Researcher biography

Dr Karla Straker is an educator, researcher, and above all a designer. Being an alumnus of The Queensland University of Technology, having completed a Bachelor of Design (with honours) in Industrial Design in 2011, and PhD in 2016. She has expert knowledge in the area of design innovation, most notably through the recent publication of the books Design Innovation and Integration (2021), Design Innovation for Health and Medicine (2020) and Affected: Emotionally engaging customers in the digital age (2018). She has a strong track record of high-quality research outputs, with over 30 journal articles published in a variety of design, business, and technology journals.

Her research is in the field of Design Innovation, which is the application and adoption of design innovation methods into industry-led research projects. Her specific focus and contribution to the field is the continuing application and investigation of design methods in driving innovative digital solutions. Her publications appear in a range of disciplines including design, business, management, and medicine journals, disseminating the value of design to a variety of readers. Most notably in the Journal of Cleaner Production, Energy Policy, California Management Review, ASAIO Journal, and Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.

She is currently a Senior Research Fellow at The University of Queensland. Her previous position involved being a lecturer and program director of the Design Major at the University of Sydney. During her time as Program Director, she led the growth of the program from 59 students in 2018 to 139 students in 2020. The units on offer also increased to 12, including subject areas which were directed by student interests, including 'Design for Social Impact'. These units were offered to students from 17 different degrees to combine their expertise and work collectively on a range of projects. She has developed and implemented new curriculum across 4 units of study which has been directly related to her research, seeing the scholarly development of all teaching resources. The complexity of these units is designing teaching resources and project which enable the diverse group of students to all learn and benefit.

She has a Graduate Certificate in Educational Studies (Higher Education) and has taught in undergraduate and postgraduate programs at the University of Sydney and Queensland University of Technology. Being nominated for the VC Award for ECR Outstanding Teaching (USYD, 2020) and won the Most Inspiring and Influential Teaching Practice award (QUT, 2011).

Karla was an Early Career Research Ambassador for the Sydney Nano Institute (2019-2021) working with the Deputy Director of Member Engagement. In this role she engaged with researchers at all academic levels, across disciplines and faculties to develop programmes and initiatives for ECRs across the university. She successfully developed and facilitated an ECR workshop with participants, which resulted in two projects being funded by the Nano Institute.

She became the Deputy Co-director of the Design Innovation Research Group in August 2020 and worked in a multi-disciplinary team in the Sydney Nano Institute to develop a low-cost method to capture enough water from the atmosphere to alleviate the effect of drought.

Securing over $1M in competitive grant and industry funding, Karla has been a Chief Investigator on three industry-supported projects. She currently supervises 2 Ph.D. students and has completed 1 Ph.D. and 6 honours students across the fields of design for health and medicine, science and business innovation. Her students have won awards including an Australian Good Design Award (2021), Sydney Nano Institute Publication Award (2019), the Nosé International Fellowship Award (2019), and the Top 5 Abstract at the ASAIO Conference (San Francisco USA, 2019).

Design of digital channel engagements

Dr Straker's PhD thesis investigated the design of digital channel engagements, to understand how strong relationships with people can be built and sustained through a deeper understanding of customer emotions. Through her candidature she was trained by Professor Michael Rosemann, an internationally renowned Information Systems researcher, and Professor Wrigley, a leader in the field of Design Innovation. Her thesis was nominated for the Best Thesis Award (QUT) and was in the Top 40 of the International ISPIM Innovation Management Dissertation Award. This work also led to a book co-authored with Professor Wigley, titled Affected: Emotionally engaging customers in the digital age published in 2018 by Wiley Publishers. The purpose of this book was to consolidate and translate research findings into practical knowledge for companies to build deep and long-lasting relationships with customers in the digital age through design. It is distributed worldwide and sold more than 5,000 copies in the first 5 months through the Australian bookseller Dymocks. It also received industry reviews from Google, Sales Force, PwC, Accenture and the Boston Consulting Group. The front cover image is also an original artwork by internationally known artist CJ Hendry.

Since her PhD research, her work has continued exploring the design of digital channel engagements, in the medical, defence and retail industry.