Hello. I am Timothy

I’m a product/UX design leader most recently heading up the UX and Content Design teams at Later.

Timothy Kolke
9 min readApr 10, 2021


If I had to sum up my philosophy as a designer, it would be this: Make useful things, but also create beauty in the world.

“Form has to come after function. I can’t conceive of it in any other way. There are certainly psychological functions as well, it is a matter of balancing the aesthetic content with regard to use.” ~Dieter Rams

I help get the best out of multidisciplinary design teams by fostering creativity and collaboration. With my teams, I utilize UX design and research practices to create a customer experience that brings joy and satisfaction and to a shared understanding on the team of how we got there.

I began my career in design while studying for a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of London, at which time I co-founded a design studio. Since then I have worked in agencies and with product teams. I bring to the table a wide range of industry experience, a strong understanding of business, and the competitive advantage that comes from investing in design.

My approach to design leadership emphasizes inclusive processes that promote learning and participation, and that balance UX design and user research.

Continue reading to learn more about me, my approach to design, and the story of how I got here.

One of my earliest memories of exploring the world of design was in high school when studying architecture. Our school had a course on it that I took to fill up some easy credits. Though I took the class as an easy way out, I was in for a surprise. I really enjoyed it. I would get lost in drawing and thinking about how all the pieces fit together. I enjoyed the structural part of it. It was a natural fit for me, and the experience might have caused me to pursue a career in design earlier if I had known there was such a path. But it would be a number of years until I found my way back to design.

However, my path into design actually started long before then — a few generations earlier. I inherited an inclination to create and make stuff from my parents and grandparents. On both my mom’s and dad’s side is a long line of resourceful, inventive people. Their creativity was likely a product of necessity, with both sets of grandparents living through both WWI and WWII. They developed the skills to invent for the sake of survival. And they carried these skills with them after the war.

When my Polish grandfather came to Canada after the war, he learned chemistry and opened a paint factory. He had no education for it and there were no YouTube videos on how to make paint. He just figured it out. He designed his way to a solution. The paint was apparently quite good, or so the story goes.

My mother, in turn, inherited this resourcefulness. She was an elementary school teacher by day, and a chef extraordinaire by night. But did she ever follow a recipe? No, not once so far as we can remember. That would have been boring for her. She would take the opportunity to create something new every single time, just like the chemistry experiments of her father. She could make a meal out of anything that was in the cupboards. And most of the time it was pretty yummy.

My mom taught me to be resourceful and create within the constraints we have. She also taught me to design something new simply because it’s fun, and that we don’t have to always follow a recipe.

Fast-forward to university where I fell in love with philosophy. I had no specific career plan going into uni (don’t tell my parents). Of all the subjects I tried, philosophy captured my attention most. I became interested in the philosophy of mind and trying to solve problems like free will and personal identity. My passion for this type of thinking led me to complete my undergrad, MA, and part of a Ph.D. at the University of London, all in philosophy.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that philosophy is really just design. It’s about getting a clear understanding of a problem, researching, creating and testing solutions, getting feedback from others, and building arguments. It taught me all the essential skills for design thinking. Thank you, Plato.

By the time I was doing my Ph.D., I had realized that I didn’t want to be an academic. Though I enjoyed the studies, there was just too much theory and not enough practice. I was feeling the need to create stuff, and that led me into the industry and to start a design studio with a visual designer Nathan Kolke, my brother.

Nathan was just finishing his design studies at Emily Carr University when he was approached by someone who wanted…you guessed it, a website. Nathan and I were chatting about the proposal and we decided to take it on to make a bit of money on the side. How hard could it be, right? Remember that we came from a family that had a history of taking on these kinds of challenges.

We did the website, and it turned out well, which led to another website project. And from there it went. We started a design studio in Vancouver in Gastown and worked our way up to having a team of 6 designers. We ran our studio for 6 years and learned a ton about design, building a team of designers, working for clients and doing good design work. It was an enjoyable period and I got to spend a lot of quality time with my brother.

We worked for clients including Kiss & Makeup, Century Group, Access Pro Bono, BC Housing, and developed a reputation for thinking outside the box, coming up with unique ideas, and helping businesses differentiate using creativity. Remember my momma’s cooking? We were doing the exact same stuff. Using resourcefulness to design something new even when we had tight constraints.

Ultimately, we realized that we liked doing design more than we liked running a business. So it was time to go our own ways and pursue our own careers. It wasn’t easy letting go of what we had built. I still remember the last evening in our quaint downtown office doing a final clean-up, sipping scotch from what was left of the little collection we kept in the office for clients, and reminiscing about all the fun and challenges we had. Ah, good memories.

