Parent Weekend Workshop, February 27th

Parent Weekend Design Workshop, February 27th

Once upon a winter quarter, an entrepreneurially-inclined student on the design kids list (Erin Parker ’11) reached out to Design Initiative with a fun proposal. She was starting up a service, called Urban Street Guides, that would allow people to share their passions for local activities with visitors.  Erin asked if Design Initiative wanted to put on a creativity workshop or design tour for Stanford’s then-upcoming “Parent’s Weekend”.  Our response: chyah!

Parent's Weekend

[photo credit to Erin Parker]

The idea sounded like fun so on Sunday, Feb. 27th, a rockin’ team of design thinkers (Rob Ryan ’11, Shuqiao Song ’11, Mattias Lanas ’11, Ariana Koblitz ’12, Kingston Tam ’13, Nishant Jacob ’13, & Michelle Lee ’14) from Stanford Design Initiative invited curious, fresh-minded parents to come to and play! Design Initiative students led families on a tour of showcasing and explaining’s many idiosyncrasies such as the fanatical obsession with whiteboards and the origins of the mysterious yet playful “booth noir” room.

The tour went all around before finally reaching studio 2 (Look ma, no desks!). Here, parents launched into an action-packed workshop meant to teach them the basics of the’s design thinking process. To get into the creative groove, we all started by participating in some activities that were a throwback to the days of kindergarten. Ah yes, that glorious time in our lives when playing silly games and drawing with markers was the coolest, bestest thing ever. (Actually come to think of it…visual thinking is still the coolest!)


Check out the solutions that your parents designed for the student coaches / users!


Aren’t you just so proud of them?! We definitely are. :)

We put on the workshop so that family and friends could get a chance to experience the amazing design programs that Stanford students have access to.  And in getting a little taste of what we do as students, we hope that they will better understand and support their students and Stanford’s design programs in their ambitious adventures to use their learning to solve the challenges of the world!

(But let’s be real, we also put on the workshop so we could show our parents this crazy thing we do and try to convince them that the tuition money is worth it–hopefully it worked. ;) Thanks Mom & Dad!

And, special thanks to Charlotte Burgess-Auburn for helping us to arrange all our space bookings! (She is Director of Community at and one of the advisors for Design Initiative).

Illustrator Workshop, February 18th

Illustrator Workshop, February 18th

Brie Bunge (Computer Science 2013) led a workshop on Adobe Illustrator last friday at the EMA. Illustrator is a vector graphics editor. Unlike bitmap/raster images, vector graphics are represented as a collection of points & relations between them, not as a collection of pixels. This opens up a world of editing possibilities, and means that vector graphics are infinitely scalable. No jaggies!

But breaking into making vector graphics can be a little challenging. Illustrator has a lot of very powerful tools, but they’re no use to you if you don’t know what they do, (a caveat to any UI designer.) Which is why a workshop was in order! Those with absolutely no experience were able to get off the ground with vectors, and for those with experienced, she was able to illuminate some of the more occult, (but very very useful) menu functions and icons.

Brie lead us through a tutorial, which can be found at the end of this post, on making an armed-posse of vector ninja.  Many of the workshop’s files can be seen in the above gallery.  If you look you can see a lot of variations that got passed around the room, and independent experimentation with new tools at our disposal.  Tools highlighted in the tutorial include:

  • pen tool
  • shape tool
  • appearance panel
  • levels and transparency
  • hot keys/hidden keyboard functions (like to manipulate the star tool)
  • blend function (we used it with shapes and splines, read the tutorial below to learn more)

Design Initiative Workshops are usually Thursdays at 8 PM, succeeding a social at 7:30, usually in Bldg 550.  Contact Tito Balsamo if you have an idea for a workshop and/or would like to help organize one.  Join designkids to recieve emails about these and other design-related events.

Illustrator Ninja Tutorial

Photo-Tent Workshop

Photo-Tent Workshop, Feburary 10th

Kiran Malladi (Product Design 2011) led a workshop on photo-tent construction in the concept-car space, building 550.  Photo-tents are a tool to create a flat, bright backdrop for physical objects you design.  Especially useful if you’re interested in isolating the object’s image and laying it over a digital background.  Product designers: this one’s for you.

The materials weren’t perfect for our blueprints, so Kiran and the group worked together to redesign the tents in a way that economized on the number of fittings. Then we distributed the materials, put basic instructions up on the whiteboard, and broke off in groups of two or more to help one another each build our own photo tent.

Some exciting extensions emerged, of a design we had already innovated. Don’t be afraid to reverse engineer, and then forward engineer, from the photos below. It really is just paper, pvc pipe, fittings, and a few desk lamps, but oh the things you can do with a good backdrop!

Design Initiative Workshops are Thursdays at 8 PM, succeeding a social at 7:30, typically in Bldg 550.  Contact Tito Balsamo if you have an idea for a workshop and/or would like to help organize one.

Projector Party

Projector Party, February 2011

Projector Party

Back in February I threw a little unofficial lightpainting party and advertised it on the DesignKids list.  It went really well, and for months I’ve meant to throw up this blogpost showcasing the results.

What you need:

  • A projector
  • An empty background (roofs & porches are the best, inside you get too much ambient light reflected off of side-walls).
  • Images (& a way of getting them onto the projector)
  • A canvas (in our case, bodies!)

Extra guidelines (what we learned at the party):

  • If you’re using live models, and even otherwise, it’s best to plan ahead and schedule sittings.  There’s a limit to the amount of time people are willing to stand around, (especially in various states of undress in the middle of February.)
  • The other side of that is to collect a set of images to project before the event.  Group them according to pose, (i.e. all of the group-shots together, all of the portrait/close-ups, and all those that could go either way.)
  • National Geographic photos and pop art both look really, really good.  Kandinsky, too.

