What will I learn?


Learning to make sense and making things real.

Nothing makes sense. We make things make sense…it’s what makes us human. Your ability to navigate between abstract and concrete is one of the most challenging mental skills to develop and the most critical in executing any design problem and operating every facet of your everyday life.

Inject intention into your work and life by crafting sense out of ambiguity and meaning into all that you do by developing, practicing and strengthening your design ability to navigate between abstract and concrete. Students will learn and practice several applied skills with hands-on activities that vary in length, duration, deliverables, and concept. The course focuses on six key elements of navigating between abstract and concrete to develop tools that make individuals better design thinkers and life more manageable. These key skills include:

  1. Assessing Ambiguity: being able to take something intangible like an idea, problem, need and seeing the possibilities

  2. Extracting the Elements: being able to identify and tease out essential components of the possibilities

  3. Meta to Action: being able to take a possibility/potential and translate and/or map it into actionable steps that make it tangible

  4. Fluidity in Processing: being able to flow between and simultaneously run assessment, extraction, and translation

  5. Toggling Dimensions/Mediums of Expression/Communication: being able to have a collection of tools and ways to express and work through assessment, extraction, and translation

  6. Activation: putting all the skills/approaches/tools to work in symphony in real world scenarios large and small

Students will be better able to see possibilities and map them, take something intangible and make it real, flow between different dimensions of expression and intuitively know which tools to capture, shape, make and share sense. They’ll need to make decisions about the people, tools, techniques and processes to tackle each challenge. Yep, it’ll be crazy, it’ll be fun. But most importantly, you’ll give yourself a forever foundation to face any challenge for the rest of your life.


Learn With

Teaching Team

Grace Hawthorne
Adjunct Professor
Entrepreneur, Artist, Author
BA, Art/Visual Communication; MBA, Entrepreneurial Studies; MFA Film

Seamus Harte
Storytelling and Media Curriculum Designer
Designer, Filmmaker, Producer
BA, Sound Design; MFA Film and Video


Any questions?

How can I contact the teaching team?

Email grace@dschool.stanford.edu



  • Winter 2019

  • 6 Weeks

  • DESINST 311

  • 1 unit

  • Credit/No Credit

  • Tues 10:30am - 12:40pm (last class on 2/12)

  • Studio 1


Apply by Nov. 30, 2018

Applications are now closed.