From there I went to work for two different design agencies in Vancouver (consecutively) and worked on projects for clients including Telus, University of BC, YWCA, Prince Rupert Port Authority, Metro Vancouver, Spa Utopia, United Way, Translink, Recreation.gov, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Sound Transit, WorkBC, DestinationBC, WestJet and the International Development Research Centre of Canada.

Working in agencies I learned a lot about listening to the needs of businesses, using co-design to come to a shared understanding of a problem and solution, and delivering work on tight deadlines. I worked alongside a lot of really great designers and researchers and learned from them. It’s how I developed my own approach over time.

After working in agencies, I wanted to try working in-house for a tech company. Hootsuite was gracious enough to take me on and provide my first experience on a product team. It was amazing in many ways. Probably the best work experience I’ve had.

Hootsuite was kind of a magical company at the time (I’m sure it still is!). It embodied the culture and values of west coast living. They were laid back and at the same time switched-on business people. They had done a great job creating a culture of positivity, collaboration, openness to disagreement, humility and kindness. They were one of the early Vancouver startup scene success stories. They had a lovable brand and gave back to the local community. And to top it off, they had jam space in the basement where employees could play music. What’s not to love.

I learned a ton and made some lifelong friendships at Hootsuite. Also, once again I worked alongside some amazing designers and researchers who taught me a lot.

At Hootsuite, I was responsible for the user experience of our 3rd party integrations into the product. The main value that I provided was researching, designing for, and improving the contextual relevance of integrations into Hootsuite. In other words, I was working to position the most important features provided by 3rd party partners within our product that corresponded to stages in the user journey that added the most value to the user.

But every good thing eventually comes to an end, and it was time for me to take on new challenges. Enter Amazon Web Services. If you ever want to take on a challenge, work at Amazon.

Amazon is like a personal growth boot camp. It will push you toward clear thinking. You will need to defend your ideas to people with good intentions who will fiercely challenge you to back up your claims. You would think I should be good at this with all the training I got in philosophy in defending my ideas. But there’s always room to grow.

At Amazon, I’ve had the chance to hop on board with a brand-new service and bring it to market. This has been exhilarating — a lot of hard work during a very stressful, Covid-filled year, 2020–21, but all definitely worth it.

I was the sole UX designer on the Amazon Location team. This means I did everything from exploratory research, to concepting, to usability studies, to UI design, and visual design.

I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate design processes with my team at AWS to achieve some pretty great outcomes. The thing I am most proud of is a project that was a close collaboration with my PM, front-end dev, and principle engineer. It’s a new interactive onboarding tool that has recently been called out as something that represents “the future of AWS.” Pretty cool to be a part of that.

While Amazon provided the type of challenge I was looking for at the time, I was also starting to get the sense that it was time to take a new step in my career. It was time to go from doing the design and research on my own to helping others be amazing in their craft.

This is where Later comes into the picture.

I noticed a position had come up at Later to manage the UX team. Given my previous experience at Hootsuite and the fact that I was looking at getting into managing it seemed like a perfect opportunity. So I got in touch with the team at Later and had a call with Billy, who was currently managing the team but who wanted to keep pursue the IC track at this point in his career. He was looking for someone to take on the people management side of things. It seemed like and great fit, and I joined the team. I’ve now been there for 3 months (November 2021 at the time of writing) and I’m loving it. Managing is turning out to be a good fit at this time in my career.

And this is where I’m at now. Career path to be continued…

Hey, so thanks if you’ve made it to this point in the story. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my life and career path.

So why, might you ask, am I going in to such detail in writing about my career path story?

It’s so, if we ever work together, you can better understand me as a person and my approach to design. I’d like to hear your story, too.

And because of all these experiences, all the way back to early childhood, are why I ended up in design. I’m not sure I would have been happy doing much else. It’s just a part of me. And understanding this about myself — about ourselves — helps us see our strengths and weaknesses as a people and whatever other labels we have.

And there’s another reason for telling you my story. Reflecting on and understanding why something is the way it is, is an important part of design. The ability to see the story behind an artifact and the way a user responds to that artifact is essential to designing a way forward.

So in showing you how I think, I’m hoping you get a sense of how I approach design, which, to the best of my ability, is with thoughtfulness and reflection.

Alright then, please feel free to have a look through the case studies here on my Medium site to get a sense of the work that I do. And let’s connect if you think you’d like to work together at some point. Thank you.




Timothy Kolke

Curious about design, research and humans / Head of UX @ Later