Rise of the DEO


I came across the term “DEO” when I visited the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco. There was a black and white coaster that caught my eye with this provocative term and its tagline “Rise of the DEO: Leadership by Design”. I grabbed a few of these freebies that I thought my co-workers would enjoy. After looking it up, I found out that it was a book by Maria Giudice and Christopher Ireland and that DEO means “Design Executive Officer”. I learned about the book’s authors and read through a free first chapter online, then I promptly bought a couple copies!  One for myself and the other to share, of course.

It’s been one of the best reads that I have had in a long time. The design of the book itself is beautiful. Great type set and graphic design, colorful infographs, and stimulating content that really spoke to me as a creative professional. As I read it, I marked it up with a bunch of post-it notes so that I could remember some of the most meaningful ideas.


Here they are in no particular order:

Be agile: Iterate and rapidly prototype to bring about better ideas. This is not only applicable in software dev, but also in creative publishing of any kind. Hence writing more blogs or drawing doodles, just to get the idea out there.  Be ok with “work in progress”. Once it’s out then you can sift out the crap.

Mentor: Either being a mentor or reaching out to a role model you admire is beneficial in so many ways. By sharing the wealth of knowledge, you may gain in collaborating with younger minds who are plugged in the latest trends and who aren’t tied down to old methods/processes. By connecting to experts, you can learn from their experiences and find lessons even in just shadowing them.

Play: Relaxation, daydreaming and laughter are legitimate ingredients to innovation. Make time to get out of the office to reconnect to the world. Start a game night with your team-mates. Lounge around and make your space more inviting and personal. This keeps you more engaged and at home. When you are relaxed, the ideas will come. “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.”  -Anais Nin

Be humble & generous: Having integrity and authenticity are not keywords to be bandied about. When you commit to something, fully commit. If you are true to your values and align with a company that is the same, the power is boundless. Humility helps give perspective – listen, care and give back. Being generous with your gratitude, praise, time and connections can foster important seeds and grow into more.

Are you a CEO or DEO?  Check out the diagram from the book and see.


Well that’s all I’ve got for now… maybe I’ll iterate another version of this blog post later on.


Things I would like to write about

Seeing as I am horrible at updating a blog, perhaps I’ll just capture a few entries on some topics sporadically.  Here they are in no particular order:

  • What life lessons I have learned from my job about leadership, creativity, and community at a satellite design studio
  • My advice to my own generation and generations after, i.e. mentoring and having a mentor
  • What I want to do with my life, i.e. Life after Nissan
  • A personal memoir of my life & relationships

On another note, there are a lot of things I want to create, too.  Such as:

  • Redecorating my entire house
  • Fill lots of books with my own personal doodles
  • Paint some awesome paintings

I realize this is getting a little out of hand, so let’s try to finish a blog on one of those above points, yes?  Stay tuned.

A Joyride in the LEAF

The LEAF made a return to San Diego this month on its final lap towards the sales launch as Nissan’s first mass-market EV. In 2009, I attended the EV prototype tour as well as the LEAF’s first major foray (22-city tour) into the public. Since then, the momentum has turned into a tangible up-swing as more than 16,000 customers have made reservations online. I’m proud to report that I finally got a chance to drive the real deal, after following our EV on its adventures for over a year. Shout out to PR guru Tim Gallagher who made it all possible for me and co-worker Ken Lee, a designer at Nissan Design America, to spend some quality time with the LEAF!


Ken Lee & Ann Ngo, Nissan Design employees, get up-close and personal with LEAF

Before we actually got to drive the LEAF, I snuck into some media events Nissan hosted over a couple days. As usual, the LEAF team had a packed schedule with special media guests and VIPs who were significant to San Diego’s partnership with Nissan. Mark Perry and Tracy Woodard were on hand again to tout the features and final details of our EV to the likes of a US senator, San Diego’s mayor, local corporate Chiefs, as well as local and national press, like Wired Magazine. A select few had the opportunity to drive the vehicle on a short loop in San Diego, and the consensus was of electric excitement by all.


Mark Perry shows off the VC lot LEAF to Edmunds.com and North County Times press

Finally, it was our turn. After patiently waiting until the end of the day, Big Tim, or Timbo, gave us the signal that we could check out the LEAF en route to a close-by photo shoot. We actually got to spend more time than we expected with it, capturing some photos and video of our experience.


Ken and I were ecstatic that Timbo let us drive the LEAf on its way to a photo shoot


Joyride sanctioned by Tim Gallagher, Corp Comm, who deserves a LEAF of his own!

Here are some thoughts from Ken after the drive:

  • Initially I was skeptical about the LEAF’s design from pictures, but in person the car looks great.  It looks cheerful, upbeat, and futuristic.  Just enough EV cues to separate it from conventional cars.
  • Clever details such as the headlamp fins that guide the airflow around the car are fun to look at and they add to the appeal of the car.
  • Interior feels extremely spacious, relaxed, and modern. 
  • The information display/ trip computer was very entertaining.  It instantaneously recalculates the driving range in real time, challenging us to constantly improve the range with our driving techniques. 
  • The driving experience is natural and pleasant, with a seamless flow of power yet quieter than any car I’ve driven.  Feels more like being on a high speed bullet train than in a conventional car.


LEAF’s information display was interactive and fun, serving up data & maps real-time

Thanks to a concerted effort by Nissan’s partners and the government for infrastructure, this signals a shift to an era of EVs with real staying power. After my total LEAF experience, I’m still convinced that it would be a great vehicle and would fit perfectly into my life. The overall concept and execution is great; the styling is iconic yet quirky; the design is thoughtful. The LEAF surprises with its quiet quickness and it’s a real performer… and all eyes are now focused on how it will perform in the market. Based on my first-hand experience and glowing reviews by the media, LEAF will make an impactful entrance and be a keystone to Nissan’s mission of providing “innovation for all”.


