Design Lab: Product Design and Innovation Theory, Pedagogy, and Research

We help people create more desirable products and services based on behavioral research and run studies to improve research, practice, and curriculum for design and engineering. The Design Lab is methods-agnostic (human-centered design, design thinking, lean startup, user experience, large scale behavioral economics trials, and other methods all have strengths and weaknesses); we adjust our methodology based on the problem goals and constraints. We define ‘Desirable Design’ as products and services that:

  1. Truly help humans by reducing stress and/or adding delight.
  2. Are as inclusive as possible and developed based on quality research.
  3. Feel organic and account for complex attitudes and behaviors, recognizing that someone who cares about the environment may recycle (+), eat a lot of meat (-), and drive often (-).

Research

Product Design and Innovation: High Performance Teams

This longitudinal study examines differences in successful and unsuccessful projects in high performing innovation teams at IDEO with Fortune 500 clients. It contains in-depth qualitative and quantitative analysis of over 300 projects. This data provides a rare view of success and failure in the real-world complexity of innovation projects, which often involve multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural and multi-organizational collaboration. The ongoing analysis is identifying patterns associated with more (and less) successful outcomes. The work has been funded by the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching and the MIT International Design Center and the University of Cambridge. The original study inspired the development of several of Altringer's project-based design and innovation courses at Harvard.

Product Design and Innovation: User Values of Designed Experiences and How People Learn What They Like

This longitudial study analyzes large volumes of product and service review data for patterns in what values users attribute to designed experiences. Talks and workshops on this research can be arranged for groups outside of Harvard, which helps fund the continuation of the research. See the 'join' tab or email ba[@]seas.harvard.edu if you or someone you know would like to join our efforts on this project.

Altringer has long been interested in flavor as a metaphor for how people learn what they like. Her design studio works on integrating scientific data on flavor with natural language processing analysis that can identify patterns or ‘genres’ of flavor experiences based on how ingredients and dishes are described, experienced, and discussed by experts, scientists, and everyday reviewers. Getting to the point of automated understanding of what people are intuitively searching for in a food or drink experience, regardless of the terminology they use to search for it, will eventually enable us to intelligently help people learn their own flavor goals and empower them to discover more experiences they are likely to enjoy. 

Design Community Professional Opportunity Board

We run a job board for current and former students, professionals who want to offer professional opportunities to them, and friends of the lab. Request to join.

Volunteer Work: Nested Learning Collective

The COVID-19 pandemic created a crisis for educators. They are tasked with rapidly adapting classes in ways that normally would take a team to do well. Nested Learning Collective is a volunteer community of educators from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, and Parsons School of Design. We built a searchable database of highly engaging learning content to make it easier for other educators to adapt classes during fall of 2020. The team spent the summer of 2020 finding, testing, and recommending highly engaging, ready-made learning modules. Learn more.