1. December 17, 2014
    A model of the design sprint planning board each fellow was called on to develop during an all-day studio session in December. (Emi Kolawole)

    A model of the design sprint planning board each fellow was called on to develop during an all-day studio session. (Emi Kolawole)

    What is a design sprint?

    If you’re a d.school fellow, it’s a way to launch your project into a new phase. Starting in January, fellows will ramp up their work by incorporating their fellow fellows into their projects. Each fellow will synthesize the work they’ve done so far, develop a schedule and lead their colleagues through a sprint they design. Continue Reading

  2. December 10, 2014

    It’s finals week here at Stanford, so things are pretty quiet at the d.school. The silence, however, does not indicate the absence of activity. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that things are just as active as they were during the height of the quarter. The difference: We’re in planning mode.

    Next quarter, we’ll be introducing experience assistants to the team-teaching model at the d.school. Think teaching assistants, except rather than assist with the teaching of the class, they are focused on student experience. What warm-ups should be used, how should the flow of the class go, when and how should the teaching team collect and administer feedback? Ultimately, of course, the experience of the experience assistant will be determined by the dynamic of the teaching team they join, the class topic and, of course, the students.

    Here’s Carissa Carter and Erik Olesund hashing out the experience assistants plan, figuring out which courses will get an experience assistant and how they can be integrated into each class.

    Carissa and Erik work together at the d.school on the experience assistant project. (Charlotte Burgess Auburn)

    Carissa and Erik work together at the d.school on the experience assistant project. (Charlotte Burgess-Auburn)

    Continue Reading

  3. December 8, 2014
    The whiteboards at the d.school following the Monday Morning Meeting (and some other work). (Emi Kolawole)

    The whiteboards at the d.school following the Monday Morning Meeting (and some other work). (Emi Kolawole)

    The d.school team gathers on Monday for what we call the Monday Morning Meeting or “MMM” (it’s pretty delicious). The purpose of the meeting is to catch up on what happened the week before, what’s slated to happen during the current week and a look ahead to the next week.

    Lately, we’ve been exploring ways to breathe new life into the meeting.

    People have a lot on their plate, so it’s often difficult for them to gear up for yet one more meeting, especially during some of the most productive hours of the day — if not the entire week. Monday morning is that time to drill through the e-mail backlog of the weekend, and yes, plan for the future meetings of the week. It’s precious time to re-set your head and plan your week.

    But that also makes it an ideal time to come together and make sure that the decisions you make about your activities for the day and the week are contextualized well within the larger organism. So, how do you make the pill (time commitment) go down more easily?

    If your answer is empathy, then you’re on to something. Continue Reading

  4. December 8, 2014
    (Image by Flickr user C!...)

    (Image by Flickr user C!…)

    This was a particularly rough series of weeks in the lead-up to and through Thanksgiving break. These were weeks for exams, presentations, rescheduling all of the meetings and phone conversations that were put off for one reason or another. These were weeks packed with experiences.

    They were not, unfortunately, a period for reflection.

    Well, let me revise that: It was more challenging than usual to make time for reflection.

    That means a number of new ideas for potential posts popped into my mind only to be jettisoned as I dove into my calendar to make sense of the mess and send last-minute regrets and rain-check e-mails or apologies for being late.

    It was not, unfortunately, a time to write and share.

    Okay, fine, let me rephrase that too: It was more difficult for me to make time to write and share. Continue Reading

  5. December 8, 2014
    (Photo by Flickr user Ron Cogswell)

    (Photo by Flickr user Ron Cogswell)

    It is nearly impossible for Congress to become less popular, with progress on policy difficult-to-impossible. Just ask members of Congress.

    Oh, wait, Esquire’s Mark Warren did that. Sadly, it seems members are about as fed up with congressional gridlock as the people they are charged with serving. Now, what if design thinking were applied to this particularly thorny set of challenges? Does capitalist democracy need design thinking?

    Continue Reading

  6. December 4, 2014
    (Photo by Flickr user florianric)

    (Photo by Flickr user florianric)

    There are more productivity applications out in the world than I would ever care to count.

    The search for the right combination of applications has been particularly informative over the past few months as I explore the capture of design processes here at the d.school. While the exploration has been an interesting one from which I have been able to reap personal benefits, I’m still struggling to find a single application or process that others will readily use in an active team environment.

    As I write this, I am sitting in a meeting with our teaching fellows, Ashish Goel, Alissa Murphy and Erik Olesund and our media curriculum designer, Seamus Harte. The purpose of the meeting: to begin gathering all of the artifacts and insights from this year’s bootcamp class.

    There’s a huge repository of information — everything from sticky notes of all sizes to videos, photos, blog posts, folders of paperwork and whiteboard work. Here’s the problem: tomorrow is the last day of class. This means we’re collecting nearly everything after-the-fact. Ideally, these would be cataloged throughout the class. So, why weren’t they?

    Well, for one thing, there are three members of the teaching team for bootcamp, and each of them has their own way of cataloging their process. Then there are the media they generate in meetings and the media they ask students to generate to capture their own process. There are a lot of files and paperwork flying around.

    But what if there was a tool to streamline all of it?

    Well, there is not only one tool — there are plenty. Continue Reading

  7. December 1, 2014

    Stanford University is participating in #GivingTuesday for the first time this week.

    The idea of #GivingTuesday is simple: We have a day for giving thanks – Thanksgiving. We have two for getting deals – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday is a day for giving back and reclaiming the true spirit of the holidays.

     A screenshot of the Stanford #GivingTuesday site encouraging students, faculty, staff alumni and others affiliated with the Stanford community to give.

    A screenshot of the Stanford #GivingTuesday site encouraging students, faculty, staff alumni and others affiliated with the Stanford community to give.

    Tuesday, Dec. 2, is the third #GivingTuesday, an effort begun in 2012 and championed by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation in Washington, DC.

    This past spring the d.school offered a pop-up class on #GivingTuesday and the potential to build movements using social networks and social media.

    Continue Reading

  8. November 23, 2014


    Audio recording by Erik Olesund.

    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

  9. 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

  10. 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