Isn’t the atmosphere here a bit strange?

Have you ever felt a strange atmosphere at work? An atmosphere that is difficult to define, but that you strongly feel? It may be because someone has expressed something inappropriate or behaved in a way that doesn’t feel right. But what do you do then? Should you speak up or just let it be?

I recently joined an interesting session on design leadership by Kim Goodwin, where she talked about how leaders can address performance issues within a group. But what really stuck with me was her point that as individuals, we also need to ask ourselves: is it really a problem, or am I being influenced by group pressure?

It’s easy to fall into groupthink and think that what’s happening is normal or not a big deal. But by taking a step back and reflecting on the situation, we can get a clearer picture of what’s actually going on.

“When you said ‘x’, I interpreted it as ‘x’ – was that your intention?”
As Kim Goodwin suggests, it can be helpful to use a simple framework to address the situation, where we ask ourselves what the problem is, whether the person who performed the behavior sees it as a problem, whether the problem is due to a lack of skills or resources, and if there’s anything else to add.

I know that I need to work on being brave enough to speak up and stand up for my opinions, even if it feels uncomfortable. But I believe that by being courageous and willing to bring up the issues, we can create a healthier and more productive work environment for everyone.
What do you think?

Read more about Kim Goodwin

Reading tips about self-awareness

Written by: Julia Mattelin


Hi Jeff Hoekwater!

Hi Jeff Hoekwater! Today you’re a Service Designer at Riverty in the Netherlands and an Ambition Empower member, but… Where did it all begin? 

– Well… Fintech is actually quite a new area for me. I studied museum and exhibition design in the UK for four years and then spent ten years designing exhibitions at museums worldwide. China, Malaysia, the Caribbean, Germany… It was great fun, and I learned a lot. At one point, I got tired of moving around, and it was time for a career switch. So, I started with service design work for the public sector in the Netherlands, and then, a couple of years ago, I decided to try to apply my skills in a completely new area.

And now you’re at the fintech company Riverty? What’s a typical day like for you? 

– I mainly work with insights. I do research and help product managers, UX designers, and others to get what they need so that we can understand our customers and clients better. Beyond that, I also spend a lot of time in education, helping colleagues to get better at research, writing questions, interviewing, analyzing, etc. But on the surface, it looks like most jobs. I go to meetings, talk a lot, and try to convince people I’m right. 😉

Ha ha! Yes, don’t we all! You recently renewed your membership and signed up for another year with Ambition Empower. How has it worked out for you so far, and what’s given you the most value? 

– To be honest… It was a bit scary to get on board when everything was already up and running, so it wasn’t perfect for me from the beginning, but when I joined the Service Design track, everything just worked out. It’s fantastic. Chris Risdon’s material and live sessions are so valuable. Besides the new models and examples I get, Chris often talks about how everything is connected and the ‘why’ behind everything. I mean, I’ve understood what to do, and the ‘why’ to some degree, but lots of it has been eye-opening. Empower also saves me plenty of time. Since I teach others on these topics, I can often borrow and use material directly in my workshops.

I’m so happy to hear that! I understand that it can be challenging at first, not least because it’s hard to create new habits. But… continuous growth and saving time… that’s exactly what we’re trying to help our members with.

Thanks for being part of Empower, Jeff! We really appreciate having you with us.

Read more about Ambition Empower, and join Jeff and all the other members here:


👋 Ambition is growing! Say hello to…

… Mattias Andersson! 🙌

Hello Mattias! Welcome to Ambition! Before we met for the first time, I checked out your CV on LinkedIn. You’ve worked in a record store, been a graphic designer, game reviewer, freelance writer, and diving guide in Malta. Except for diving, you’ve basically done everything I wish I had managed to do during my upbringing. What was the most fun, and why?

