Habit’s Heather Cutter on Building a Design-Led Company

Design and innovation leader Doreen Lorenzo interviewed Heather Cutter, chief innovation officer of the Oakland-based nutrition company Habit, on building a design-led firm from the ground up. The interview appeared in Lorenzo’s Fast Company column Designing Women, profiling women leaders in business and creative fields.

Habit creates personalized nutrition plans to match a customer’s diet with their unique metabolism. The company provides an at-home nutrition test to assess how the customer’s body processes carbs, fats, and proteins. The company then provides a nutrition plan and coaching to help customers reach their individual fitness and lifestyle goals. For customers in the San Francisco Bay Area, the company has also begun delivering fresh personalized meals, based on their nutrition blueprint, directly to their doors.

Cutter, who had previously worked in the consumer products business, explained that what drew her to Habit was the exciting convergence of “health, technology, and food.” She explained, “When you get a product, off the shelf in a store, it has a nutrition fact panel that says, ‘Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, this is what you should get.’ We aspire to break that. What I need may not be the same as what you need–in fact it’s certainly not. It needs to be looked at in a different way, because different people need different things.”

She explained the role of design at the firm: “Experience design is one of the most critical parts of what we’re doing. We’ve been deliberate about making sure that our science is very credible, but we interact with consumers with a lifestyle-focused approach. So when you go to Habit you see beautiful imagery and clear communication that is hoping to tell the consumer that they can adopt this lifestyle; it’s a habit. We believe that in order for people to really make these changes and keep with them, it has to be incorporated into their lives, and we’re using design to explain it.”

How is she building her team? “I look for people who are insanely curious, because we use design thinking throughout the organization…if you want that to be part of your culture, [it] certainly works best if you start there.”

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