Our party also happened to be rather small (<20 people), which is one reason why it went so well.  If this were to be a larger-scale affair, it might be best advertised to designers as a free evening with projectors & models.  Then we could solicit petitions for slots of time with them.  We never moved past body-as-canvas in the 2-hour-long party, but there is a whole lot more of the medium to be explored, (possibly with the projection of video, or projections of photos of people on themselves, (possibly recursively nested), or projection of people on things, instead of things on people).  Asking people to develop their ideas beforehand might encourage more innovation.  And screening those ideas is going to be more and more important as the party size increases.

Special thanks to Brian Scoles (B.A. Philosophy 2009) and Rachel Hamburg (M.A. English 2011) for their creative contributions and for helping coordinate, and to all of our other attendants/models who may or may not want to be identified.

A dose of Design thinking for Freshmen, February 6th

A dose of Design thinking for Freshmen, February 6th

EE15N “The Art and Science of Engineering Design” is a freshmen seminar class led by Professors My T. Le and Andrea Goldsmith from the Electrical Engineering department.  Students in the class learn the design process from an engineering project perspective and work together in teams on a project of their choice.
Having taken the class her freshmen year, Shuqiao Song ’11 wanted to engage with the new students by imparting a design thinking tool set & mind set (that is different from yet resonates with the engineering perspective of the seminar).  After all, research* has shown that early exposure to design thinking can improve the efficacy of your team’s project work and increase your overall quality of life. (*And by research, we mean biased qualitative data from our personal experiences :)

After contacting the professors, Shuqiao, Nishant Jacob ’13, Kingston Tam ’13, and Mariel Lanas ’13 led the EE15N freshmen through a design thinking crash course.  After going through a dizzyingly fast cycle of empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test, the Design Initiative team debriefed with the students about what they learned.  The students really resonated with the idea of human-centeredness and how empathy could be carried through the different stages of the process (such as thinking of prototyping as a way of gaining more empathy with your user).  They also felt that the rules of brainstorm was something useful that they could immediately take back to their teams (see below).
A dose of Design thinking for Freshmen, February 6th
[image credit to]

We certainly hope that they will take what they’ve learned and apply it to their EE15N projects and beyond!  I’m sure we’ll be seeing them around. :)

Props to our student reps, February 6th

Props to our student reps, February 6th

Design Initiative ambassadors Kingston Tam ’13 and Nishant Jacob ’13 woke up at the break of dawn on Sunday morning to go help coach at an entrepreneurship workshop hosted by the LOFT Institute to help empower and prepare young (Latino) students and professionals for leadership in America.  Part of the event was dedicated to teaching the participants a design thinking process for innovation.

Props to our student reps, February 6th

 In the ideation stage of the adapted design thinking style part of the workshop, Kingston led students through an improv activity of “Yes, But…” vs. “Yes, And!” to demonstrate the values of positivity in keeping the momentum of the brainstorm going.  Nishant then explained that this is achieved through the “rules of brainstorm” such as deferring one’s judgment on others’ ideas and leapboarding off of others’ ideas!  
After noticing that the first group was a little low energy during the session (since it was so early!), Nishant and Kingston iterated their teaching process on the fly and started the next session with a fun improv activity to kickstart the energy of the group.  The stoke activity was wildly successful and creative sparks were flying in the energetic student brainstorms that followed. 

Awesome job, guys! Way to represent! 


Ceramics Workshop February 4th

Ceramics Workshop, February 4th

We got wet ‘n wild this Friday in the Ceramics Studio by Lake Lagunita. Mattias Lanas (senior, Biology) gave the group the run of the studios after dark, and we explored clay as a prototyping material and as an art form. We began with a simple “utensil activity” from the Product Design curriculum, so that we all got a chance to get our hands dirty in a design state-of-mind.

We split into pairs to begin interviews about each others’ favorite foods. By asking simple questions, we hoped flesh out a better sense of our user’s habits. Each of us traded five-minute turns, so that the group could gain empathy before our brainstorm. Then, we formulated our insight as a statement:

    user     needs to     enact a verb     in a world where     a unique situation occurs    .”

With this statement in mind, we created a huge profusion of prototypes. Designers molded, sculpted, twisted and rolled to show each other ideas for possible solutions to the problem. After a short period of time, the group chose one model to instantiate as a prototype for the user. Clay made a fantastic prototyping material for bigger solutions, but tended to get finicky at small sizes. Still, the designers took pride in testing their prototypes for their users; soon, the entire table was all smiles at the new utensils.

We spent the second half of workshop learning traditional ceramics from Mattias. He demonstrated a short recipe for a two-handed bowl, and introduced the potter’s wheel to us as a tool. With smooth motions and the rotary whirl of the wheel, Mattias guided a lump of clay into a small, grapefruit-sized bowl. With the slice of a wire, Mattias pulled the pot open to reveal the contours of its cross-section. It was a study in what we were about to attempt for ourselves.

With Mattias on-hand to help, each student a wedged piece of clay to their own wheel. Within minutes, the air filled with grunts of delight and disappointment as some lumps began to take shape. “Cone up, mound down,” Mattias instructed, often helping each designer steady their arms against their knees. By the end of an hour, several of us had a bowl we were proud of, and set it aside to be trimmed, glazed and fired for use.

Design Initiative Workshops are Thursdays at 8 PM, succeeding a social at 7:30, typically in Bldg 550.  Contact Tito Balsamo if you have an idea for a workshop and/or would like to help organize one.