To sustain and enhance innovation in our country, we need leaders who can routinely innovate solutions to complex, ill-defined problems. I study and design collective innovation systems to support problem identification, solution creation, and implementation.

Practically, I draw from my professional experience as a designer, social scientist, and manager. Theoretically, I draw from her academic training in social psychology, organizational behavior, design, and social computing.

As the Allen K. and Johnnie Cordell Breed Junior Professor of Design at Northwestern University, Faculty Founder of Design for America, and co-director of the Delta Lab, I write about human computer interaction, design, and innovation.

My research focuses on innovation, technology, and organizations – specifically understanding collective innovation systems in firms and communities and the movement of activity between. I have extensively studied the unique challenges and opportunities for crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, brainstorming, and prototyping – and provide a strong foundation for designing engaging social environments that promote innovation, learning, and leadership.

I received my doctoral and master’s degrees in Management Science and Engineering and Product Design from Stanford, my bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth, and have worked professionally as a designer.

To support my mission of amplifying innovation in our country, I am actively designing a new national collective innovation initiative called Design for America. Design for America students and mentors tackle local innovation projects with social impact.  Design for America has been featured in outlets such as Fast Company, Oprah, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, The Chicago Tribune, and Crain’s Businessweek. Currently, Design for America has 6000 members in its network across the country.

Prior to Design for America, I helped to develop the business and design initiative at the Stanford d.school.

I teach Design Thinking and Communication, and Human Centered Design, and Communication Design at the Segal Design Institute in the McCormick School of Engineering and in the School of Communication at Northwestern University.

Link to CV

Recent Work


  • Harburg, E., Greenberg, M., Hui, J., Gerber, E. Understanding the Effects of Crowdfunding on Entreprenerial Self-Efficacy, CSCW 2015, Vancouver (to appear)
  • Hui, J., Gerber, E.  Crowdfunding for Science: Sharing Research with an Extended Audience, CSCW 2015, Vancouver, (to appear)
  • Hui, J., Gerber, E., Gergle, D. Understanding and Leveraging Social Networks for Crowdfunding: Implications for Support Tools, DIS 2014, Vancouver
  • Gerber, E., Muller, M., Wash, R., Irani, L., Williams, A., and Churchill. E., 2014. Crowdfunding: an emerging field of research. Panel CHI 2014, Toronto
  • Gerber, E., & Hui, J., To Crowdfund or Not, Collective Intelligence 2014
  • Greenberg, M. & Gerber, E. Learning to Fail: Experiencing Public Failure Online Through Crowdfunding, CHI 2014, Toronto
  • Hui, J., Greenberg, M., Gerber, E. Understanding the Work of Crowdfunding in Communities, CSCW 2014, Baltimore, pdf  *Honorable Mention
  • Gerber, E. & Hui, J. Crowdfunding: Motivations and Deterrents for Participation, TOCHI, 2013 pdf
  • Greenberg, M., Pardo, B.,  Gerber, E. Classifying Success and Failure on Kickstarter: A Machine Learning Approach, Computer Human Interaction WIP 2013 pdf
  • Gerber, E. Why Do People Give on Crowdfunding Sites? NPR Marketplace
  • Gerber, E. Does Crowdfunding Fail Some of the Most Promising Entrepreneurs? Huffington Post 2013

Digital Lofts

  • Easterday, M. Lewis-Rees, D., Fitzpatrick, C. Gerber, E. Computer Supported Novice Group Critique, DIS 2014
  • Hui, J., Gerber, E., Dow, S. “Crowd Based Design Activities: Helping Students to Access Users Online” DIS 2014
  • Dontcheva, M., Brandt, J., Morris, R., Gerber, E., Combining Crowdsourcing and Learning to Improve Engagement and Performance, pdf, CHI 2014, Toronto
  • Dow, S. Gerber, E., Wong, A. A Pilot Study of Using Crowds in the Classroom, Conference on Computer Human Interaction, pdf, Paris, France, 2013
  • Kittur, N., Bernstein, M., Nickerson, J., Gerber, E., Shaw, A., Lease, M. Zimmerman, J., Horton, J. The Future of Crowdwork, pdf, Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Austin, TX  2013
  • Morris, R. Dontcheva, M., Finkelstein, A. Gerber, E. Affect and Creative Performance on Crowdsourcing Platforms, Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction Conference, 2013
  • Lewis, S., Dontcheva, M., & Gerber, E. Affective Computational Priming and Creativity, Proceedings of Computer Human Interaction 2011, ACM Press
  • Shaw, A., Zhang, H., Monroy-Hernandez, A., Munson, S., Hill, B., Gerber, E., Kinnaird, P., Minder, P. Computer Supported Cooperative Action, ACM Interactions, 2014
  • Zhang, H., Monroy-Hernandez, A.,  Shaw, A., Munson, S., Gerber, E., Hill, B., Kinnaird, P., Farnham, S., & Minder, P. WeDo: Exploring End-To-End Computer Supported Collective Action, WeDo: ICWSM 2014

Design, Technology, and Organizations

Design for America serves as as laboratory for studying collective innovation.