– Thank you, Johan! Yes, I’ve had the chance to try many different things, and each one has its own special place in my heart, but diving is definitely a hard-to-beat hobby. Exploring the sea at thirty or forty meters deep is an indescribable experience. It’s incredibly meditative, despite requiring a lot of focus and high safety awareness, while at the same time, you can almost taste the adrenaline in your mouth. Right there and then, there’s nothing else but that exact moment and the sound of your own air bubbling in the water as you explore a completely different world. All other thoughts disappear. Very powerful.

That sounds wonderful… and a little scary… I think I’ll stay on land… Almost ten years ago, you decided to change paths and started studying interaction design at Malmö University. Why?

– I felt it was time to try something new and perhaps turn what had always interested me the most into a career. My interest in design and technology started even before I began elementary school. I grew up with a Commodore 64 and then a series of Amiga computers and began experimenting with graphics and music.

– The education suited me perfectly, both the design parts and the programming, and already during my studies, I began working as a UX designer at a product company in Malmö.

Fun! I also started working as a designer before graduation. In my case, it was mostly about designing various websites and administrative systems. What about you?

– I’ve been working on a SaaS service that helps, for example, restaurants increase productivity and efficiency in their daily operations. It’s a straightforward challenge where a good user experience is crucial. The most fun so far has been prototyping and designing solutions that help customers achieve their goals. I really enjoy the entire spectrum, from UX research to detailed UI design.

Exciting! And now you’re joining us at Ambition. What are you most looking forward to?

– I’m mainly looking forward to working with different products and services and designing various solutions. Then, of course, I’m also excited to get to know all the wonderful people. I got off to a perfect start at our spring kickoff a few weeks ago. It felt luxurious to have the opportunity to meet everyone even before I started.

Thank you, Mattias! Yes, it’s an amazing team! I’m looking forward to getting to know you better! Once again, Mattias, welcome to Ambition! 😃 🙌


Hello Marcus!

Hello Marcus! You and the team at Stim are building an internal Service Design department. How is it going, and how are you using Ambition Empower to move forward more quickly? 🧐

Marcus Janzon and his team are establishing new working methods and design culture. Although they have just started, Marcus has much to lean on.

– I have been at STIM for 15 years. My interest in the music industry started early, but I quickly realized that it was difficult to pay the rent through voluntary work, so I began studying organizational development. When I finished, I received a recommendation for a temporary role at STIM, which eventually resulted in a position in strategy and development. Since I’ve always liked visualization, I later took different UX and design courses. After that, I had several successful collaborations with the lovely team at Antrop. What we did together had a good effect, and now my colleagues and I are building an internal service design department.

Yes. Many organizations are currently building internal expertise in UX and service design. The area is just too important to be dependent on others. You have just started. How is it going for you?

– It’s going well. We are eight on the team, including two interns. There are many challenges, and we are just at the beginning of our journey. Overall, it’s about supporting the business in working more customer-centric to maximize the value for our members. To do this, we need to create the best conditions for the whole team to grow as individuals and as a team.

– A vital part is our meeting-free Tuesdays when we meet and sit together. We usually start by making a list of everything we want to discuss. There’s usually a lot about how we work. Sometimes inspired by books, but this is also where Empower comes in. With Empower, we get continuous inspiration and many examples from tested methods and models. Being able to access examples of what can be done is extremely powerful.

What do you think has been the best thing about Empower so far?

– A few different things make me think it works very well. The first is time. One hour a week is so little that there’s no problem getting it done, but at the same time, it’s enough to help us keep moving forward. Personally, I have scheduled Mondays at 11 am as my “Empower-time” on the weeks when there are no live meetings. Then it’s also great that we do this together as a group. We get a shared foundation of knowledge to develop from. Finally, the flexibility to change tracks also feels very good. For example, I jumped into Kim Goodwin’s Design Leadership to learn about recruitment. It’s good to be adaptive and choose what you need the most right now. The approach feels revolutionary.

Thank you, Marcus! It’s really great to have you on board! Good luck with continuing to build your department! 🚀

Read more about Ambition Empower and join Marcus & co here:


Michelle Chin


“I look forward to going over the design system landscape so participants can figure out how to implement, scale, and maintain their design system in a way that works best for their teams and organization.”

