1. November 23, 2014


    Barbara Beskind speaks with students in d.bootcamp on Monday, Nov. 17.

    Barbara Beskind speaks with students in d.bootcamp on Monday, Nov. 17.

    It’s not every day you get to peek into a designer’s notebook — not to mention one whose personal history is as broad and as deep as Barbara Beskind’s. A look through Barbara’s notebooks is like exploring a greenhouse of colorful and fast-growing plants. It’s little wonder she works at IDEO.

    Oh, Barbara is 90 years old.

    Her design work started when she was 8 years old, designing toys for friends during the Great Depression. She went on to work with World War II and Vietnam veterans as an occupational therapist, going overseas to Germany for two years. The 1956 Russian invasion of Hungary, she said, was the scariest time of her career. Eventually she founded an independent occupational therapy clinic — the first in the US. These facts of her life were covered by The Wall Street Journal this past April.

    On Tuesday, Barbara visited the d.bootcamp class — the d.school’s introductory class in design thinking offered to graduate students. She shared some of the lessons she has learned in her work leading up to and now for IDEO.

    Design for the aging … and the ages

    Much of Barbara’s current work centers around design for the aging, particularly those with deteriorating vision. A two-time cancer survivor with macular degeneration, Barbara advised the students to explore design around the aging given the demographic shifts in the population as the Baby Boomer generation continues to get older. In 25 years, she said, there are slated to be 12 million customers with macular degeneration plus other conditions causing low vision.

    Barbara showed the class her designs around improving the walker, which leaves many users with weakened muscles that render them less able to walk with the normal arm swing and gait pattern that is essential to maintaining good balance. She also shared her designs around technology to cushion people when they fall or glasses that would, with voice recognition and camera technology, recognize people and help those with declining vision or memory loss.

    For those who choose to design in “the areas of the aging and the things that they need,” she said, “the world is your oyster.”

    Wealthier than Warren Buffett

    “I’m probably wealthier than any person in this room,” Barbara declared to the class, “I may be wealthier than Warren Buffett. Now, tell me how I measure my wealth?”

    The students guessed randomly, suggesting that the source may be improving other people’s lives, her life experiences, or contentment. All of them were wrong.

    “The way I measure my wealth is by time … uninterrupted time. I am the lowest tech person you will ever see,” she said. In an exchange after class, she added: “I can spend 4-6 hours of uninterrupted time thinking through my design constructs. I have a cell phone for emergency use only, and no laptop since I can’t see. I urge you to give yourself the luxury of free uninterrupted time to cultivate your creative solutions. ” Continue Reading

  2. November 21, 2014
    The atrium is set for the final meeting of the d.bootcamp class. (Erik Olesund)

    The atrium is set for the final meeting of the d.bootcamp class. (Erik Olesund)

    The following is a live blog covering the events of the d.bootcamp class on Friday, November 21.

    This is it. The d.school’s d.bootcamp class is in final presentations. The class was assigned with tackling the 30 million word gap — the difference in the number of words children of disadvantaged children learn relative to their peers from higher-income families.

    The students have applied design thinking to the challenge, bringing the process to bear in interviews and prototypes.

    The class started with presentations of students’ two-minute videos depicting their underlying insights and prototypes, resulting from their work inside and outside of the classroom. I’ll be covering it live from here at the d.school. Things kicked off quickly, with an introductory video from the teaching team, followed by a series of the student videos.

    Continue Reading

  3. November 13, 2014
    An Elmo plush toy makes an appearance during d.bootcamp. (Emi Kolawole)

    Elmo makes an appearance during d.bootcamp. The toy served as a prototype one student team is testing to help address the “30 million word gap”. (Emi Kolawole)

    We partner with a number of organizations at the d.school. We do so in order to bring real-world examples into the classroom as we teach design thinking to students. This year, one of those partnerships is with Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization best known for its production of the popular children’s program Sesame Street. They are teaming up with this year’s d.bootcamp class to address the “30 million word gap.”

