Industrial Design + Design Agency Leadership + Creative Confidence with James Howard — DT101 E74

James Howard is a teacher, design historian, industrial designer, and inventor of over 300 products with 18 patents. He’s currently the owner-operator of Entrepreneurial U, a specialty private design school. Prior to teaching at the county college of Morris in New Jersey, Professor Howard was the owner-operator of the award-winning Howard Design Agency, an industrial design practice whose clients included Coca-Cola, Colgate Palmolive, and Johnson & Johnson.

James is also the owner of Cozy Cupboard Tearoom of Morristown, New Jersey. The English-style business has been a regional favorite for over 10 years. James serves as the Executive Director of the Black Inventors Hall of Fame, a virtual museum devoted to immortalizing African-Americans whose noteworthy inventions have improved lives, yet gone unnoticed.

Listen to Learn About:

Picture of James Howard
  • James’ journey to become an industrial designer
  • The Howard Design Agency
  • James’ years teaching design
  • Entrepreneurial U
  • Growth mindset
  • The power of optimism – in work, and in life

Show Highlights

[01:55] James talks about his journey into design, and his big sister Doris.
[03:11] Entering his first drawing contest as a young boy.
[03:16] The disappointment of not getting into the graphic design program – and James’ shift into industrial design as a result.
[05:31] Challenges James faced during his undergraduate and graduate years.
[08:56] Getting into graduate school.
[10:38] James’ struggles with his first mentor in graduate school.
[12:30] How things changed once he had a strong mentor on his side.
[13:15] Winning a design award from RESNA.
[14:01] His first job as an industrial designer.
[15:49] James’ advice for people dealing with bumps in the road.
[16:49] Why James decided to start his own design agency.
[19:51] 15 years at the Howard Design Agency.
[21:10] How running his own agency changed the way James thought about design.
[23:17] James offers advice on how to make a good pitch.
[26:42] The decision to leave his design agency and begin teaching.
[30:59] Founding Entrepreneurial U.
[32:09] James talks about the Bridge program, which helps adults change career pathways.
[32:51] The importance of cultivating a growth mindset.
[33:51] James as the perpetual optimist, and passing that optimism on to his students.
[36:16] Doodling as a second language, to tell stories and convey ideas.
[38:07] Resources James recommends.
[41:18] Where to find out more about James and his work.
[42:30] The Black Inventors’ Hall of Fame.
[46:20] Fluid Hive’s resources for those wanting to learn and practice design thinking.


James on LinkedIn
Entrepreneurial U
Black Inventors’ Hall of Fame
A Conversation with James Howard, Perpetual Optimist
The History of Black Industrial Designers
Book Recommendation: Marketing for the Small Design Firm, by Jim Morgan
Book Recommendation: Who Moved My Cheese: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, by Spencer Johnson
Book Recommendation: Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us, by Tom Kelley and David Kelley
Book Recommendation: Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life, by Francesca Gino
Book Recommendation: The Universal Traveler, by James Bagnell and Don Koberg

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