Solving problems, creating products and building businesses—through the application of design.

Chris Bystrom is the Head of Studio, New York, for Idean, as well as the Co-founder of Advocate.

Idean is a global design collaborative dedicated to delivering the best possible user experience. With a strong multidisciplinary and experienced team, Idean offers user-centric design services across a diverse portfolio. Our work revolves around extremely experienced artists working passionately on what they believe in. We know how to turn your idea or current product into something awesome and easy-to-use. We make technology meaningful for people.

Advocate is a New York and San Francisco based technology company working to transform political engagement, specifically retool democracy. We are creating a completely new market connecting civilians with their elected officials to create new habits around always-on citizenship.

Our end goal to increase the accountability and transparency of government and provide the platform politicians use to connect with citizens and vise versa. We see this as the future of a global technology empowered democratic system, starting small in 2016, but with worldwide implications, ambitions and partnerships already forming. 

Chris has spent his career at the crossroads of design and technology, with a passion for entrepreneurial incubation and user-centric applied design at scale. He is at home in the co-creation of digital products and their ability to shift the everyday limits of the physical world for societal and cultural impact. He utilizes the immense power of technology and gives it a human form and deliberate function, one that can be built upon, adopted and elegant.

Chris grew up in college towns around the Midwest and was always surrounded by higher education and deeply curious people. He was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was raised to be hard working, loyal and driven in everything he does. Chris has lived in Norman, Oklahoma (University of Oklahoma); Ames, Iowa (Iowa State University); and Lawrence, Kansas (University of Kansas). Before migrating to the East Coast, he was pursuing his various interests and passions in Chicago and Tokyo and now has brought them to New York.

In Chicago, Chris started his career at Goble and Associates (now GA Communications) running digital projects for large and small healthcare companies across various specialties and verticals. He learned the importance of attention to detail and how process design can impact business results at the project, program and company level. 

Eventually, he was drawn to explore digital product design through a more industry agnostic lens and joined Acquity Group (now a part of Accenture Interactive), where he worked with companies such as Follett Higher Education, Six Flags, Radio Flyer and Allstate among others. Chris worked inside the digital strategy and design practice within Acquity Group, focusing on human needs, user-centric design, experience design and agile software development. 

In the last chapter of his time in Chicago, Chris joined VSA Partners where he helped lead the IBM portfolio across many different programs with a primary focus on brand expression, brand experience, product design and business design. Chris was deeply involved in the launch of the IBM Design Lab (now IBM Studio) in New York, where he helped establish the positioning and the space as a whole. He subsequently led a team of cross-disciplinary design professionals to create a cognitive interface to train IBM’s Watson technology. This pursuit was made possible through a joint partnership between IBM Research and the Cleveland Clinic. 

Between Chicago and New York, Chris completed a six-month stint as an Acting Lab Lead for IBM, opening and running the first global IBM Design Lab in Tokyo, Japan. In this role, he built and managed the lab from a people, process, integration and awareness standpoint. He also led the product development of an internal contextualized content CRM tool for the vast IBM sales force, designing in both English and Japanese. 

In April 2014, Chris founded Imari to contain and formalize his side passion projects, product ideas and activities around user-centric and task-driven design. Imari is a collective of designers from diverse backgrounds who see the world in unique ways. Imari is a place for creators, makers and entrepreneurial spirits to turn their passions into powerful digital products and business models. 

Imari operates as a nomadic, location-independent co-op of designers with a central force of gravity hovering over New York. Imari has no clients and the group only builds what they believe in—products that could have a societal impact or simply ideas they wish to explore on nights and weekends.

As of April 2015, Chris has joined up with Idean, refined his focus and is setting off to build great things in the New York area and on the world stage. For further insight into his current interests around design thinking, the sharing economy, cognitive systems, digital nomads and venture capital infused with design leadership, please see the interest sections

Although always shifting, adapting and learning, Chris will repeatedly fuse the creative and the open-ended with the operational and analytical, combining very different ways of thinking and acting. Solving problems through design. 

To reach out, please feel free to drop Chris a line through one of the various contact channels.