Design Thinking, Basic Research, and the World After the Smartphone

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Design Thinking, Basic Research, and the World After the Smartphone
Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Allen Extension Building: 101X Auditorium
Bill Burnett, Executive Director, Design Programs & Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
Abstract / Description: 

Design thinking, the human-centered design methodology developed over the last 50 years at Stanford, has been traditionally applied to wicked problems in the product, service, and experience design space. As such, designers are typically working with technologies readily available that have systems for mature manufacturing at-scale.  This talk examines the question - "Can design thinking be applied to basic research where the core technologies are still under development and basic material science is still in flux?".  And, if so, what is the role of the designer on a basic science research team, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.  We will present a case study using our experience with the Samsung research project in stretchable electronics (Elastronics).  The projects goal is to complete basic research into stretchable semiconductor materials, stretchable batteries and and other electronic components potentially leading to advanced configurations of on-skin body area networks (BodyNET) that, going beyond the paradigm of measurement, significant enhanced human capabilities.


Bill Burnett is an Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the ME Design Group  and the Executive Director of the design programs at Stanford University. He received his Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering - Product Design at Stanford in 1979 and 1982.

He directs the undergraduate and graduate program in design and teaches classes at the  In addition, he has worked in startups and Fortune 100 companies, including seven years at Apple designing award-winning laptops and a number of years in the toy industry designing Star Wars toys.  He holds a number of mechanical and design patents and design awards, and in addition to his duties at Stanford, he is on the board of VOZ, a socially responsible fashion start-up, and advises several other start-up companies.

Bill is the co-author of Designing Your Life, a book that captures the lessons from 9 years of teaching the Stanford class of the same name. Based on design thinking and positive psychology, the book attempts to help people answer the age-old question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”