Fast Company

Stanford d.school Proves You Really Can Design a Space for Innovation

"Space matters." That's the mantra at the Stanford d.school, where students and staffers have spent six years figuring out how to tweak an environment to make it a more fertile breeding ground for ideas. Now they're going to find out if those ideas work.

The boxes were unpacked in late March, in time for the start of the university's third quarter. But the official ribbon-cutting on the 40K square foot new building (which houses both the d.school and all other design programs at Stanford) isn't until May 7. Fast Company got a sneak preview, and we'll be giving you a guided tour (along with photos, videos and critiques of the space from the students themselves) in the days ahead. We'll go behind the scenes to show how every nook, cranny, and fungible wall system has been smartly designed to maximize collaboration.

The school, which is officially known as the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, began in a seedy double-wide trailer in 2004, and has moved three times since then. D.schoolers, who pride themselves on an innovation strategy that relies on rapid prototyping and iterating, used their rootless wanderings to constantly reinvent their surroundings. "It was nice to have crummy buildings," David Kelley, the d.school's founder, said on a tour of the digs. "We learned a lot."

The new space shows off the results of those insights in everything from custom furniture to studio design to walls that can be reconfigured at will. (We'll show you the results in upcoming posts.).  D.school planners have even built in a special area on the first floor where they can begin prototyping the next iteration of space.

To launch our coverage, we have a fresh snapshot of two dschool fellows, Thomas Both and Jeremy Utley (top image), riding the iconic "dbike" through the halls of the new building. The bike was a necessity at the school's original home which was on the very fringes of the campus. The photo below shows one of the professors, Jim Patell, riding first year fellow Adam French between buildings. Now, there's so much space, you can motor on through the building, from the video soundstage to the digital prototyping lab, stopping by impromptu classrooms along the route to offer an idea on somebody else's project. Innovation Road Trip!

Read more about Stanford's new d.school building

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25 Comments

  • Tom Weaver

    For me, the interesting concept here is how the school piloted space over a number of iterations, and will continue to do so. That will lead to true innovation: not a one off, but an evolution over time.

    --
    Tom Weaver
    Director, Flywheel
    http://www.flywheel.org.uk

  • Kare Anderson

    sorry for the repeats - from my end it just looked like a slow-moving time to post... once

  • donjarrell

    This does sound fascinating and I would love to visit for some inspiration.

    I am curious whether or not the folks there have tackled a contradiction that lies just under the surface. I have seen similar groups of "design people" talk about and demonstrate the collaborative, cross-inspirational, mash-up kind of operation - *among* d.schoolers. I look forward to the day when leading d.schools and working design groups are as collaborative and open with working executives, engineers and Product Managers (like myself). Maybe this is true at HPID. That would be a great adjunct to this story.

  • donjarrell

    This does sound fascinating and I would love to visit for some inspiration.

    I am curious whether or not the folks there have tackled a contradiction that lies just under the surface. I have seen similar groups of "design people" talk about and demonstrate the collaborative, cross-inspirational, mash-up kind of operation - *among* d.schoolers. I look forward to the day when leading d.schools and working design groups are as collaborative and open with working executives, engineers and Product Managers (like myself). Maybe this is true at HPID. That would be a great adjunct to this story.

  • donjarrell

    This does sound fascinating and I would love to visit for some inspiration.

    I am curious whether or not the folks there have tackled a contradiction that lies just under the surface. I have seen similar groups of "design people" talk about and demonstrate the collaborative, cross-inspirational, mash-up kind of operation - *among* d.schoolers. I look forward to the day when leading d.schools and working design groups are as collaborative and open with working executives, engineers and Product Managers (like myself). Maybe this is true at HPID. That would be a great adjunct to this story.