more options.”

He adds that the strongest startups are the ones that keep asking these questions long after they’ve established themselves as legitimate businesses. Keeping up-to-date on customer values is crucial to meeting the demands of today’s constantly evolving markets.

This semester, Adam will be on the teaching teams for entrepreneurship classes at Columbia Business School and at the School of International and Public Affairs. He will also conduct regularly scheduled workshops at the Columbia Startup Lab and continue to work with a number of teams on an individual basis.

Adam will be also be holding studio hours on campus every Friday. Current students and recent alumni can request time with Adam by emailing

Adam’s suggested reading on Design

Nathan Sinsabaugh on Medium: A mastery of design is essential to your startup’s success. [Read the article]

UX Magazine: An outline for effective, powerful design that can make a real impact on your business. [Read the article]

Harvard Business Review: Even as early as 2008, designers were offering new, cognitive approaches to their craft. [Read the article]

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