NDA blogger Ann Ngo hopes to be one of the first Nissan employees to lease a LEAF!

More Articles on Nissan V2G Concept!

I found out that our concept and I could also be found in Car Design News in an article written by Matthew DePaula.  Here’s a snippet:

Design Contest: NDA wins 2009 LA Design Challenge

by Matthew DePaula    11 Dec 2009

A future where environmentalists and car enthusiasts – not to mention sober-minded adults and thrill-seeking young people – all coexist in harmony just might be possible with Nissan’s V2G concept vehicle…

LA Design Challenge panel (Chuck Pelly, Stuart Reed, Tom Matano, Imre Molnar and Jason Hill) and Nissan designers (Robert Bauer, Ann Ngo, Satoru Hasegawa and Randy Rodriguez)

I was also quoted in an interview with AOL Automobiles (in Spanish!) in an article which was written by Carlos Ferreyra.

LA AUTO SHOW: Nissan gana el diseño del auto del 2030

publicado dec 6th 2009 5:00am: CARLOS FERREYRA

LOS ANGELES.- Seis jóvenes diseñadores de la Nissan ganaron el premio"Youthmobile 2030" en donde varias estudios de diseño del area junto con seis marcas, participaron por imaginar como será la transporación del futuro…

Ann Ngo dijo a AOL Automóviles que el premio se lo dieron por el concepto de "redes" para vehículos en el futuro. Ella estuvo encargada de la investigación del diseño y agregó que el futuro incluye la posibilidad de que la gente ya no maneje.

We’re international!  Go Team!

Our Nissan V2G Concept Wins LA Design Challenge 09!


Last month I wrote about our design team’s entry for the LA Auto Show Design Challenge.  The theme was Youthmobile 2030 and we were tasked to “envision what a new generation of drivers – raised with cell phones, online communities and webcams – will demand from their vehicles in the year 2030.” 

This past Thursday, I headed up to the LA Auto Show with my co-workers (some of the very ones with whom I worked on this project) to hear the announcement of the challenge winner.  To our pleasant surprise, they announced Nissan Design’s V2G Concept won! I was so stoked and jumped up right away to try and steal some limelight.  It was really an honor for us since there were some pretty stiff competitors. 

This small victory makes up for the fact that Nissan didn’t even have a booth at the show, due to cutbacks.  It really made my day/week/month.  Here’s a pic I found of Robert, me, Hase and Randy… we’re laughing at the heavy trophy they gave NDA!  Photo credit goes to the Examiner article below.  Newsweek said they may be doing a small piece on it, too!  Hopefully the picture they select to use is better. :)  Maybe we can even re-take the pic with Steve who was the ring-leader of it all.


[Source: Max Donner at The Examiner]

Some of the news links:






Meeting the Nissan LEAF in San Diego

Eight months ago, I blogged about the Nissan EV Prototype Tour, yet I’m in awe that momentum is sky-rocketing since revealing our first mass-market EV, the Nissan LEAF! Promotion of our company’s Zero-Emission strategy is a huge undertaking, and again I had the privilege of witnessing this effort first-hand. This time, the LEAF is touring 22 cities and stirring up excitement with the media, enthusiasts and key business partners & institutions across the nation, with San Diego as its second stop.


Nissan LEAF is the center of attention during the press conference at SDG&E headquarters

I was able to follow the LEAF at four different locations during its ambitious San Diego tour. First up was the San Diego Gas & Electric press conference, which celebrated my residing city as one of the first to invest in the smart grid and to receive $28.1 million from the Department of Energy as a stimulus grant for renewable energy investment. SDG&E CEO Hal Snyder proclaimed, alongside the mayors of San Diego and Escondido, that “San Diego will be the Greenest and Finest City in America!” with a fast-growing EV infrastructure and cars like the Nissan LEAF.


Nissan Design America employees check out the LEAF up-close and in-person


University officials & students from UCSD (my alma mater!) drove the prototype and viewed the LEAF

Other stops included a short visit to Nissan Design America so that employees could meet the LEAF in person and to be showcased in CleanTalk SD’s monthly meeting. Across the street at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) university officials and students also had a chance to view the LEAF and drive the EV Versa Prototype in a short driving loop. I was lucky enough to drive it and was so impressed that if felt even smoother and zippier than the EV Cube Prototype I had driven. Paul Hawson, NNA Product Planning, told me that the production version will be even better!


Here I am right before peeling out with the EV (I think I scared my passengers)

Overall, the LEAF was a smash with the media and local dignitaries and the EV groundswell is building. At the last stop at SD Alternative Fuels Education Day, the LEAF shared the limelight with the likes of Chevy Volt, Tesla Roadster and other EVs, but it really stood out with the public. It’s strange to say it, but I feel like I’ve watched our EVs grow up and I am very excited to see what’s in store for our future!


Ann Ngo with the EV-02 prototype (Cube), the EV-12 prototype (Versa) and finally the Nissan LEAF!

BTW, I think Nissan LEAF’s promotion through its Facebook fan page and Twitter feed (@NissanEVs) is forward-thinking. It’s key to reaching a new generation of trend-setters who socially network with like-minded people interested in a blue-sky future. Being an ambassador to Nissan’s Zero-Emission goal has been inspirational to me and anyone can do it! I’m a Facebook fan of Nissan LEAF… are you?