Leslie Witt is VP of Design at Intuit, where she leads the small business design team to re-imagine products, services, and institutions to better serve their consumers’ financial lives. She’s committed to shaping positive financial outcomes for people and small businesses, and raising the esteem and roles of design and designers. Prior to Intuit, she was an Associate Partner at design firm, IDEO, and also served as a visiting lecturer at Stanford. Today we’re talking to Leslie and learning about a few of her favorites, in this Friday Five.
1. This American Life
Long before podcasts were a thing, Ira Glass made storytelling history with This American Life. I discovered TAL during architecture school, when endless hours in the studio translated into quality time with Ira. I have my go-to’s – Fiasco, Stories of Loss, Guns, Kid Logic, Act V – but I’m not discriminating. I’ve listened to every single episode – that’s 673 hours of awesome and an absolutely endless arsenal of references. I believe the best way to learn how to tell great stories, an essential skill for any design leader, is to surround yourself with great stories, and pretty much nothing trumps TAL.
Nestled in the middle of the San Francisco peninsula sits a national treasure – Filoli. It’s a stunning historic home with unparalleled surrounding gardens. I love taking my children there to show them the living history of the bay area and the deep emotional and personal value of being in a beautiful place, of laboring the landscape. They don’t yet have the words for it, but they feel it and I see it in their actions and attention – they slow down, they really observe and appreciate. I love it so much that I joined their board last year, and am privileged to now be an official steward of this special place.
3. Flora Grubb Gardens
Anytime I’m headed to San Francisco, Flora Grubb Gardens is on my itinerary. I’ve been known to drop in for a ten minute blitz , walking out with Ritual coffee and the inevitable purchase in hand, but most importantly mentally refueled. A jewel of a nursery hidden in the industrial aftermath of the city, it’s a paradise of ideas and Dr. Seuss-quizzical plants. All around us small businesses fuel our economy, and they bring a passion for what they do that is unmatched, they make our lives and our cities better. Flora Grubb exemplifies this and is a place where you can stop by, step out of the fray and into a dream.
4. Herbie the Husker
We love to host, and we love to cook and eat pork. Outside in the garden, glass of wine in hand, conversation flowing, a mass of kids running amok, and a big slab a pork slow-cooking on the grill, well… that’s pretty much bliss. For two designers schooled in the minimal, the garden is our place to embrace excess. And Herbie is the symbol of such – our oversized gracious greeter, welcoming you to what’s to come. He pays homage to my Nebraska roots, our love of all things porcine – bacon made our wedding vows! – and greets every single guest with that goofy smile.
5. Thermal baths at Vals
As much as we love the bay area, we also love to travel. So far, Peter Zumthor’s Thermal baths in the Alpine town of Vals, Switzerland is our pinnacle. It combines perfectly crafted space in an otherworldly setting with an essential pleasure – the community bath. I first visited twenty years ago and it stills tops my list: the thin-stacked gneiss create monolithic, yet labyrinthine rooms that give the place a sense of permanence and warmth, of prehistory and modernity, all at the same time. It’s a place of discovery – the echo bath, the rose-scented cavern, the cold plunge, and the warm escape outdoors – all beckoning you to explore and delight. If you haven’t been… go!