Tish Gance

Designing amazing customer experiences at Apexd by Design

Market Research

Education: University of Colorado Denver
Denver, CO, USA


Standing at a towering height of 4’ 11”, Tish has always had a unique perspective on the world. She was a puzzle prodigy by the age of 4, learned chess at 5, performed her first oil change (solo) on a car at 8, full brake job by 12, and had rebuilt a carburetor from start to finish at 15. In High School as “queen of the geeks” she ran the chess club and took state her junior and senior years in team and individual competition. With great power comes great responsibility, so she used her chess skill to hustle extra money while she put herself through college to get her degree in graphic design. While she was working in the printing industry, Tish watched many epic failures of customers doing their own marketing, and decided needed to do something about the lack of common sense in design and small business. So she started Apexd by Design, her own Brand Experience Design business in 2015.

Her love of cars and games has been as steady as her lack of filter between her brain to her mouth, all of which have gotten her into some great opportunities and also in some interesting predicaments over the years. She owns 3 vintage Fiats which she does most of the work on herself, is owned by 5 cats (don’t ask how that happened), and met her boyforever Logan at her weekly board gaming group.


Racing, basically anything to do with cars. Especially car puns, or car jokes. Since I've been wrenching on my own goodies forever and nothing beats a great drive with the top down, I can't imagine life without the care, feeding and exercise of Italian Sportscars.

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branding customer experience design user experience service design customer experience cx small business marketing small businesses

Best Story

A couple of years ago, Mountain Dew launched their "Epic Thrills start with a Chug!" campaign here in the states. It featured versions of young men doing fun things like jumping out of airplanes and wrangling sharks all while drinking a Mountain Dew. It was met with wild enthusiasm, and performed well with the intended audience of guys between the age of 12-30. So, the head exec's decided it was time to take this campaign overseas, and they figured why not start with other english speaking countries, like Britain and Scotland? So based on the success here in the States, they launched this multimillion dollar campaign on social media, TV, buses, billboards, magazines...only to have to pull the entire thing not weeks after rolling it out.

See, in Scotland, "Chug" is slang for masturbate. So "Chugging one for epic thrills" didn't go over well with parents, while their target demographic was sniggering and laughing at the innuendo. Sure Mountain Dew got a lot of press, but not the kind they were looking for. Their big mistake was assuming they knew their customers, and applying biases they had from what they knew of young guys here in the States. Had they done just a tiny bit of research, they could have avoided the whole fiasco, and saved a ton of money.

So...are you taking the tie to really understand your customers, or are you making assumptions based on biases?

Story #2 (for a more conservative crowd)

A husband knows his wife's birthday is coming up very soon, so he asks her "Honey, what would you like for your birthday?" She thinks for a moment, and says "I'd like to be 10 again." This seems like a tall order, but the husband really loves his wife, so he plans and plans. On the day of her birthday, he wakes her up with breakfast in bed...chocolate chip pancakes with extra whipped cream and strawberries, chocolate milk, the works! Once she finishes breakfast, he whisks her off to the Amusement Park, and they ride all the roller coasters, eat cotton candy, play the games and trade the tickets for stuffed animals. Then they leave the park, and head out for a long horseback ride, with picnic by a stream. They finish their ride in the evening, and he takes her to the movies, where they load up on popcorn and candy and watch a silly comedy.

As he's tucking her into bed, the husband asks "So, how was it being 10 again?"

His wife hesitates, then says "well, it was interesting."

"Interesting!" he says, "I tried so hard! I planned every detail! You didn't have fun? I thought you'd feel 10 again, like you said!"

His wife says "Oh I had fun. But when you asked me what I wanted I said I wanted to BE A SIZE 10 again."

In business, we may think we are listening to our customers, but are we really? Are we only looking at analytics and data, and making assumptions from surveys... or are we actually talking to customers, learning why they do what they do, and what their big goals are, actually LISTENING to them? In most cases, we're planning a trip to the amusement park when that's not what they actually wanted, wasting time and resources and getting mediocre results, then blaming the tools used for the failure.

Origin Story

My boss for the last 12 years of my printing/design career was obsessed with gadgets and new trends. Anytime he learned about a new option we could add to our printing capabilities, he'd invest tons of money and we (the employees) would have to spend oodles of time figuring out how we could add value and sell this thing to our customers. We went "Green", we did promotional products, we did large format print...all of which went nowhere with our customers. The monies invested meant we needed to make cutbacks in other places, so often our dad to day equipment would suffer from lack of repairs, coworkers lost their jobs, and in the end none of these things gained us a noticeable part of the market.

After a few times of this happening, I started asking our customers why we were their preferred vendor..the answer was never about new trendy add ons, it was steady the whole time: You guys always make sure my job is right. You take the time to explain the best options for me with my print and web design to get the most bang for my buck. You get it done even when I'm the one who made it late. You give me new ideas on how I can market my business better and tie my print and web marketing together.

I brought this information to my boss, and he heard it, and he even knew most of it from hearing it first hand from clients... yet he didn't see how to promote our strengths, or how to improve our systems to gain more referrals. It was up to us as the employees to get creative with this information so we could keep our jobs. I also saw so many of our clients struggling to stand out from their competition, copying what everyone else was doing and getting lost in the noise, that eventually I knew I had to do something to stop the madness and bring some common sense back to small business, and teach folks how to stand out authentically.

My brother is in software, and he watched all of this and said one day "you really should go check out experience design. I think you could make the change you want to see happen in that field." So I met with some UX designers, got a bunch of books, and started practicing what I was learning. And my brother was right, I'd been doing this all along, I just didn't know it had a name or that there was a methodology I could wield to make change happen, and help these small businesses succeed.

So when it was time for that next cut and I was laid off, I decided to do something instead of just take another job, and I formed Apexd by Design. It's been a long haul, but I absolutely love what I do, and the results of my work with clients speak for themselves. It's time we get back to what business is - really understanding and being compassionate toward our customers. They will thank us by becoming brand advocates and with their loyalty.