Stanford's alumni magazine, titled — you guessed it! — Stanford Magazine, ran a great story on the d.school a few weeks ago. The article speaks with my teacher/mentor/colleague/friend/hero David Kelley and others about not only the d.school, but on living your life well, and on the notion of achieving creative confidence (here's a secret: those last two items are deeply related).
It's definitely worth your time to read through the article. I really liked this quote from Stanford President John Hennessy:
Creativity represents an important characteristic that we would seek to inculcate in our students, and obviously one that's harder to put a firm framework around. It's unlike teaching some analytical method. Will a bridge stay up? Well, we know what to teach. You teach physics, you teach some mathematics and you can do the analysis.
It's much harder to teach creativity. [It involves] multiple routes, multiple approaches and, obviously, it's virtually impossible to test whether or not you've succeeded. The measure of success is likely to come long after, not unlike many of the other things we try to teach: To prepare students to be educated citizens, to prepare them for dealing with people from diverse and different walks of life. Those are things that play out over a long time, whether or not we've done a good job.
During my time as an undergraduate at Stanford, I was very fortunate to be able to pursue two degrees, obtaining both a bachelor of science in engineering and a bachelor of arts in a multidisciplinary program called Values, Technology, Science and Society [VTSS] (it is now called STS and is one of the biggest programs on campus, though when I was there it was quite small). I spent a lot of time in the library. Though VTSS sounds like something very technical in nature, it was actually an incredibly rich humanities experience, with a focus on topics which, if you've spent any time around this blog, you know that I love. For example, my honors thesis was on the origins and development of the Ferrari aesthetic, looking at how meaning was created in Maranello via the mechanisms of storytelling, racing, and panel beating. My VTSS teachers were an incredible group of people, really inspirational, and they helped me build up my creative confidence in myriad ways. VTSS also gave me a way to take all of the product design classes with David Kelley which I otherwise would not have been able to do had I just pursued my engineering degree alone.
I bring all of this up because I do feel that Professor Kelley helped, in Hennessy's words, to prepare me to be an educated citizen, to prepare me for dealing with people from diverse and different walk of life. If the d.school had been around while I was there, I wouldn't have had to get the two degrees (though I would have anyway, as I'm always "doing both"). For me, as someone who was part of the founding team at the d.school, and who remains extremely passionate and optimistic about its mission and potential in the world — it is an experiment still in its very early days — it's very gratifying to see that mission be couched in these terms. Ultimately, we are not teaching folks to be designers, we are helping them realize their potential as citizens and as happy, productive human beings. Awesome.
I'll leave you with this recent d.school video which has students telling it all in their own words: