Tech Tuesday: High Pressure Zone


Michelle Priest and her partner, JJ, at High Pressure Zone, a local design firm.
Michelle Priest and her partner, JJ, at High Pressure Zone, a local design consultancy firm.

Santa Monica is at the center of a tech revolution. Hundreds of startups are based in the city, part of the Westside of L.A. County that has been dubbed “Silicon Beach.”

Our Tech Tuesday feature will introduce you to some of the cutting-edge tech startups cropping up in our back yard.

This week, we chatted with Michelle Priest from High Pressure Zone, a design strategy consultancy based in Santa Monica.

What does your company do?

We’re a design strategy consultancy. That means we draw actionable insights from our clients’ business goals to drive design decision-making. Our three core service offerings are branding, digital product design, and product management process development.

How did you come up with the idea?

Together, we have over 20 years of experience designing and managing digital products for clients. Time and time again we’ve seen that the most successful clients include design in their process from the very earliest stages. We realized we could help clients create a lot of value by offering our design process as a source of strategic insights, not just as a way to make pretty products.

Why did your company locate to Santa Monica?

Since we’re bootstrapping the company, we wanted to be around as many companies that needed design services as possible. In practice, this meant getting to know a lot of startups, and Silicon Beach was a great place to do that.

What’s the biggest challenge your company is facing?

Our biggest market opportunity is in teaching our internal creative process to larger organizations. The corresponding challenge is in making sure all of our processes are as effective and clearly articulated as possible before we dive into teaching. Of course, we plan to launch and iterate on our design strategy curriculum, but having a perfectly well-oiled operation internally will help ensure we have the smoothest possible scaling process.

What could the city of Santa Monica do to help your company thrive?

Help us help the city. The city government has a lot to learn from the tech companies on Silicon Beach. We also believe government agencies in general can benefit hugely from design strategy. A stronger commitment to improving internal technical systems would be beneficial for the city and the local tech scene alike.

Where do you see your company in a year?

In addition to our ongoing design work, we’ll be teaching our design strategy methodology to larger organizations so they can use it internally. We’ll have a well-defined curriculum so that when we hand off our methodology to client teams we’ll be confident that they’ll be able to put it to use immediately.


Jason Islas
Jason Islas
Jason Islas is the editor of Santa Monica Next and the director of the Vote Local Campaign. Before joining Next in May 2014, Jason had covered land use, transit, politics and breaking news for The Lookout, the city’s oldest news website, since February 2011.


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