DESi Potential is a consulting firm that helps innovative companies gain market traction, develop their customer base, create successful products, and find industry partners to grow and scale their business.  DESi Potential is focused on the unique challenges and opportunities of gaining market traction with an innovative product, business model, or service.

Joanna Malaczynski.JPG

Joanna Malaczynski


Educational Background

  • UC Berkeley College of Environ. Design, MLA-EP

  • University of Michigan Law School, JD

  • University of Michigan, BA Economics

Who am I?

A UX design thinker with a background in software entrepreneurship, interaction design, customer discovery and analytical research techniques.  My focus is on consulting, teaching and advising around customer-oriented product and business development.  I have a strong background in sustainable innovation, high-risk industries, and emerging markets.

Why am I doing this?

I founded DESi Potential based on my passion for seeing true innovation implemented in the marketplace.  I believe that successful innovation is about observing what people really need and how they are willing to accept something new that meets those needs.  I have engaged with stakeholders, supply chains, policymakers, and market dynamics throughout my career as a software entrepreneur, litigation attorney, environmental planner and design thinker.   This has given me valuable insight into distinguishing between what people say they want versus what they actually will pay for.    I bring my clients fifteen years of experience in industry research, customer discovery, and stakeholder engagement.   I am especially passionate about companies deploying sustainable designs, technologies, and processes, and for those facing other unknown/higher-risk situations in their marketplace.

How did I get here?

I obtained my undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where I focused my studies on industrial organization, development economics, the role of technology in innovation, and market failure (i.e. all the things in the economy that go wrong or deviate from the economic models, which they always do).  

After my undergraduate work, I went on to law school at the University of Michigan.  I became an antitrust (i.e. unfair competition) lawyer at one of the most renowned law firms in the field (Heller Ehrman).  What I loved most about practicing antitrust law was that it required a great deal of creativity from me in interpreting what was happening in our ever-changing economy.  The majority of my time was spent working on theories regarding our clients’ level of influence in the marketplace, defending the economic implications of their actions, and designing litigation settlements that would preserve long-term customer relationships. 

I was highly successful at what I did, but felt drawn in a different direction.  I am a visual thinker but most of my work involved massive amounts of reading and writing.  I also wanted to apply my skill-set in a context where I could help clients be innovative and to avoid litigation.  I was very interested in the use of sustainable materials in design.  Moreover, I had a long-standing interest in how design influenced the way people used urban spaces.  Having grown up partially in Europe, I was struck by the contrast between the pedestrian-friendly environments in European cities compared to the auto-oriented environments in American cities.  These topics continued to fascinate me and I decided to commit to my interest by attending graduate school at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design.   

At Berkeley, I learned to design sustainable urban spaces for the physical and psychological needs of their occupants.  I also modeled sustainable and alternative urban land use outcomes in the same way that economists might create economic forecasts--by looking at the factors driving growth trends--using GIS mapping software rather than graphs to do so.   My time at Berkeley also taught me that there were two types of design--one was aesthetic; the other was analytical.  Aesthetic design favored form, frequently at the expense of the user.  Analytical design favored performance and the needs of the user, and had its own aesthetic.  

After graduating from Berkeley, I worked as a sustainable land use planning consultant for local governments.  My new role was more about maintaining political harmony than advising clients about the best course of action.  However, I learned a great deal about the inter-connectivity of policy and economic opportunity, as well as the role that various stakeholders have in influencing market outcomes.  

Over time, I returned to the practice of law to work on helping eliminate toxic chemicals and materials from consumer products through private enforcement actions under California's Proposition 65.  This work taught me a great deal about  how products are designed, the performance implications of materials selection, and the environmental impact of these choices in the production of consumer products. 

My second tango with legal work also focused on the human side of advocacy—interviewing clients and witnesses, building credibility with juries, and winning cases by creating emotional empathy for my clients.  These experiences gave me important insights regarding the emotional nature of human judgement and decision-making.  Later I would realize that emotions drove not only the decisions of individuals but the collective decisions made by organizations as well.

I began wondering how I could cast my skill-set back toward innovation.  I was inspired to establish a software start-up (EcoValuate) to address emerging consumer product regulations that put companies in the driver's seat with respect to greening their products.  As the CEO of our start-up, I was responsible for the market research, stakeholder engagement, prototyping, and user testing associated with our software.  My experiences gave me tremendous insight into the product development process and the role of the customer in driving success.

Desiring to build upon my knowledge, I subsequently took coursework from designers at Ziba Design and IDEO to further my product development skills.  I am especially grateful to the designers at Ziba, who gave me critical experience with the formal process of designing products for the customer and user and revealed to me that this processes is very similar to the analytical and design thinking with which I was already proficient based on my experiences in law, economics, and environmental design.   

Inspired by my experiences, I established a consulting firm around the process of helping innovative companies gain market traction.  I am especially passionate about companies deploying sustainable designs, technologies, and processes, and for those facing other unknown/higher-risk situations in their marketplace. 

Please contact me if you would like to learn more.