As Stanford d.school Fellows, our role was to challenge and advance the curriculum and pedagogy. Rather than focusing on Design Thinking—which is well taught in many forms at the d.school—we decided to focus on the fundamentals behind design and collaboration, but those that are not explicitly taught. We also asked, rather than focusing on the design process, can we enrich design practice?
We created The Design Muscles to teach those traits that designers may possess—and which they also develop through practice—such as being observant, critiquing, negotiating on a team, embracing ambiguity, and synthesizing through metaphors.
The Muscles include interactive workshops, exercises, and facilitated discussions. For new designers and non-designers, muscles are awoken for the first time. For more seasoned designers, we introduce techniques and prompts for reflection to strengthen their muscles.
In collaboration with Hannah Jones and Andrea Small.
Coming into my Fellowship at the d.school, I knew I wanted to focus on how designers both handle ambiguity and use metaphors to think; those have always been a significant part of my designer’s voice. I was eager to further cultivate them with the talented and bright minds at the d.school, and create ways to share them.
It didn’t take long—collaborating with my fellow Fellows, Hannah Jones and Andrea Small—Ambiguity and Metaphor took an amazing direction as we developed The Design Muscles. The Muscles focus on the fundamentals behind design and collaboration, those traits that designers may possess and which developed through practice. Here, I highlight Practicing Ambiguity and Practicing Metaphors.
Our work on Practicing Ambiguity has since been folded into the latest evolution of the d.school's pedagogy. Most recently, I ran these two Muscles for ninety executives at Fidelity Investments for their annual leadership training. Later this year, I will return to Stanford to produce further tools and artifacts for teaching and learning Practicing Metaphors.
During my Fellowship at the Stanford d.school, in addition to The Design Muscles, I also created and taught pop.up classes. They say the best way to learn is to teach. I took this opportunity to develop my design practice and explore particular interests, like Synthesis and Improv. Similar to the thinking behind The Muscles, I was fascinated with those things that are part and parcel to design, like being curious, reading between the lines, and building on ideas.
Here, I briefly describe three pop.ups: The Curiosity Advantage, Synthesis: Finding the Meaning That Matters, and Improv+Design: Mindsets for Collaboration. Each class was co-facilitated with very thoughtful and talented practitioners; I’m deeply grateful for each of my collaborators as well as our participants. They came from diverse backgrounds and various disciplines across the university. I enjoyed learning from these different perspectives, and ultimately, teaching these courses advanced my skills as a designer, especially with collaborating on multi-disciplinary teams.