Michelle Chin is a Design Advocate at zeroheight, a leading design system documentation platform, where she helps companies of all sizes and experiences to untangle the challenges they’re facing with their design system.

Michelle, we’re so happy to have you with us. You’ve been in the business for 20+ years. How did you “discover” the benefits of well-working design systems?

– There’s a saying, “it’s not the destination; it’s the journey.” This is true for seeing the benefits of a well-working design system. Creating a well-working design system is an outstanding achievement and should be celebrated, but it can take a long time. However, with every milestone you pass in creating a design system, there is always a benefit or “win” to celebrate. And the wins can spark a momentum that’s hard to stop.

– I remember many years ago having our design team use the UI library our design system designers created. We weren’t sure how well it would work, but the designers loved it and found value in the efficiency of their new workflow. It made us happy to see how we were helping the team. Later, we had our engineering counterparts create coded UI components that any team can leverage in their development. We were excited when we saw engineering teams actively using it because it showed they appreciated working more efficiently.

– Every milestone after that – documenting usage guidelines, creating a governance process, inviting contributions, and so on, all demonstrated the benefits of a design system and increased the scope of who it helped. It was thrilling for me – it was fun to experience all the different benefits we came across, see the excitement from others, and figure out all the new opportunities to take our design system to the next level.

What would you say are the most common design systems-related challenges that organizations are facing today?

– I think there are two significant challenges facing organizations today. The first one is usually around creating a design system out of several existing products, many of which don’t look alike. Teams typically try to figure out how to align a portfolio of products to one system. Visually that can be a challenge, but behind the scenes, it can be even more difficult if there are different teams, codebases, or processes. It can make aligning very strenuous.

– The other challenge is starting design systems in general. Design systems have come a long way in the past decade, and so much has changed with technology, tools, and methods. So I see many teams feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. But at the same time, many of the tools we have for design systems make it easy to start quickly. Years ago, you’d have to wait to do certain things like document your design system because you’d have to wait for designers and developers to have availability. Tools today make it easy to start right away without much effort.

Can you give a few examples of really great design systems and tell us a bit about why you think they are successful?

– We always dream of creating something like IBM’s Carbon Design SystemGoogle’s Material Design, or Microsoft’s Fluent Design System. While they are amazing systems, many organizations don’t have the time or resources to create a design system as comprehensive as those and at the scale they serve.

– Some of my favorite design systems are lesser known. These design systems are “workhorses,” where they serve their design, content, and engineering teams well and where you can see them in action when you use the products they support. REI’s Cedar is the digital design system for the outdoor gear and clothing retailer. I love it because it includes tutorials to help designers and developers get started, consists of a comprehensive set of design tokens, and outlines many details, such as accessibility and content design guidance. Gitlab’s Pajamas design system is another favorite. I love it because it has a fun name and is easy to navigate and read, even with thorough documentation. I also like Shopify’s Polaris design system. They have several components in their design system, each well-documented with code examples and clear usage guidelines. Polaris includes a robust content design section, which a great design system should have, but many organizations often don’t include it.

What are you most looking forward to when it comes to leading the Design Systems track at Ambition Empower?

– I’m really excited to meet everyone and hear where they are in the design system journey. Design systems can feel intimidating and complicated, and my goal is to remove some of that mystery and untangle the complexity. There’s also so much new technology, tools, and methods to understand that it can feel impossible to keep up.

– I look forward to going over the design system landscape so participants can figure out how to implement, scale, and maintain their design system in a way that works best for their teams and organization.

Thanks Michelle! We’re so happy to have you onboard the Empower journey!

Read more about the new Design systems track here. It starts May 1st. Join before then, and use the code designsystems, to get 10% off.


Several of us have had the pleasure of working with Filip before. He’s one of the most considerate and thoughtful people we’ve ever worked with, and we’re so happy to have him with us again. The way Filip creates contexts where both people and businesses can grow is truly unique.

