The other institute of design

Yesterday evening I went down to Stanford University to the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (we call it the to give it’s full and formal name. What you see is a ‘mixer’ – there were hot fresh baked cookies, wine, beer and chicken wings in two flavours. Yummy.

I didn’t get a chance to take a photograph of the inside but I must say that when I stepped inside Birch Hall, I was transported back over 15 years to the PD studios at the National Institute of Design. It was
not that they looked alike – NID is
after all a Louis Kahn classic red brick structure while this is more temporary housing. It was the ambience.

Let me see if I can explain.  One glance and I could feel it was a design studio. There was the incredible chaos, the post it notes, the junky furniture that still had the ecletic ‘design’ feel to it. What you think of when you think of a design studio. In the old style – that is, before the advent of computers made design studios look more like computing offices in rows of desks and monitors. Like the senior lounge in high school. I can see why it’s an attractive space for the multidisciplinary students to gather and brainstorm in. Particularly if they are from ‘dryer’ disciplines like business or computer science or engineering.

Yesterday I was left feeling that a particular flavour of ‘chaos’ is an essential part of a design school or studio. Today however, I have been thinking about the growth of design firms, their size and the attendent chaos, and how design firms can find that crucial balance between business and design – i.e. how much process/management (a way to manage growth) versus how much chaos and fluidity (the fuzzy part of design) – without losing their particular ‘magic’ that differentiates a creative shop from the bureaucratic hierarchies inherent in large corporations that stifle the very innovation. I’ve covered this topic extensively on Does Size Matter? and will probably write on it again there very soon.

In the meantime, the fresh backed chocolate chip cookies at the were the best I’ve ever eaten. Thank you!

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