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Just went to a very cool afternoon of presentations at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation on the Berkeley campus. It was their ‘Winter Design Showcase,’ where students presented prototypes or final concept work from their classes this Fall.

The Jacobs building itself, recently opened, is very energizing… lots of light, big, and buzzing with students heading off to use the circuit fabrication or 3D printer labs or whatever. And it was cool to see drones flying and robots wheeling through an obstacle course on the floor of the main presentation room.

But for me, the most¬†inspiring thing was seeing bottoms-up concept development work from students who were totally fired up, and from interesting backgrounds (e.g. bio-engineering and cognitive science, together). This is the essence of product design – the magic that this Institute, modeled after Stanford’s, is trying to bottle.

Some examples of the concepts presented:

  • A sort of ‘charter school’ for people just leaving jail to reduce recidivism rates.
  • A modular cane system for seniors to make walking sticks more functional and multi-purpose.
  • A crowdsourced way to get expressions translated from one dialect to another (this student was half Sri Lankan and wanted to be able to communicate better with her grandfather in Sri Lanka).
  • A template for designing ‘better’ scary movie posters.
  • Better designed and less confusing recycling compost and trash can systems.
  • LED glasses to enhance live music listening.
  • A ‘Yelp for bathrooms’ so people with disabilities can share info on publicly accessible bathrooms.
  • Better air-pollution warning labels for consumer products (e.g. mosquito coils) in India.

Great stuff. Here’s some of the concept presentation boards to give more of a taste… I liked the hand drawn ones best… the purest form of product design!

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