Erik Olesund is a user experience researcher, improvisor, and coffee enthusiast living in San Francisco. He uses design to grasp and solve problems that matter by focusing on what people need and experimenting his way forward.

Erik Olesund is a Senior Experience Researcher at Thumbtack, a local services marketplace that connects customers who need to get things done with local, skilled professionals who can help. He is embedded on several product development teams to ensure that both strategic and tactical decisions are rooted in real needs that matter to Thumbtack’s customers and pros. As a researcher at Thumbtack his work ranges from exploratory field research studies to evaluative remote usability testing; qualitative, abductive data synthesis to quantitative survey analysis; establishing processes and tools to improve the day-to-day operations of the research team to training and advising others on how to conduct their own, robust research.

Erik is also affiliated with the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the d.school) at Stanford. As a d.school Teaching Fellow (2014), Global Program Manager (2015) and Lecturer (2014-present) he has been teaching design thinking – a human centered approach to problem solving and rapid innovation – to students from all over campus. His teaching included the flagship introductory class Design Thinking Studio, classes on the intersection of storytelling, improvisation, and design, and Design Thinking for Public Policy Innovators.

In 2014 Erik cofounded Collective Capital, a change and innovation agency that helps organizations implement human-centered design to better understand the needs of the people they serve. They blend consulting and capacity building by leading their clients through design thinking sprints, immersive research projects, large scale experience prototyping, and strategic planning. They also develop and deliver immersive and play-filled workshops in applied improvisational theatre to help their clients foster a culture where creativity is encouraged, communication is direct, and emotional support is strong. Clients range from Fortune 500 companies and national organizations to small startups and emergent political campaigns.

Erik is a performing member of the San Francisco based improv troupe the Polite Society Players. He loves radio and have produced pieces for the Stanford Storytelling Project and Green Grid Radio. On a weekend you'll find him backcountry skiing, baking, or tucked away in a coffee shop with a book.


Senior Experience Researcher
Thumbtack | July 2018 - today
Thumbtack is a local services marketplace that connects customers who need to get things done with local, skilled professionals who can help.

Co-founder & Design Strategist
Collective Capital | December 2014 - today
Collective Capital is a change and innovation agency that makes the world more curious, generous, and resilient. For more information, visit cocap.io.

Global Program Manager & Design Researcher
Stanford d.school | June 2015 - August 2016
Managed week-to-week operations, strategic partnerships, and budgeting for the d.school’s Global Program (d.global). Led an interdepartmental design research project to understand and improve the experience of Stanford students studying abroad. Spearheaded the d.school’s experimentation with learning experiences outside of the classroom.

All d.global projects can be viewed here.

Teaching Fellow & Lecturer
Stanford d.school | August 2014 - June 2015
Evolved and taught the following classes: Design Thinking Bootcamp (the d.school’s seminal introductory class in human-centered design), Adventures in Design Thinking, Sticky Stories, Improv & Design, Applied Improv & Negotiation, and Human Scale Cities. Led the research for and co-taught a class on the applications of human-centered design in the public sector: Design Thinking for Public Policy Innovators (taught in 2015 & 2016).

Read in-depth descriptions of all classes here.

Full resume available upon request.


Stanford University: Master of Science in Management Science and Engineering
September 2012 - June 2014
Interdisciplinary program integrating the social sciences, management and organizational behavior, and engineering. Area of concentration: Design thinking.

Chalmers University of Technology: Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and Management
August 2009 - May 2012
Area of concentration: Computer Science. Bachelor’s Thesis: A qualitative field study on small business adoption of mobile payments in Tanzania.

erik london.jpg


Reflections on my month working for the Clinton Campaign during the 2016 Presidential Election.
#1: The Case for Love
#2: Numbers
#3: The Faces of This Campaign
#4: Fruits of Your Labor

The Economy Can't Grow Forever – an essay challenging our obsession with economic growth.

How the Tractor Ruined Farming – a radio story questioning the success story of technological innovations in food production.

Three Things You Can Do to Unlock the Creative Potential of the People Around You – an article on how to establish a culture of innovation (page 38) (in Swedish).