It’s been a few years, and while we’ve been busy building Ambition, Filip has served as an interim COO at the communications agency Shark and later as an interim CEO at Transtema FNC, a subsidiary of the internet infrastructure company Transtema.

BUT… Now it’s time again. As Ambition grows, we need to increase our focus on partners. Now, Filip is joining our already amazing team, led by CeciliaJakobJanePia, and Nathalie, and it feels incredible to have this opportunity to work together again!

Filip, welcome to Ambition! We’re so happy to have you with us! 💜

PS. If you’re a freelancer looking for projects in UX or service design, feel free to reach out to Filip, and let’s see what exciting opportunities might open up! DS.


Johan Berndtsson and Pontus Wärnestål

Welcome, Pontus Wärnestål! 🦾💜

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Pontus for many years. Few people have impressed me as much – both professionally and personally. Pontus, starting in June, you will take over the “AI and Design” track at Ambition Empower, succeeding Chris Noessel. What do you find most exciting about the new developments in generative AI?

– The new possibilities will not only impact the design work and its processes but also enable entirely new types of user experiences. Personalization will take several steps forward as we use generative AI to create, for example, uniquely customized experiences, not just recommend already existing content. The entire design process will also be affected, where smart tools built on generative models can improve quality and efficiency. GPT-4 was recently released, featuring multimodal functions, i.e., an explosion of possibilities in combining video, image, and text. This could, for example, mean a giant leap in accessibility – if thoughtful designers take command and implement this in new ways.

– However, even though much attention is focused on generative AI right now, we’ll continue to delve deeper into other types of AI technologies and use cases as well.

As we advance, what is most important to embrace for those working with developing digital and digi-physical services?

– A fundamental prerequisite, especially for those who are “senior” and established, is to remain open to the idea that the playing field for design is changing. I choose to see AI technologies as a new design material, and with that comes the need for new tools, methods, and thus new skills. A classically trained designer needs to dare to question old truths about how and what(!) we actually design. As we advance, we’ll not just create graphical interfaces. Conversational interfaces and digi-physical services challenge established ways of looking at what we actually design.

What are you most looking forward to when it comes to leading the AI and Design track at Ambition Empower?

– Aside from meeting all the curious and skilled participants, I look forward to working on how we address AI as design material. We’ll cover everything from the tactical UX-oriented design perspective to how we strategically combine AI with business models, circularity, and business development. Right now, we are collectively setting the standard for how AI should be used in both the private and public sectors. And the community of human-centered designers has a critical voice in this development. Ambition Empower is an excellent arena for jointly defining how the design world should best utilize AI!

It’s really great to have you on this journey, Pontus, and to have the opportunity to work with you again! 🙌

Read more about Pontus and his track at Ambition Empower here.

Lovisa Appelkvist

Hi there Lovisa. Welcome to Ambition! 🎉

You studied interaction design at Malmö University and the Queensland University of Technology about ten years ago. After that, you’ve worked with design, communication, and project management – primarily within adult education and agencies. To me, that sounds like a perfect combination, to use design and communication to help others to grow.

– I agree! I love design work, but I wanted to be able to make a difference and keep developing after my degree was finished, not least within leadership, so I focused on finding ways and contexts where I had the chance to keep growing.

What was the most fun and rewarding during all these years as a designer, communicator, and project manager?

– Oh, there’s so much to choose from. A small but funny anecdote is from when I was writing copy as a freelance and interviewed Pia Sundhage, the famous soccer coach, about leadership. I was so nervous I barely remembered what she said. I also interviewed the national treasure Lill-babs but accidentally called her in the middle of her Midsummer’s day celebrations – she handled my faux pas with grace, though!

– The most rewarding projects have been working with Ukrainian and Syrian refugees, helping them get closer to the Swedish job market, and of course, creating and leading Sweden’s first community college game design program. Many students who started there now work at studios like Massive Entertainment, Sharkmob, and King.

