Meet Martha Cotton

Martha is a Partner at gravitytank and has lead the Research Discipline since the spring of 2008 when she joined the firm. She began her career at eLab in 1990s, and since then has worked across a wide variety of industries plying her skills as an applied ethnographer and business consultant. She is currently adjunct faculty at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering. Martha is former co-chair and current Advisory Committee member of the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC).


What do you know for sure? 

I know for sure that I always feel better after a nice cup of tea.

What makes you laugh? 

My 11 year old son Finnegan finds my to-do lists and adds random things for me to find when I’m at work.  Some things that have ended up on the list: print boogers; dry my waffles; don’t climb trees with spikes. He also puts random things on my calendar (which he accesses on my iphone).  April 24 was a day long event entitled “Finn is cool day.” This is a recurring meeting by the way.

A little know fact about yourself?  

I published a cookbook in 1999. It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing. I had an idea for a cookbook–recipes divided up between two chefs cooking together. I mentioned it to a friend. Who mentioned it to his girlfriend. Who happened to meet a budding literary agent the following week. Within a few weeks I wrote a book proposal and sample chapter. And about a year and a half later “Dinner Dates: A Cookbook for Couples Cooking Together” (Avon Books) came out. Sadly out of print now, I still look back on that time with wonder. It was a lot of work, but it was such a joy to write; I still can’t believe I realized that dream.

If you could fire anyone in the world, who would you fire? 

I would go back in time to about 2002 and fire Dick Chaney. 

Favorite quote?  

“Everything changes. Everything is connected. Pay attention.” Jane Hirshfield

Want more? Watch this fun video about gravitytank or watch her present at the IIT Design Research Conference