Who We Are
Spark helps organizations large and small get stuff done and keep their staff and customers happy. We offer big-firm insights at small-town prices. We pride ourselves on being creative, collaborative, and on always on top of our game.
Co-founded by human-centered design expert Matt Arnold, Spark works at the intersection of modern design, innovation, customer centricity, and agile delivery.
We work with teams who want to transform the way they create and capture value. The best part? We believe you can get great results while also having a little fun along the way.
What We Believe
The Spark Story
Before co-founding Spark, Matt worked with some of the world's most recognizable brands. Most recently he was at Handrail, a user experience research repository with clients like 3M and Mailchimp. While carrying out hundreds of interviews with teams from shoestring startups to major international corporations and everything in between, Matt noticed that, across the board, so many of the obstacles were the same.
Organizations struggled to understand customer needs. Teams became dysfunctional. Marketers weren’t sure how to communicate the brand story in a way that made sense to their audience. And modern technology wasn’t making things easier. In fact, these issues were only getting more complicated.
Basically, organizations were trying to use old solutions to solve new problems. Matt saw a real need for novel ways of thinking and innovative tools that would help companies untangle these complexities and better communicate their value.
Out of this need, Spark was born.
Matt founded Spark to bring his clients first-rate consulting with Midwestern values that blend creativity, critical thinking, rigor, and continuous learning. He’s stayed true to his roots ever since. Working in a cozy office in Iowa City, Matt loves ducking out for a coffee on the Ped Mall between meetings with great clients from all over the world.
Spark Consulting Group is guided by values and principles that help us, and our clients, make sense of a rapidly changing and chaotic world. Here are the values that guide us:
We embrace transparency, we care personally and we challenge directly. Why? Because we give a damn and we want our customers to succeed.
We'll be upfront and honest with you, we'll let you know what we can and can't do to help, but most importantly, we are advocates for your customers and their humanity.
Perspective & Parallax
We work to explore and synthesize many perspectives, efficiently looking at things from multiple points of view. We share our perspective, seek to understand your perspective, and work to understand the perspectives of our clients and their customers.
Great improv is built on two powerful concepts:
Declare and commit
A Finnish term that means grit, determination, and resilience. Sisu helps drive us to continuously improve our practice and bring our best to each customer engagement.
Spark is led by co-founder and chief catalyst Matt Arnold. With 25 years of brand strategy and human-centered design experience, Matt has spent his career looking for ways to help teams stay happy and successful and has worked on projects for some of the world’s top brands and organizations. He teaches innovation at the University of Iowa and created The Iowa Idea Podcast, where he interviews designers, entrepreneurs, artists, and innovators about their approach to craft.
Matt received his usability analyst and experience analyst certifications from Human Factors International, his product management certification from the Pragmatic Institute, and his MS from Illinois State University, where his research focused on computer-augmented group decision making. He holds a BA in communication studies from the University of Iowa and completed his Strategic Doing training at Purdue University’s Agile Strategy Lab.
Matt is a proud resident of Iowa City, Iowa, where he lives with his awesome wife and kids and their very adorable dog, named Bowie.
Too long, didn’t read? Matt is a total design nerd. He’s obsessed with process, research, and innovation, and loves using this knowledge to help organizations big and small create and capture value through the power of regenerative business.
Endorsements & Praise
We love happy customers! Sometimes we share what they say about out us.
Helping one of Canada's top researchers improve team dynamics in their lab.
"I have had the pleasure working with Matt. Matt helped us improve team work and communication dynamics in my lab. His thoughtful and pragmatic approach has helped improve team outcomes in our lab. His experience and perspective, combined with the bullseye model helped us improve productivity and quality as a team. As teams set out to accomplish important tasks and worthwhile goals, it's imperative that they have a shared framework to maximize productivity, quality, consensus, and satisfaction. The best ideas will struggle if the team struggles and Matt helps teams avoid those challenges to improve their collective output. Working with Matt has really helped me improve my skills as a team leader and has been very beneficial to the growth of my research team."
Martin Richer, PhD
Increasing value through customer-centricity.
"At Synet, Matt brought to us an outstanding level of intellect, creativity and passion that really added to the value of the entire organization. He wore several hats while at the company and made really significant contributions to the way we looked at the communication process in our projects as change agents for some of the largest organizations in the country. I always found that Matt had a great way of viewing the entire process from the perspective of the audience/target which was a step above and beyond how the rest of us thought about it."
COO Synet Service Company
Chief Operating Officer, Outsell, LLC
Managing Partner SynetVentures, LLC
Alignment through brand clarity.
Matt kickstarted and managed the branding process for The UpTake, which has gone on to become a nationally-recognized citizen journalism non-profit. Matt led us through branding exercises that helped us define our identity, providing us with guideposts that continue to resonate with us.
More nice things... we're blushing a little bit.
“Matt has this incredible ability to get people involved in the UX process. He's a talented leader, a compassionate human being, and a relentless advocate for the user's experience in everything he's involved with.”
– Grant Poock
Senior User Experience Designer
“It was a real pleasure to work with Matt. He is the type of guy that everyone wants to have around. You sit down and talk with him one time and it feels like you've known him for decades. He really makes a positive impact wherever he goes.”
Senior Web Developer
“Matt is an excellent process consultant and a first-rate communicator. He is able to work with a wide variety of audiences and deliver his message in an engaging and inspiring way.”
– Patrice Reid