Interesting! Another exciting thing about your background is that you’ve worked extensively with storytelling and performance. Poetry slam, spoken word… and metaphor wrestling?

– Haha, yes, the metaphor wrestling was a performance show built on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, where you are supposed to outdo each other in constructing metaphors. My colleagues at the time remade the concept from the books into an interactive stage show that spread over Sweden and Europe for a short while. The basis for the project was that we wanted to help young creatives to start their own cultural scenes and create their own shows. It was great fun! My roles were mainly as a web designer and metaphor wrestler on stage.

And now you have just started at Ambition! What are you looking forward to the most?

– Getting to know my new colleagues and learning from them! There is so much knowledge and understanding, and people who are genuinely skilled at what they do at Ambition. I’m thrilled and excited about starting!

Welcome, Lovisa! Looking forward to being your colleague! 💜

Welcome, Julia Mattelin!

We have long wanted to strengthen our team with more experience from the public sector… Enter Julia Mattelin!

Julia trained as a behavioral scientist at Lund University almost 15 years ago and spent most of the 2010s helping people outside the labor market find their way back.

– Suddenly, one day, I realized that there must be more I could do and that I needed more tools to help others succeed. I sat Försäkringskassan and looked out the window. Life happens out there, and I’m stuck in here.

After a couple of years of studies in, e.g., UX and inclusive design, Julia took a job as a Designer/Strategist and Innovator at Studio Stadshuset in Lund.

– It was great fun working with the citizens of Lund. One of the things I liked the most was our innovation weeks. Four times a year, we ran innovation sprints, going from a challenge on Monday to a validated solution on Friday.

– With Ambition, I am now taking another step in my development. I want to continue to develop as a designer, problem solver, and leader. It feels a little scary. All my new colleagues are super bright, and the assignments feel challenging and exciting. I like to work in the unknown, exploring and creating new solutions with customers and users. Right now, I’m curious about everything, but both sustainability and women’s issues are close to my heart, so at some point, I want to be involved in solving one of all the challenges that exist here.

So nice to have you here, Julia! Looking forward to getting to know you, sharing all your experiences, and growing with you! Welcome to Ambition!

Our 2022 in numbers

Two years since we started Ambition! Here is our 2022 in numbers!

Our mission is to empower the world’s designers and to help innovative organizations grow. We do this through Ambition Empower, a membership service for continuous professional development in UX, service, and product design. We do this through our consulting services, where we help organizations who want to move faster to work smarter and more customer-centric. And we do it through our recruitment service, where we help our customers find the right design and product people.

2021 was our startup year, and 2022 was the year when we established ourselves as a company:

  • Empower grew from just over 100 to almost 300 members, most of whom spend 1 hour each week strengthening their abilities and growing together. Also, more and more of our customers choose to sign up their entire teams, and structure their professional development with the help of Empower.
  • The number of tracks at Empower increased from 4 to 7 and now include design and product leadership, AI & design, behavioral design, design research, inclusive design, product leadership, and service design.
  • In total, our track leaders Kim Goodwin, Chris Noessel, Susan Weinschenk, Per Axbom, Christian Crumlish, and Cris Risdon selected and created 12,688 minutes of high-quality content to listen to, read, or watch, including 74 (!) live sessions for our members.
  • On the consulting side, we deepened our collaborations with, among others, IKEA, SKF, Volvo Group, and Polestar. Here we have the privilege of solving exciting challenges in close cooperation with truly amazing people.
  • We grew into an absolutely fantastic team and went from 9 to 17 curious, smart, committed, and caring colleagues who always ask how you’re doing (and mean it) and who never hesitate to help.
  • Internally, we conducted 37 Empower highlight sessions, 29 show & tell sessions, and 3 knowledge-sharing conferences.
  • In terms of money, we increased our annual revenue from EUR 0.6 M in 2021 to EUR 2.1 M in 2022.

Thanks to all members, customers, partners, and friends! 2022 was absolutely fantastic. Now we have lots of exciting plans for 2023. Stay tuned! 😃🎉📻