The IBM Distinguished Designer

By Phil G. Gilbert

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Phil Gilbert

In 2012, IBM announced the formation of IBM Design. On that day, IBM signaled our commitment to elevating the craft of design into its proper role as a required element to becoming essential to our clients. Design helps us deliver meaningful, differentiated value. Since that day, we have passed through many milestones along the way, including the addition of 125+ offering teams in the Hallmark program and hundreds of client engagements where IBM Design Thinking has been introduced and is driving differentiated value.

Design is now being recognized as a technical craft that, alongside engineering, is strategically important to the long term interests of IBM. In the history of IBM there have been fewer than 200 Corporate Instructions; they are not made lightly and they require approvals to the highest level. The Corporate Instruction creating the position of IBM Distinguished Designer, made March 30, 2016, has been worked on for more than three years and as a result of this, IBM becomes the first [non-design] enterprise in the world that has an established, recurring, scalable program that provides a path for a designer to reach the position of Fellow, with Distinguished Designer the single most significant rung on that ladder.

To become an IBM Distinguished Designer requires ample evidence of IBM and industry-wide impact and eminence. In fact, the impact should be so obvious that anyone seeing the name should think “well, of course.” I think our three first IBM Distinguished Designers fit the bill, nicely.

IBM Distinguished Designers

Adam Cutler
IBM Design, USA

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Adam Cutler

I first met Adam in 2012. Immediately following the announcement of the Corporate Design Program I reached out to the existing designers that I knew at IBM and they all said “you need to meet Adam, up in Cambridge.” So I flew up there and we began talking. Within about 5 minutes I knew who needed to lead our design practices. Adam’s heart, soul and passion for wonderful products and experiences is evident in everything he does.

Since joining IBM, Adam has established a reputation as a tireless advocate of thoughtful, human-centric design. Adam has worked to inculcate a deep understanding of why design matters and how design can impact IBM’s offerings and the value we deliver to clients. Most recently, Adam led the development of a new release of IBM Design Thinking (Jan 2016). Thanks, in part to Adam’s leadership, IBM is now recognized as a leader in the practice of design thinking. In his new role, Adam will define the practice of design in the cognitive era and drive IBM’s cognitive agenda through the lens of design.

Charlie Hill
IBM Design, USA

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Charlie Hill

I first met Charlie in early 2012. In fact, it was arguably at the meeting where the initial conception of the Program began to become formed. We met “backstage” at an event where we had been invited independently to talk about this design thing. Neither of us knew the other existed yet and as we were looking at our presentation decks, we realized each could have given the other’s with no preparation! Charlie has been my partner in this endeavor since that day.

Charlie Hill has been appointed IBM Distinguished Designer for Design Transformation. Charlie is an accomplished product designer and design thinker with a deep track record of mastering and applying design, design thinking, as well as business and technical skills to deliver innovative products and build a culture of design at IBM. As CTO and co-founder of IBM Design, he has played a central role in IBM’s design transformation, driving new multidisciplinary practices and contributing key intellectual property and leadership to many facets of IBM Design’s programs including talent, education, and tooling.

Doug Powell
IBM Design, USA

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Doug Powell

I first heard of Doug from a co-worker who, early in 2013, came into my office in Austin, wildly excited about this person who had just accepted a position with us… Doug Powell, then the currently outgoing and twice past president of AIGA, the oldest and largest design community in the world. I think my co-worker’s words (or maybe they were mine) were “HOLY COW THIS GUY IS ACTUALLY COMING TO IBM!” We knew that Doug’s influence in the design community was really huge. He walked into our lives a few weeks later and it’s a fact that our lives, and the lives of every designer, Hallmark team member, IBM executive and client who have been around Doug and his red Nike’s have been changed for the better.

Doug has been appointed an IBM Distinguished Designer for IBM Studios. Since joining IBM, Doug has been essential to the design-driven reinvention of IBM through his direction of the IBM Design Education + Activation program and the programmatic approach he and his team have to the development of the global IBM Studios experience for IBMers, clients and partners. With more than 25 years of experience in a range of disciplines including product, visual and interaction design. Doug’s dedication to the craft of human-centered design permeates every aspect of his work .


Phil Gilbert is General Manager for IBM Design. As GM of IBM Design, Phil sets the strategy for and leads the transformation of product design at IBM.

If you are a passionate problem-solver, able to empathize with users and turn that empathy into design insight, join IBM Design and help us create exceptional experiences.

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