Author: Karen Holtzblatt

Karen Holtzblatt

Karen Holtzblatt

CEO at InContext Design

Recognized as a leader in the design community, Karen has pioneered transformative ideas and design approaches throughout her career. Karen is the inventor of Contextual Inquiry-the industry standard for gathering field data to understand how technology impacts the way people work. Contextual Inquiry and the design processes based on it provide a revolutionary approach for designing new products and systems based on a deep understanding of the context of use. Contextual Inquiry forms the base of Contextual Design, InContext's full customer-centered design process.

Karen co-founded InContext Enterprises in 1992 to use Contextual Design techniques to coach product teams and deliver customer-centered designs to businesses across multiple industries. The books, Contextual Design: Defining Customer Centered Systems, and Rapid Contextual Design, are used by companies and universities all over the world. Karen is a member of the CHI Academy (awarded to significant contributors in the Computer Human Interaction Association) and received the first Life Time Award for Practice at CHI2010 for her contributions to the field. Karen's extensive experience with teams and all types of work and life practice underlies the innovation and reliable quality consistently delivered by InContext's teams.

Karen also has more than 20 years of teaching experience, professionally and in university settings. She holds a doctorate in applied psychology from the University of Toronto.


Publication period start: 1988
Publication period end: 2014
Number of co-authors: 16


Number of publications with favourite co-authors
John Whiteside
John Bennett
Hugh R. Beyer

Productive Colleagues

Most productive colleagues in number of publications
John Whiteside
Michael Good
Dennis Wixon


Holtzblatt, Karen (2005): Customer-centered design for mobile applications. In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 9 (4) pp. 227-237.

Holtzblatt, Karen (2001): Inventing the future. In Communications of the ACM, 44 (3) pp. 108-110.

Holtzblatt, Karen (1999): Introduction to special section on contextual design. In Interactions, 6 (1) pp. 30-31.

Beyer, Hugh R., Holtzblatt, Karen (1999): Contextual design. In Interactions, 6 (1) pp. 32-42.

Beyer, Hugh R., Holtzblatt, Karen (1996): Contextual Techniques Starter Kit. In Interactions, 3 (6) pp. 44-50.

Beyer, Hugh R., Holtzblatt, Karen (1995): Apprenticing with the Customer. In Communications of the ACM, 38 (5) pp. 45-52.

Holtzblatt, Karen (1994): If We're a Team, Why Don't We Act Like One?. In Interactions, 1 (3) pp. 17-20.

Holtzblatt, Karen, Beyer, Hugh R. (1993): Making Customer-Centered Design Work for Teams. In Communications of the ACM, 36 (10) pp. 92-103.

Wixon, Dennis, Holtzblatt, Karen, Knox, Stephen T. (1990): Contextual Design: An Emergent View of System Design. In: Carrasco, Jane, Whiteside, John (eds.) Proceedings of the ACM CHI 90 Human Factors in Computing Systems Conference , 1990, Seattle, Washington,USA. pp. 329-336.

Holtzblatt, Karen, Jones, Sandy, Good, Michael (1988): Articulating the Experience of Transparency: An Example of Field Research Techniques. In ACM SIGCHI Bulletin, 20 (2) pp. 45-47.

Holtzblatt, Karen, Rondeau, David B., Holtzblatt, Les (2010): Understanding "cool. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2010, . pp. 3159-3162.

Holtzblatt, Karen, Beyer, Hugh R. (2014): Contextual Design. In: Lowgren, Jonas, Carroll, John M., Hassenzahl, Marc, Erickson, Thomas, Blackwell, Alan, Overbeeke, Kees, Hummels, Caroline, Spence, Robert, Apperley, Mark, Holtzblatt, Karen, Beyer, Hugh R., Kjeldskov, Jesper, Burnett, Margaret M., Scaffidi, Christopher, Svanaes, Dag, Hook, Kristina, Sutcliffe, Alistair G., Schmidt, Albrecht, Cockton, Gilbert, Kaptelinin, Victor, Christensen, Clayton M., Hippel, Eric von, Tractinsky, Noam, Challis, Ben, Shusterman, Richard, Hudson, William, Mann, Steve, Whitworth, Brian, Ahmad, Adnan, de Souza, Clarisse Sieckenius, Fishwick, Paul A., Grudin, Jonathan, Poltrock, Steven, Gallagher, Shaun, Dix, Alan J., Nielsen, Lene, Randall, Dave, Rouncefield, Mark, Bowman, Doug A., Kock, Ned, Cairns, Paul, Few, Stephen, Dautenhahn, Kerstin, Paterno, Fabio, Cyr, Dianne, Mortier, Richard, Haddadi, Hamed, Henderson, Tristan, McAuley, Derek, Crowcroft, Jon, Crabtree, Andy, Stephanidis, Constantine, Stappers, Pieter, Giaccardi, Elisa, Blandford, Ann, Zimmerman, John, Forlizzi, Jodi (eds). "The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed." The Interaction Design Foundation .

Holtzblatt, Karen (1999): Contextual Design: From Customer Data to Implementation. In: 4th IEEE International Symposium on Requirements Engineering RE 99 7-11 June, 1999, Limerick, Ireland. pp. 1-.

Holtzblatt, Karen (2001): Contextual Design: Experience in Real Life. In: Oberquelle, Horst, Oppermann, Reinhard, Krause, Jürgen (eds.) Mensch and Computer 2001 March 5-8, 2001, Bad Honnef, Germany.

Holtzblatt, Karen, Barr, Joshua, Holtzblatt, Les (2009): Driving user centered design into IT organizations: is it possible?. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2009 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2009, . pp. 2727-2730.

Holtzblatt, Karen (2005): Innovating organizational processes: a practical approach. In: Proceedings of OZCHI05, the CHISIG Annual Conference on Human-Computer Interaction , 2005, . pp. 1-8.

Holtzblatt, Karen, Beringer, Joerg, Baker, Lisa (2005): Rapid user centered design techniques: challenges and solutions. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2005 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2005, . pp. 2037-2038.

Beyer, Hugh R., Holtzblatt, Karen (1993): Contextual Design: Toward a Customer-Centered Development Process. In: Software Development 93 Spring Proceedings February, 1993, Santa Clara, CA, USA.