Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford
Consulting Assistant Professor
After years of drawing cars and airplanes under his Grandmother’s sewing machine, Bill Burnett went off to the University and discovered, much to his surprise, that there were people in the world who did this kind of thing everyday (without the sewing machine) and they were called designers. Twenty years, five companies, and a couple of thousand students later Bill is still drawing and building things, teaching others how to do the same, and quietly enjoying the fact that no one has discovered that he is having too much fun.
Bill Burnett is a Consulting Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering and currently the Executive Director of the Design Program. He manages the undergraduate and graduate program in design at Stanford, both joint programs between the Mechanical Engineering department and the Art department. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Product Design at Stanford and has worked professionally on a wide variety of projects ranging from award-winning Apple portable computers to the original Hasbro Star Wars action figures. He holds a number of mechanical and design patents and design awards for a variety of products including the first “true slate” computer. In addition to his duties at Stanford, he serves as a board member of D2M, a product design consultancy, Dalson Energy, an alternative energy company focused on developing biomass gasification energy systems for small-scale municipalities, and advises several Internet start-up companies on design strategy.
Bill teaches the senior Capstone Project class, the Graduate Thesis class, a class called “The Designers Voice” and a somewhat mystical version of the only industrial design class taught at Stanford called Formgiving. Formgiving is as much a guided meditation, self-reflection, and group therapy exercise as it is a class about design. One student said that learning formgiving this way was like learning to use “the Force”. Bill could not have said it any better.