Designing Your Life

A big-league product designer offers you the tricks of the trade to 'build' a better life.
STANFORD, CA - MAY 22: A woman works on a laptop on the Stanford University campus in Stanford, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan) (Getty Images)

Gratitude, generosity, self-awareness are not exactly the sort of thing you expect to find on the curriculum at an Ivy-League school. Yet, there they are - part of a course at Stanford University called "Designing Your Life". The idea is to map out a life plan using principles from the world of design.

We just took the design thinking framework - you start with empathy, in this case. It's empathy for what the world needs and for what you want. And then you prototype your way into the future that you're looking for.- Bill Burnett

Bill Burnett is a mechanical engineer and executive director of the design program at Stanford. Burnett created the Designing Your Life course with fellow Stanford professor Bill Evans. Their goal is to get their students to look at life as a classic "wicked problem" -- a complex design challenge with constantly changing variables. 

Burnett asks his students to use the same design techniques they use for making things to figure out what to do with their lives. The first task is to look at the end user, that being you, and what you want and need from your life. The course has become one of the most popular at Stanford. You can read more about it in this Fast Company article.


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