Visiting Stanford’s d.school

I was recently in Silicon Valley for a project with our Reach partner Portigal Consulting for a new client, and visited the d.school at Stanford. We collaborate with the d.school in a design thinking process, for our new client. Through the project we got an inside understanding of the d.school strengths. These are listed on a napkin on the d.school website: thinking+doing, multidisciplinary teams, radical collaboration and of course design thinking.

For the people we work with, these are clearly in prototyping, which is of course the design thinking skill that is most familiar and probably most appealing to engineers. We are after all at the Mechanical Engineering (ME310) department. When you enter their studio you immediately see that is what they live for: The prototypes are stacked up above our heads,

and on the table is a demolished brand new Apple Magic Touchpad.

“Very cheap and simple technology” a student says, “Bang & Olufson had this on their tv’s in the 1980s.”
The evening we visit is the weekly meal in the studio: curry is served right next to the sanding machine.

We are lucky, also the new d.school courses for 2011 are introduced. It is really nice to see how this happens. The d.school is an in-between programme is explained to us. Students do not enroll in the d-school, they take some courses in it while being in Mechanical engineering, or Business, or Humanities, et cetera. The d.school courses are run in between the other spaces of the ME310 building. Not in closed classrooms but in kind of spacious hallways were other people pass. Like this everyone can easily see what is going on, and can even drop in if they like. The hallways are redesigned to accommodate this, with flexible informal seating.

The courses are what I would expect but still an impressive line-up. For instance D-lab: design for service innovation; Launch-pad: design and launch your product or service; Storytelling and visual communication salon. Many courses are also aimed at social innovation, often for the bottom of the pyramid, for instance: Entrepreneurial design for extreme affordability; Designing liberation technologies; Designing for sustainable abundance. A very inspiring environment and evening!

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