    The term refers to the disparity between lower-income children and their more affluent peers in terms of academic preparedness. Authors Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley outlined this phenomenon in their book “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children” and summarized their findings in a 2003 piece for American Educator titled “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3“.

    In that piece, they outline how, in a year (52,000 hours), a child in a professional family would be exposed to 11.2 million words, where a child in a working-class family would be exposed to 6.5 million words, and a child in a welfare family would be exposed to 3.2 million. That gap between children from professional and welfare families, they showed, continues to grow, reaching more than 30 million words in four years. The authors concluded that the problem of bridging this gap was one in urgent need of solving:

    “…the longer the effort is put off, the less possible the change becomes. We see why our brief, intense efforts during the War on Poverty did not succeed. But we also see the risk to our nation and its children that makes intervention more urgent than ever.”

    Ten years after their piece was published, President Obama highlighted the 30-million word gap during a speech on the economy, reiterating the challenge and the detrimental effect of the preparedness gap on the health of the nation’s economy and democracy. So, while it may be urgent, over a decade after Hart and Risley’s findings were released, a solution has yet to be found.

    So, bootcamp students were presented with this challenge:

    “…design ways for Sesame Workshop to address the 30 million word gap, helping more kids reach their highest potential.”

    Continue Reading

  4. November 13, 2014


    The full layout I created on butcher paper in the d.school maker space. (Emi Kolawole)

    The full layout I created on butcher paper in the d.school maker space. (Emi Kolawole)

    I promised, at the beginning of the school year, that I would write one sticky note a day and share it. I modified my process slightly, deciding to share each note over Twitter with the hashtag #DailyNote.

    It has been a little over two months since I started (Sept. 3), and when I started I mentioned that I would likely fall off of the wagon with the intention of getting back on as soon as I could. I have not merely fallen off the wagon, I have jumped off and, it seems, run in the opposite direction. Of the two months, I have missed 33 days of notes.

    That’s over a month out of two months total.

    So, what happened!? Why couldn’t I sustain my practice? Here’s what I did to find out. Continue Reading

  5. November 12, 2014


    This isn’t news: The news industry is rapidly changing. One of the agents of change in this space is Yuri Victor. Yuri is a WordPress expert and a senior experience designer at Vox Media. Yuri joined Vox from The Washington Post, where he worked to bring custom digital solutions to the newsroom. I would know, because I was in The Washington Post newsroom while Yuri was there and benefitted a great deal from his work.

    In a talk for TEDxPoynterInstitute, Yuri outlines the role empathy plays in changing a newsroom for the better. Now, before you ding me for posting a talk by a former colleague, I have to say, honestly, the insights here are incredibly valuable and highlight one of the core principles of design thinking: start with empathy. The entire talk showcases design thinking as applied in a real-world context.

    Yuri explores the model at Vox, his past experience at The Washington Post and explains the role empathy can play in helping newsrooms not only retain but grow strong talent among their programmer and developer ranks.

    “If we can start to support each other just by asking the simple question, ‘How can I help,’ we can all spark together.”

    I am in the process of planning a class with two leaders in journalism, Tyson Evans of The New York Times and David Wright of Twitter. The class, called Redesigning the News Ecosystem, will call on students to explore ways in which we can change the way news is produced and delivered not from an industry perspective, but from a consumer or user perspective. Empathy, as Yuri outlines, is a great place to start.

  6. November 10, 2014

    On Nov. 15, Tania Anaissie, our course production lead, and I will join Pilot in East Palo Alto. Pilot is a national organization that holds hands-on educational events for high-school students.

    While we’re there, we’re going to kick-start the event with a workshop on design thinking and ideation, bringing some of the approaches to problem solving, team-work and creativity that we use at the d.school to a new context.

    Why are we doing this? Well, we’re interested to see how high schoolers use our techniques differently from college students, and what we can learn from their experience. We’re not the only ones undertaking this kind of work at the d.school. Our d.leadership team has undertaken a similar challenge at East Side College Preparatory School, also in East Palo Alto. Continue Reading

  7. November 6, 2014
    The teaching team for Design for Extreme Affordability pitches to assembled students at the d.school on Thursday, Nov. 6.

