Surrounding Signifiers is the blanket name for Thomas Wendt's work, which includes a mix of independent scholarship and design practice. My work tends to focus on:


Workshop topics vary depending on client needs. Common approaches include facilitating a team through an active design project or organizing a session to teach design methods and mindsets to non-designers. Some are designed specifically for a single engagement, while others are a custom version of my existing curriculum. Topics might include human-centered design, design research methods, ideation and brainstorming methods, sustainability and design ethics, experience mapping, systems thinking, and service design.

Design research and insights

I work with organizations to better understand their users/customers/audience, using qualitative, ethnographic methods to uncover emerging and unmet needs. I am also a strong proponent of participatory design or co-design methods, which actively include end users in the design process. I have researched everything from emerging TV watching habits for a cable provider, patient-caregiver relationships for a healthcare company, and new revenue streams for a financial services company.


Futures work attempts to imagine possibilities for how an area of interest might evolve on a timescale of usually 2-30 years. Instead of looking for quick fixes to identified problems, futuring is concerned with macro-level trends that will affect how that area might change in the coming years. It is not about predicting the future; it is about analyzing possibilities so we can better decide what is preferable. I've worked in this space with an insurance provider, imagining the 5-10 year future of oral health care, and with a financial services company concerned with the evolution of privacy and security.


I provide consulting and advisory services on customer insights, innovation strategy, and design strategy. Some past topics include setting up an internal research practice, spreading innovation through a 40,000 employee company, and how to apply design thinking to university course offerings.


I have had the privilege of working with organizations such as: 

American Express

Columbia University


Capital One




Rutgers University

Heat Seek

New York Life Insurance

Ad Council

Virginia Retirement Systems


We Are Experience


Wallace Foundation

Luma Institute

The Design Gym


Natural History Museum

Metropolitan Transit Authority

Yale School of Medicine



Project details available upon request.