125 Stanford Stories

NO. 59

Leveraging brainpower with design thinking

d.school drawing
d.school headshots
Stanford d.school
d.school red car
John Davis
d.school workshop 2
Stanford d.school
d.school workshop
Stanford d.school

Diverse minds augment their creativity at Stanford’s d.school

. . . [d.school students] navigate each step in the innovation process together, leveraging their differences as a kind of creative engine. The design thinking process becomes a glue that holds teams together, allowing students to unleash intuitive leaps, lateral thinking, and new ways of looking at old problems. – d.school.stanford.edu

The cardinal Chevy might be vintage, but everything else about Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, popularly known as the d.school, is beyond forward-thinking. The pace is fast and radically collaborative. Students practice techniques such as rapid prototyping. Class names include the terms “boot camp,” “crash course,” “radical ideas,” and “dive in.”

In this uniquely Stanford approach to innovation, students from throughout the university generate creative and unexpected improvements to people’s daily lives.

At the d.school, participants have improved hospital food for cancer patients, developed a low-cost incubator for premature babies, and explored how technology can spread democracy in Africa.

Founded in 2005 in the School of Engineering, the d.school now directly touches nearly 10 percent of Stanford students each year, drawn from all seven schools. It does not offer a degree. Instead, students in any program at Stanford may apply to d.school classes. Students choose from among 35 to 40 courses to learn and apply design thinking, and from a similar number of short, immersive “pop-up” classes each year.

Extending its impact beyond Stanford, the d.school also runs a residential fellowship program to help people apply design thinking to fields including health, education and sustainability; an executive education program in human-centered innovation and design; a nationwide collegiate network of student change agents; projects on specific topics; and a K12 Lab for teachers.

The d.school has even explored the future of the undergraduate experience with its Stanford 2025 project.

Get an online introduction to its methods here and in this video.