    The teaching team for Design for Extreme Affordability pitches to assembled students at the d.school on Thursday, Nov. 6.

    Courses at the d.school may be popular, but here’s one assumption the teaching teams and staff never make: every student needs to take a d.school class.

    This means students don’t sell us on why they should be in classes at the d.school. On the contrary, we sell the courses to them. This sale comes in the form of Pitch Night — an evening dedicated to introducing Stanford students to the array of courses available at the d.school. Both full-quarter, two-quarter and short-form (or “pop-up”) classes are presented with the goal of making a memorable sale — or pitch — to the students assembled.
    Continue Reading

  8. November 6, 2014

    The last time I worked in a team environment, I was on a Skype call with the teaching team for a pop-up class. That was a week ago.

    I have not been as diligent about working in teams as I should be, especially when I consider everything I have learned about the power of multidisciplinary team creation. (That’s to say nothing of how much I proselytize about this type of teamwork to others.)

    Practice what I preach? Hardly.

    This means I have a problem — a dissonance between my message and my own practice. Now, I’ve come to learn that I have two modes of going about something:

    1. Grousing about it until I get tired, fall asleep and wake up with the same problem on my plate.

    2. Changing my mindset, staying awake and actively looking for a solution to my problem.

    I choose number two, as glorious as a nap would be.

    So, I am soliciting for a team — not an internal d.school team, but an external team. A group of people I can digitally check in with every day to see how things are going, present a problem or issue and work towards a potential solution. I am thinking of gathering this group around a hashtag on Twitter. The hashtag may sound familiar. That’s right, it’s #dchat.  Continue Reading

  9. October 31, 2014

    The coming weeks will be busy for us not only here at the d.school, but away from it. A few members of our community will be around town and hosting some fun events this coming week, and we wanted to let you know where to find us!

    WEB-LAUNCH-smallAlissa Murphy, d.school teaching fellow, will be discussing Social Impact Design on Nov. 5 at Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco. The event begins at 5pm. Tickets are $16.82. You can RSVP via Eventbrite. The event is sponsored by Autodesk Foundation, Native Trails and Public Journal.

    The d.school’s Scott Doorley, Scott Whithoft and I will be at The Bold Italic’s conference The Sum on Nov. 6 at the SFJazz Center on Nov. 6. The conference runs from Nov. 6-7, and tickets are available via Eventbrite.

    Our d.leadership team leaders Perry Klebahn and Jeremy Utley will be holding a free Webinar on Nov. 3 through the Stanford Center for Professional Development. They will be offering instruction on finding analogous inspiration, or “how to get great ideas from the most unlikely places”. The webinar starts at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET and is part of a new Stanford Program, Innovation at Work.

    thesum-smallOn Nov. 15, the d.school’s K-12 Lab Network will be hosting a Hack Your School Culture Hack-a-Thon. You can apply here for the workshop, which will feature new tools the K12 Lab Network has developed with IDEO and Hewlett Foundation as part of the School Retool project.



  10. October 30, 2014


    What if high schoolers had access to a graduate-level executive leadership course customized just for them — one that called on them to interact with and lead teams of adults from local businesses? Two members of our d.leadership teaching team, Kathryn Segovia and Jeremy Utley, undertook the challenge of creating such a course this summer, joining with alumni of their graduate-level class and executive training program to instruct students at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto earlier this summer.

    The teaching team spent two weeks with sixteen rising sophomores and juniors at Eastside, teaching a course that drew on the d.leadership class framework to help students translate everyday leadership experiences in their own lives to the classroom and the school environment. The class, which included a number of exercises, hands-on activities, and even an overnight backpacking trip (not to be confused with a more relaxed camping trip), was a prototype meant to test a variation on one of the d.school’s core courses. Continue Reading