Intuit’s James Helms Announced as Designer-In-Residence at SMU

The SMU Master of Arts in Design and Innovation program is welcoming Helms, Intuit's VP of design, as its new mentor for the spring semester.

James Helms, vice president of design at software company Intuit, has been named the new Designer-in-Residence for Southern Methodist University’s Master of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) program this spring. 

As a Designer-In-Residence (DIR), Helms will be tasked with instructing and critiquing a class of MADI students at the Bobby Lyle School of Engineering, as well as developing a new curriculum, conducting seminars and workshops, and helping with student development. 

“We’re excited for James to join our program as Designer-in-Residence,” said Jessica Burnham, director of the MADI program, “and look forward to him sharing his vast Human-Centered Design experience in the real world to enrich the MADI program.” 

The MADI program, offered at SMU since 2015, appoints a DIR each semester to work with students both inside and outside the classroom. The program offers a multidisciplinary degree that spans beyond engineering, and emphasizes strong thinking and entrepreneurship for all of its students. It is based on problem-solving using a human-centered design. 

The program aims to put its students on the forefront of design and modernization by teaching core skills in design research, problem definition and solution frameworks, idea generation, iterative prototyping, communication, collaboration, and craftsmanship.  

The program also incorporates values that MADI intends to instill in all of its students, including: 

  • Action
  • Process
  • Context
  • Meaning


Burnham said that because of his role as a corporate design leader, Helms will help bridge the gap between academia and business while opening up a way to train future design employees in his new role.

Helms is originally from Philadelphia, and attended the University of Delaware program of Visual Communications for his undergraduate degree. In his role at Intuit’s Dallas office, Helms has established ‘Design Week’, and currently oversees a team of 20 marketing and product designers working to reimagine all sides of Intuit’s financial services and options. 

As Intuit’s VP of Design, Helms collaborates with groups all across the world, including California, India, Canada, and more. Dallas Innovates previously covered Helms and his day-to-day as the VP of Design, as well as the Digital Fight Club, an annual event in Dallas which Helms was a part of.  

In addition to working with SMU students, Helms sponsors and coaches Innovation Catalysts, an Intuit program that helps employees manage customer empathy through observation. 

Throughout his career, Helms has worked with brand design, experience strategy, creative direction, organizational design, and business strategy. 

SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering offers eight undergraduate programs and 29 graduate programs, including MADI, to its 2,000 graduate and undergraduate students. The school has consistently ranked as one of the best graduate schools for engineering. 

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